While working on my Civil Engineering e-book, I remembered a funny story that happened to me. As a structural engineer working for a large municipal government, I worked closely with Building Code Enforcement inspectors and Public Safety officers regulating deteriorated and/or abandoned buildings in the downtown core. Once day, I drove by an abandoned three-story brick structure downtown and noticed that the front parapet wall was separating from the building and leaning precariously over a busy sidewalk.
I pulled over and upon inspecting the structure, determined that a collapse of the brick work was imminent. I called our building code inspectors and public safety officers out to meet me. We had to determine how to shore up the structure and close the sidewalk. Shortly, a team of code inspectors and public safety officers started arriving at the building.
I eagerly began describing the issue and pointing out the problems. One male public safety officer stood idly by ignoring me. A building code inspector and good friend of mine from my department joined us. Getting nowhere with the public safety officer, I left my friend with the officer and went to the other end of the building to show other newly arrived inspectors the danger. My friend stayed back with the public safety officer. She calmly asked the officer, “Aren’t you going to listen to her?” To which he responded, “I’m waiting for the engineer to arrive.” At that point, my friend chuckled and said, “she is the engineer.”
Although this story is amusing, it is also an issue I faced repetitively as a female in the male dominated field of engineering. I am sure this is not restricted to engineering either. Sometimes, I let the other party think I was just an inspector or whatever they thought I was. Often, I obtained good information about the event I was investigating. But that mentality limits the talent pool and growth that women can provide to the fields referred to as STEM. Women remain underrepresented in the science and engineering workforce contributing to 29% of STEM jobs but only 15% of engineering jobs (https://ngcproject.org/statistics). Moreover, women in STEM fields earn approximately 33% more than non-STEM careers.
What can we do in today’s marketplace to improve conditions for female engineers?
Any comments you would care to share?
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