Promoting Diversity

Empowering Girls to Become Engineers! 

Aarzoo_collagephoto.jpgAarzoo Baharani | Architect Senior Intern

My coolest experience: It is more widely known that architecture is about new buildings, and we often forget how much there is in our past to reclaim and retrofit. While working for a firm in Chicago, I had the opportunity to analyze the building skin of a 100-year-old classroom building on a university campus, to understand areas of energy loss and find solutions for building energy retrofit. I learned that besides possessing this extraordinarily graceful quality of building material and form, older buildings were also far more energy efficient than their more recent counterparts.

For this project, I got a chance to go up into the incredibly huge and maze-like attic space of this building to understand the roof construction. It was quite an experience to walk on old wooden beams into the darkness and not something I had ever imagined I would be doing as an architect.

Stephanie Bayne (1)_web.jpegStephanie Bayne | Water Resources Engineer Intern I

Who encouraged me to be an engineer? When my friend’s dad, who was an architect, heard I was interested in going to school to be an architect, he encouraged me to look at engineering instead because of my love for math and my creative way of looking at things. I was presented with an opportunity to attend an engineering summer camp and I loved it – especially the civil engineering activities. My family was completely supportive of my decision to study civil engineering in college. I have now been a camp counselor at that same engineering camp for the past four summers.

Fun Story! As a summer intern, the company I was working for was rebuilding a National Guard Outpost in a part of New Orleans that was completely destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. I went to a press conference at the job site and sat behind where the President of the United States of America was speaking. I even got my picture taken behind the podium he spoke at when he was gone!

What do I love about my job? I enjoy my work. It’s demanding at times but the reward I get for doing my job well and correctly is why I do it. I get to see structures and places most people only see on TV, the internet, or in books. I was able to visit the second longest cable stay bridge in the Western Hemisphere before it was even completed. I’ve been a part of the engineering team that is involved in maintaining the largest pump station in the world. Every day, I am a part of the team that is rebuilding and maintaining the Hurricane and Storm Damage Risk Reduction System surrounding New Orleans. Being from South Louisiana, this work is very important to me and seeing that my work is making a difference is the biggest reward.

“Engineering is just another way of saying problem solving. Our world is rapidly changing before our eyes. In order to solve our future problems, we’re going to need a diverse group of people with fresh ideas. Girls should consider a career in engineering because of our unique outlook on the world that will help solve the problems of the future.”

Bernal_photocollage.jpgMarisa Bernal | Mechanical Engineer Intern I

Why do I think girls make great engineers? I have been asked ‘why would a girl want to be an engineer?’ and I say ‘Why not?!’ Engineering is a broad field that has something for everyone. You can design airplanes, cars, buildings, and even medical devices or body implants. Or you could create new materials or decide how to handle the flow of a river so that it doesn’t flood a city when it rains!  Your place of work could be an office; a clean room where new products are being made; out in the field at a construction site; or even a research lab! You can go from wearing a dress and high heels at the office to changing into old jeans, steel toe boots, hard hat, and safety glasses to go out to a project, to wearing full body gowning to enter a clean room. You don’t get bored as an engineer!

The coolest thing I have ever done: One of the most amazing experiences I’ve had as an engineer was in college when I participated in the Solar Decathlon Project. For this, you design and build a house that operates with solar power and compete against other national and international universities at the biennial competition. I competed in my University’s Solar Decathlon team in 2007 and was involved in the project for almost two years! Projects like this are a fun way to start applying what you learn in class to an actual situation and also to meet other people that have similar interests.

Rebecca Boudreaux (1)_web.jpgRebecca Boudreaux | Senior Electrical Engineer

Who encouraged me to be an engineer? My mentor's name is Sandra and she owns and operates an electrical consulting firm in Denver. I met her in high school at a student engineering day and the time I spent with her in high school, learning what she does and going to job sites, is what ultimately pushed me toward the world of power engineering. More than 10 years later, she and I still meet on a monthly basis to discuss life and work. She has an ever-present impact on how I conduct myself in business and what it means to be a good engineer.

What makes my job great? Many of my non-engineers friends do the same thing day in and day out. I don’t feel that way about my job. It may seem that engineering is always the same but every client has a new and distinct problem to solve. I’ve done work for 12 universities, 4 military bases and 2utilities, just to name a few, and the work I do for them is almost never the same.

Just for Fun! One of the best things about my job is the travel. I’ve traveled to over 20 client locations in 9 states. My first-ever trip to Hawaii was for work!

“The only real prerequisite for being an engineer, in my mind, is an interest in solving a problem. It takes a variety of different minds – some more creative, some more technical, and everywhere in between – to provide reliable and effective solutions. The first step is to find the interest – the passion. The rest will fall into place.”

Heather Day (1)_web.jpgHeather Day | Water Resources Engineer

Why I think girls should be engineers: Engineering is so diverse. There are many types of engineers and you can pretty much choose which kind of engineer you want to be based on what type of work setting you want to have and what type of work you want to do. I know engineers who work in factories; engineers who work outdoors; engineers who work from home; and engineers who work in an office.

Of the engineers that I went to school with, I know people who design vehicles for Ford; engineers who design military bases and travel the world; engineers who formulate and manufacture hair care products (like Aveda); and engineers who design hip and knee replacements, just to name a few. I also know engineers who didn’t stop at becoming engineers and went on to become doctors, lawyers, and architects. Whatever your heart desires, engineering can help you get there.

Why do I love my job? One thing that has been cool about being a female engineer is that as my life has changed, my career has grown with me. I’ve been able to go from traveling the world and putting lots of extra time into building up my career and my reputation, to working a more flexible mom-friendly schedule so I can spend more time with my kids. As my kids get older, I’ll be able to work around their schedules as I need to, and when they grow up and go off on their own, I can go back to traveling and doing lots of volunteering. I’m a good provider for my family AND I get to spend a lot of time with them. Not too many careers give you both.

“There are few career fields that I know of where a person can pick exactly where they want to work and what kind of work they want to do. Engineering gives you the flexibility to do exactly what you dream for your life!”

Nicole Gruber (1)_web.jpgNicole Gruber | Electrical Engineer Intern I

The best things about engineering, for me, are:  Constantly interacting and developing relationships with very smart and interesting people; learning skillsets that help me to problem solve in my job, as well as at home with my own projects; the opportunity to travel to foreign countries and interact with people from different cultures on the same level - math is a universal language that breaks down those cultural barriers; and having my choice of job and job location when I graduated engineering school.

"There is a worldwide need for engineers. So whether you want to travel around the world, live in your dream city, or never leave your hometown, there is a need for engineers everywhere. Being an engineer lets you go where you want and do what you want!"

DebMathiasScan_web.jpgDeb Mathias | Water Resources Engineer

My path to becoming an engineer: I was apprehensive about returning to school in my 30s but I wanted to obtain a college degree. I started at Black Hawk Community College because it was affordable and offered evening and weekend classes that fit my working schedule. Everyone was extremely supportive. When I felt challenged by a calculus course, my instructor convinced me to stick with it. I achieved an A! I received lots of support and encouragement from two professors, in particular, who gave me the confidence to pursue an engineering degree. Graduation was a great achievement and a stepping stone to the University of Iowa where I earned my engineering degree. Today I have an extremely satisfying career in engineering!

“Engineering is hard work but it is fun, challenging, and rewarding. You get to be creative, solve real-life problems, be a leader, be a good communicator, work as a team, do something different every day, make positive changes in the world, and constantly learn new things.”

OstHolly8995_web.jpgHolly Ost | Mechanical Engineer

Why I think girls should be engineers: Because you will definitely stand out and be noticed! It’s much easier to remember an engineer named Theresa or Veronica than Bob or Bill!

Who encouraged me to be an engineer? My high school Chemistry teacher – Ms. Watts. She was a young, elegant teacher – smart and attractive! As a matter-of-fact, she was married to our high school basketball coach! I went to a small country high school, and there were only two girls in my Chemistry class, so to encourage young high school girls (in the 70s) to pursue a scientific field was totally out of the box.

What makes my job great? My job, in comparison, is totally more interesting than my friends’ jobs. Most of my friends are stuck in offices typing away at their computers. I am out seeing exciting things – visiting oil refineries, power generation plants, and water/wastewater plants. All while wearing jeans, a hardhat, and safety boots and glasses! Every day is a learning experience. This job is never boring.

Gayle Roberts (1)_web.jpgGayle Roberts | Chemical Engineer | President & CEO of Stanley Consultants

How I ended up becoming an engineer: When I graduated from high school in 1976, no one was telling me about engineering. My experience was quite the contrary, and despite A's in all science and math classes, I started college pursuing a Home Economics major. It was not until my junior year that I found the courage and confidence to change my major to Chemical Engineering.

My thoughts on leadership: The word “lead” should be considered in the broadest sense. It was never my goal to become the President of Stanley Consultants, but rather to look for opportunities to make a difference, find challenges, solve problems, and keep learning. To me, this is what it means “to lead.” No title or position is required for someone to lead – one needs only to find their passion.

”My focus on empowering and inspiring more women to pursue engineering is simply to talk to girls, starting at a young age. I tell them there are no barriers, the glass ceiling is a myth, and to have confidence in themselves and their abilities. The world needs them to do great things.”

StrayerPatricia9233_web.jpgPatricia Strayer | Water Resources Engineer

Why did I choose engineering? I grew up in Tennessee and I loved and was fascinated by the dams. When I was in college, the part of engineering where we learned to build dams was where I thrived. But my most favorite job has been taking these kind of structures down and restoring the environment around them. I even got to help demolish a large structure by using explosives!"

"Engineering is one of the most global jobs. Once you're an engineer, which leads to great jobs solving critical issues, a lot of other opportunities await."

Becky Svatos (1)_web.jpgBecky Svatos | Environmental Engineer

Why I became an environmental engineer: Because I wanted to help make the world a better place. Over the last 30+ years I have cleaned up contaminated sites, prevented oil spills, and reduced pollutants going to rivers. I love solving problems and seeing the results of my work!


Veal, Barb-08034_web.jpgBarb Veal | Transportation Engineer

My role model: I did not have a female engineer role model at a young age but I did have an independent mother as a role model. She encouraged me to take the paths that are less traveled. Since engineering is a path less traveled by females, it was an attractive one to me. Now that I am in the engineering industry, I do not understand why more women are not pursuing this path.

“More than ever, the world needs women engineers to add a diverse team element; increasing the possibility for creative and innovation design ideas.”