One of the most rewarding things about working in the field of structural engineering for parking structures is that we do so many big projects for well-known places. Everyone needs parking, which means there are so many opportunities to not only work on exciting projects, but also get to be an end user in my own project.
Having gone to school at UC San Diego, I am well-acquainted with the San Diego International Airport, and now I am working on the Terminal 1 Parking Plaza. So many people will get to see and use it when it’s finished, and I helped make it possible. That’s an incredible feeling.
As a woman in engineering, people are often surprised when I tell them what I do. Women aren’t expected to be in this field, so I love getting to show them that’s not the case. However, the fact that I am pursuing structural engineering is something I largely owe to my physics teacher in high school, who really pushed women towards STEM careers. He felt very strongly that women were not well represented in these areas, so he worked hard to show us that we had opportunities in those fields.
I’m very thankful he did, because outside of him I didn’t have many resources or role models. I didn’t know anyone who was an engineer, so there wasn’t anyone I could learn from about what being an engineer meant or what a career could look like.
I believe that’s one of the biggest challenges we face in recruiting more women into engineering: exposure. A lot of young women I went to school with didn’t think they were capable of STEM majors and chose other fields, because they saw too many barriers. On top of that, engineering is a huge field. The career of a software engineer is drastically different from a structural engineer, and if you don’t know what’s out there, you can’t pursue it.
The other burden women face when they are underrepresented is feeling like they have to work harder than anyone else to get the same level of recognition as their male peers. This is how I felt when I graduated college, because I had heard stories about the hardships women faced in a male-dominated field like engineering.
Imagine how excited I was when that ended up not being my experience. At my first job, I had women co-workers. And here at Watry Design, nearly 50% of the team are women, all proving that they can do this job just as well as anyone else.
So, my advice to young women who might be interested in exploring engineering is to do it! Explore the possibilities, see what path feels right for you. If you find your passion and go for it, everything will come together.