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Women in Civil Engineering

  • 1.  Women in Civil Engineering

    Posted 03-01-2018 05:03 PM

    Is there a gender wage gap in civil engineering? Do women still have to choose between motherhood and a career in civil engineering? Or can they have both?

    What progress has the industry made over the years in terms of attracting and retaining women to the profession? And what problems still need to be fixed?

    It's been very interesting to explore these issues with our female members as ASCENews launches a new series, Women in Civil Engineering, in March. We would love to hear different perspectives on these topics. 

    Let's get the conversation started here. 

    Ben Walpole Aff.M.ASCE
    American Society of Civil Engineers
    Reston VA

  • 2.  RE: Women in Civil Engineering

    Posted 03-02-2018 12:06 PM

    When I was in graduate school in the mid-70s at the University of Missouri – Rolla, there was a push to hire women in engineering so companies could comply with EEO laws of the day.  This actually created an environment where women were being offered higher starting salaries than their male counterparts.

  • 3.  RE: Women in Civil Engineering

    Posted 03-03-2018 04:09 PM
    Jim Gunter,

    Your experience in Rolla is quite illuminating. What an abysmal disgrace! The bridge, highway, building, etc., etc., does not care a whit for the designer, planner, or construction supervisor's gender. What matters is their degree of competence and knowledge. Women as engineers are not one bit worse nor one bit better than men and should be compensated in accordance with the value of their services, not their gender. This situation arises whenever there are arbitrary regulations passed purporting to address past discrimination by instituting new ones. The philosophy being now that others in the past have sinned we now will make those in the present, who are not to blame, pay for these miscreants.

    Irving Schlinger P.E., M.ASCE
    Consulting Engi
    Irving Schlinger P.E.
    Chester NY

  • 4.  RE: Women in Civil Engineering

    Posted 03-05-2018 09:48 AM
    I applaud your approach to the important qualifications of what makes an engineer.  After 30+ years in the field (state, government and private general contracting), I can say that equal pay is just one of a host of challenges facing women in the field.  Finding companies, supervisors and coworkers willing to look past societal stereotypes regarding women in the field is a real challenge.  Happily for me, I have found such a company and have been happily working there for the past 6 years.
    Not all of my female classmates, or previous coworkers, have been as lucky or have been willing to stick it out until they found a positive working environment.

    Elizabeth Brosnan P.E., M.ASCE
    Project Manager
    Daniel O'connell's Sons

  • 5.  RE: Women in Civil Engineering

    Posted 03-03-2018 04:05 PM
    Hi Ben
    I think it cannot be a rule that women prefer motherhood or professional work. However, in the ME, this used to be the rule ages ago but now the society is quite different. You can see both married and single women working as engineers in various locations and positions, both office and site.
    It is imperative to have the proper social education to accept the principle of gender equity.

    Ala Al-Kazzaz C.Eng, M.ASCE
    Procurement Consultant
    World Bank
    Holly Springs NC

  • 6.  RE: Women in Civil Engineering

    Posted 03-03-2018 04:13 PM
    I believe that one of the reasons there are fewer women engineers actively working is that as engineering companies, we have made it difficult to be a part-time engineer.  We have lost some of our best resources by not allowing stay at home opportunities, not having weird hour employees, and not having employees that can work weekends instead of week days.

    I am fortunate that my wife was a nurse.  She was able to schedule her full time work around my 5 day a week 8-5 engineering job.  We were able to both work, and contribute to society, while still being able to be there for our children.

    I am also fortunate that because of today's technology, I am able to help stay at home moms work for me.  Sure, they can't work full time 8-5 jobs.  Sure, I have many coordination meetings at 9:30 at night.  Sure, most of my work gets accomplished while I am not there to supervise, and from their living rooms, or home office.  Sure, I have to do more of the daytime coordination with clients.  But I have some very motivated and happy employees.  I would even go on to say, the best of their class employees.

    With today's technology, we do not need to be 8-5 in whatever time zone we are physically located in.  A company can perform perfectly fine from Houston with employees in Colorado, Pennsylvania, and Alabama, working 8-midnight, or 9-11, 1-4, and 8:30pm  to 10pm.

    I think that the gender pay gap based on time out of school, or working hours after school will be significantly reduced if we can learn how to tap that currently under employed or unemployed resource.

    Dwayne Culp, Ph.D., P.E., P.Eng, M.ASCE
    Culp Engineering, LLC
    Richmond TX

  • 7.  RE: Women in Civil Engineering

    Posted 03-04-2018 02:44 PM
    I would be embarrassed to show some of the posts in this thread to my students.  Gender normed roles are passe, though my observation is that some in the older generations of CIVEs are slow to grasp this reality.

    Charles Haas Ph.D., F.ASCE
    LD Betz Professor of Environ. Eng. & Department Head - Civil, Architectural and Environmental Eng.
    Drexel University
    Philadelphia PA

  • 8.  RE: Women in Civil Engineering

    Posted 03-05-2018 11:22 AM
    Women don't appear interested in this thread and I don't blame them. These are the same questions/notions floating around when I started in engineering in the mid-1980's. I was kindly reminded by some of my coworkers when I had kids in the 90's that women have always worked but until recently mostly in gender specific, lower paid jobs. I am grateful to the women that came behind me so that I was able to become an engineer, a job I love. The notion of a "Mommy Track" is old fashioned and discriminatory. The younger generation, both men and women, don't think this way. Companies that do a better job accommodating the needs of all employees with children will do better with retention and diversity. I have worked at the city with men (not just women) who changed jobs because their previous job required routine out of town travel or excessive overtime hours, they wanted to spend more time with and caring for their families.

    Roxanne Cook P.E., PMP, CFM, M.ASCE
    Division Manager, Public Works Dept.
    Austin TX

  • 9.  RE: Women in Civil Engineering

    Posted 03-04-2018 02:46 PM

    Consider another perspective -- that of young women scanning the landscape of professions. Maybe smart and aspiring young women are increasingly discriminating in how they view and evaluate professions. A non-engineering university colleague, who knew about our engineering program, said something like this: "If young women have the intellect and drive to study engineering, they are also prepared to pursue any profession."  Some of those options, all of which when compared to engineering, require more education and a license to practice, are: architecture, audiology, dentistry, law, medicine, optometry, and pharmacy.  These young women, having done their homework, contemplate the much broader and deeper educational requirements of those professions, their strict licensure rules, the leadership of those professions' members in their communities and the country, and the roughly equal participation of men and women.<o:p></o:p>

    <o:p> </o:p>Then they evaluate engineering, including Civil Engineering,  with its two-century-old, four-year education model that once led but is now surpassed by all professions, the way engineers are allowed to practice without a license and some of the related disasters, the minimal role of engineers in public life, the low participation of women in engineering, and reports of discrimination against women in engineering organizations.<o:p></o:p>

    <o:p> </o:p>What would many of these capable women conclude? What might some bright young men conclude? Might most of engineering, and maybe civil engineering, be in increasing trouble as professions because of discrimination, minimal formal education, lax licensure, and increasingly discriminating young people, especially women? Civil engineer and ASCE member Stephen Ressler, who has studied professions, draws this conclusion for much of engineering: "…engineering is regarded as an inherently weak profession because of the corporate setting in which engineering work is typically performed." To some extent, as all of engineering goes, so goes CE but, fortunately, ASCE's Raise the Bar initiative took the lead in strengthening CE. If that effort continues, history may show that it enhanced CE as a profession and did the same for a few other engineering disciplines. <o:p></o:p>

    <o:p> </o:p>

    Stuart G. Walesh Ph.D., P.E., Dist.M.ASCE, F.NSPE
    S.G. Walesh Consulting
    [email protected]

  • 10.  RE: Women in Civil Engineering

    Posted 03-05-2018 09:54 AM
    I don't think licensure and 4 year programs have anything to do with this.  We see much higher rates of enrollment in our architectural and environmental engineering programs.  Chemical engineering and (especially) biomedical engineering draw much higher female enrollment as well (I won't know that career persistence has anything to do with this).  I think the issue is that CIVE has not done a very good job about how the field helps people.

    Charles Haas Ph.D., F.ASCE
    LD Betz Professor of Environ. Eng. & Department Head - Civil, Architectural and Environmental Eng.
    Drexel University
    Philadelphia PA

  • 11.  RE: Women in Civil Engineering

    Posted 03-05-2018 09:55 AM
    All of the professions you list have the potential of earning higher salaries than civil engineering.  Why is that?  There are many different disciplines within civil engineering.  This is not the case in optometry, dentistry, or even law.  The responsibilities of engineers vary from job to job and a PE license may not be necessary.  Do not undervalue the contributions of engineering technicians or the guys in the field taking measurements and building.  Engineering is a "dirty job."  I do not excuse the reputation of construction workers, but the culture of the job is that of working in the trailer on the job site with some gruff men.  The respect for these men (and women) who do these tough jobs goes both ways.  Your design on paper would not get built without them.  That said, there are plenty of women construction workers on site doing a great job and the culture is shifting.

    Chad Morrison P.E., M.ASCE
    Professional Engineer
    Greenville RI

  • 12.  RE: Women in Civil Engineering

    Posted 03-05-2018 02:54 PM
    Certainly glad to see the lively discussion! It's really interesting to see where the conversation is going, because this entire ASCE News series, Women in Civil Engineering, launching this week, stems from the 2017 ASCE Salary Survey.

    This year's survey had a diverse enough pool of respondents to generate gender-specific data. One of the key findings involves base salary by gender at various stages of civil engineers' careers (see below). So the series really started as 'OK, let's talk to our members and see to what they attribute these numbers.' And that led us to explore a whole host of issues - including implicit bias, salary negotiation, motherhood, and the changing workplace climate. It's obviously a very complex topic.

    Median Salary (base salary as of 1/1/17)








    PE License and 1 to 10 years experience

    $          78,000

     $          78,832

    PE License and 11 to 20 years experience

    $        104,000

     $          98,628

    PE License and 21 to 30 years experience

    $        125,000

     $        114,645

    PE License and 31 to 40 years experience

    $        132,000

     $        135,000

    Ben Walpole Aff.M.ASCE
    American Society of Civil Engineers
    Reston VA

  • 13.  RE: Women in Civil Engineering

    Posted 03-05-2018 02:45 PM

    In my experience, the gender wage gap disappeared in the 1980’s.

    Every firm I worked for offered the job to the best qualified candidate regardless of their gender and offered them all competitive salaries based on the local position wage scale. Pay was either consistently lower than other firms or higher. Smaller firms tended to pay more but offer less benefits so it all was a wash. As I became the person hiring, I never even thought about paying a female less than a male. I had a wage range I could offer based on the position skill needs and that was offered based on skills and experience. If a female member became pregnant and took leave, she came back at the same position she was at, usually doing the same exact job, and usually moved upward shortly after her return if that was where she was at in her career progress. No one was penalized for becoming a first time or repeat mother (or father for that matter).

    In my current small to medium municipal structure, the pay scale for each position is out there to be seen by all. Based on my negotiations to take a position, they do not show preference for either gender in pay. They follow a pretty set format. It is really up to an applicant to ask for what they feel they are worth. Ask low and you will get low.

    Regarding career climbing, I reported to females in five positions in three firms including my last where the firm President was female and replaced with a female when she retired. I've worked with over sixty or more female engineers and technicians (I've lost track) both as firm mates and clients and hired or recommended for hiring at least a dozen or two more over a thirty-five-year career. Some of those ladies moved up the ladder in their organizations faster than I did. I have always promoted the best qualified people for a job, not paying a whiff of attention to color, gender or other issues. Can they do the job well? That is what I have hired on.

    I will say there appears to be a regional effect in how many females are in the profession. I found more females in different regions or cities throughout the country than in others.

    Attracting and retaining is a multi-issued challenge. I find many engineers of both genders leave the profession for other pursuits, such as parenting, law or non-engineering management. Land development does a good job of drawing engineers out of engineering, for example, but into a related field.

    A lot of the retention issue has to do with the mental challenge involved, the interpersonal skills of their manager, and the potential monetary upside including salary, hours worked and potential bonuses. Technically focused folks can reach a dead end quickly and, if they can't project manage well, they can get disenchanted or a pay ceiling develops. Firms pay more for multiple skill sets and abilities, not a lot of one set. Similarly, fast chargers may not be willing to wait for the time scale most engineering firms use to move up the career ladder. That is why there are many small firms.

    Similarly, a lousy manager, poor staffing or firm culture can drive people off regardless of gender. Each person has a different tolerance level for being treated poorly, doing a disproportionate amount of the work, being overworked or being underpaid. Many poor interpersonal skills exist out there and many over-confident or arrogant folks with a high opinion of their skills exists as well. Usually, I find high turnover means bad pay, management or culture. Many times, it starts at the top and trickles down, results from not keeping up with local trends in pay or benefits, or results from management measurement metrics that create the issues (Be careful what you wish for, if you manage for it, you will get that outcome). Traditional silos of corporate structure can drive people out as well.

    I was once asked by an older technician about twenty-five years ago why I was the only one at our medium sized firm who hired women. At the time, regionally, there were not many women in our field. He said he wasn't complaining; all the hires had been very good people. He just wanted to tell the other hiring managers what they should look for in resumes and interviews, so we hired more good people. That said, I guess I believe the old practice where the profession is highly male oriented is past, in general, but I also believe it still exists regionally as the issue keeps coming up. I know many extremely skilled female engineers and male engineers. I also know a few less than stellar examples of each. I hope teachers are directing skilled students toward our profession as reaching them in high school is needed. Middle school is a bit early but helps.

    I can say you cannot force someone to go into our profession and expect that to work. That seems to be the solution many are hoping or asking for politically. You will not be successful and will drive good people away if they have to work with unskilled teammates chosen simply for a gender decision. There are many skilled people out there of both genders. You do have to look for them, though, and hire them when they are available. 

    --  Brad Novacek, PE, M.ASCE 
    [email protected]
     Phoenix, AZ 

  • 14.  RE: Women in Civil Engineering

    Posted 03-06-2018 09:52 AM

    Thanks to ASCE for asking these questions and in this forum!  There is no one correct answer to any of the questions.  Each affected, female or male, have their own experiences to pull from and will likely have widely varying opinions.  That is why the discussion is the key.  We must have a diverse forum and put ourselves in each other’s shoes - turn on the empathy and see things from someone else's prospective.

    The civil engineering profession is truly rewarding for many of us & we do all we can to show the same to others - youngsters considering what they want to do when they grow up, young adults working through the curriculum, and even adults who will listen to us talk about what we do.  For some of us, we never considered anything else and nothing, including hearing "women can't do that," could stop us from being an engineer, specifically me.  I did not even fully understand what civil engineers did, nor meet an engineer, until well into college. 

    In the last five years, of my 25 since college, I have met numerous young women studying civil engineering with an interest in construction.  Many have spent a day (or even longer) shadowing me, one even worked with me.   So far, every time, I have heard the same thing, "I really want to do what you do" at the end of our time together.  I always take a deep breath and start the list of, "but are you sure....." making sure all  the women understand the challenges I have faced and continue to face; making sure the hard reality of the long hours and primarily male dominated field they are facing is fully understood.  In the end, most all of the young female engineers have interviewed and been hired by contractors.  All choosing that path, absolutely love it.  Some are even having families and I am hearing from their managers, just how key they are in the organization and how much the managers are looking forward to them returning, then I watch them go back to work.  They love their family and their profession and find a way to juggle both. 

    Time will tell how it all plays out, but I really feel that "times are a changing" (albeit slowly).   Both sides, female and male, are seeing the opportunities and just how much a difference having women involved makes.  

    Please realize that with all the positives and how much women bring to the field, there is so much still to overcome.  It is just not as simple as pay, work environment, or time for family but the entire package. The bias are real, but not obvious, and on both sides.  These hidden biases are proving to be the most difficult to overcome.  We all have to be open to the discussion, to be willing to consider and discuss the obstacles to overcome, and welcome new faces to our profession. 

    We all must be willing to talk to all those smiling young faces (no matter the gender or race) and talk about why we love what we do - not talk about the technical aspects of how we do things.  The first key is getting youth interested in our field and the second is making it a fair playing field for all that want to join in.  Now let’s get to work!

    Shelia Montgomery-Mills P.E., M.ASCE
    Birmingham AL

  • 15.  RE: Women in Civil Engineering

    Posted 03-06-2018 01:39 PM
    I can assure you that the gender wage gap does exist.  I have the same years of experience and credentials as my male coworkers.


  • 16.  RE: Women in Civil Engineering

    Posted 03-06-2018 05:36 PM

    My impression is that some aspects of the practice do lack diversity.  I have had the good fortune to work with some very talented engineers (both men and women) over my career, but the great preponderance of co-workers have been men.

    I would encourage those ASCE members involved in addressing this topic to open discussions with the leaders of NCSEA's Structural Engineering Engagement and Equity (this group is covering common ground in the structural branch of civil engineering)
    NCSEA Committees
    Ncsea remove preview
    NCSEA Committees
    NCSEA has a variety of committees that work to further the association's mission to constantly improve the level of standard of practice of the structural engineering profession throughout the United States, and to provide an identifiable resource for those needing communication with the profession.
    View this on Ncsea >

    Timothy Gilbert P.E., S.E., M.ASCE
    Project Specialist - Civil
    Wadsworth OH

  • 17.  RE: Women in Civil Engineering

    Posted 03-06-2018 05:36 PM
    From personal experience, I can tell you that I have encountered managers that are very old fashion and have a hard time understanding the role of a female engineer (that is also a mother) in the engineering profession.  I have also found managers that are more flexible and allow for a female engineer to manage her time as she deems appropriate according to her family needs...
    We also need to look at the family environment, were mom and dad get the same responsibilities.  Dad should have as much responsibility as mom and dad should be able to take as much time off as mom when a child needs to be taken care of.
    In reality, maternity leave is just a medical condition in which you need to be away from work for the standard 6-8 weeks just like after having surgery or any major medical procedure.  Dad should also be allowed by law to take some time off for paternity leave to help after a baby is born.  This scenario would make the "maternity leave" look more like a family affair where mom and dad get busy for a short period of time to take care of a newborn.

    Rocio Rodriguez P.E., M.ASCE
    Structural Engineer
    Orlando FL

  • 18.  RE: Women in Civil Engineering

    Posted 03-06-2018 05:36 PM
    Yes, in my experience there is considerable unconscious bias going on at the executive level with how young women are viewed in the consulting engineering world. Women tend to be over represented in the clerical and HR roles and underrepresented in the C Suite technical professional roles. There is unconscious bias regarding how male narrated feedback is received versus female narrated feedback, and people are more comfortable with people who are similar to them. Which is all the more reason we need to address this because until half of the population sees more people that are similar to them in these roles, they will continue to assume there is no place for them. I was the only female partner in a consulting firm many years ago and several of the partners wives were stay at home moms which is fantastic for them. I had an infant and toddler at the time. The problem was that there was profound unconscious bias by some of the partners regarding my ability to devote the time needed regarding proposed business expansion opportunities I suggested to the team. I also believe retention is our biggest problem to advancing women and keeping great women in our industry. That needs to start with an attitude to look at the value a person provides to the team versus the old school measure of how much time you spend at the office. I have had working single moms who consistently put in 40 hours weeks and provided incredible value and met goals etc.. versus others who spent more hours at the office but did not necessarily accomplish or produce more.  So we need to shift this paradigm and provide flexibility (sometimes a difficult concept for engineers) so we relieve the tension many women feel while trying to balance work and home responsibilities. We need more women to mentor young women coming into the industry and help them navigate this balancing act. If we can accomplish this the pay gap will reduce and greater representation will occur.

    Marsia Geldert-Murphey P.E., F.ASCE
    Chief Operating Officer
    Jim Taylor Inc
    Belleville IL

  • 19.  RE: Women in Civil Engineering

    Posted 03-07-2018 10:44 AM
    I am so glad that someone brought up bias. This is where we need to do work. There is a pay gap and I would even say an opportunity gap, whether that be institutional or self-limiting. But most people (men and women) still think engineering is for men and men are just better at it. Even if we think we are completely gender neutral, most likely we have implicit bias we aren't aware of. I want to emphasize this is women and men. I've been guilty of holding women to a higher standard myself and I'm trying to improve. On the flip side, I can absolutely say that I am held to a higher standard than my male counterparts.

    There is plenty of research that has shown in the US, men are promoted based on potential and women are promoted based on experience. Women are less likely to negotiate and/or ask for a promotion. Women who do negotiate are viewed negatively, whereas men who negotiate are not. Men are afraid to mentor younger women, especially in the age of #MeToo. When you add all of these things together: not negotiating, being penalized if you do negotiate, not asking for a promotion, fewer opportunities to be promoted, fewer mentors and champions, it's easy to see why the pay and opportunity gap has persisted. This isn't even considering the impacts of having children.

    The ironic thing is that there is also plenty of research that show companies with diverse leadership and management outperform companies with homogeneous leadership.  Everyone benefits from diversity, even if it makes us a little uncomfortable at first.

    Having open conversations is a good place to start but we also need to recognize there are a large number of women (and men) that will stay silent on the issue to avoid any negative repercussions. The first part of this conversation was largely dominated by males and that in itself can make it intimidating for a woman to say "I've been treated unfairly" or "We have a long way to go as a profession" without fear of being minimized, invalidated, or risk retaliation. I would love to hear from men how they are supporting diversity and inclusion instead of giving their opinion on how women are treated in the workplace. How many women have you mentored? Or recommended for promotion?  Are you checking on salaries of your direct reports and making sure everyone is compensated fairly? Do you have leadership training or networking opportunities in your company and are you making sure women are included? What is your company culture when it comes to family and work/life balance? What are other ways we can improve?

    Samantha Kevern P.E., S.E., M.ASCE
    Structural Engineer
    Kansas City, MO

  • 20.  RE: Women in Civil Engineering

    Posted 03-08-2018 10:38 AM
    Pledging to adhere to ASCE's Code of Ethics, Canon 8 to not discriminate is not staying silent.  Men cannot answer these questions without providing personal insight or being in a manager's position.  I am not a manager, so I cannot answer many of those questions.

    The engineering department within my company is small.  As a senior engineer, I am now checking the work of 2 EITs.  One male and one female.  I do not handle or check their work differently.  We are a team and our main goal is to produce consistent quality work from our department.  There will likely be different areas of difficultly for each engineer, just as there is for any group of students.  When the time comes, recommendations will be made based on their work and I hope it will be a difficult decision because I expect the same quality of work from both.

    The work/life balance of my company is good.  There is an expectation that the work gets done in a timely manner, without regard for when it gets done.  The engineering team needs to be available from 8-5 weekdays to support the shop and field.  You need to be able to respond quickly as to not delay the schedule.  As I discussed above, respect for the construction workers is vital.  You cannot tell an ironworker he needs to wait for an answer tomorrow because he would like to get home to his family today, as well.

    Again, answering the question beyond the code of ethics is personal... I have a daughter.  I am taking her to the STEM expo this weekend. I took her to the museum of natural history last weekend, and play Duplo with her.  She watches me fix things around the house and tries to imitate me.  Being a dad is a lot of fun and the best thing I can do is give her the tools to be successful.  At the moment she says she wants to be a "professor that teaches animals how to hunt."  That's good enough for me.

    Chad Morrison P.E., M.ASCE
    Professional Engineer
    Greenville RI

  • 21.  RE: Women in Civil Engineering

    Posted 03-09-2018 02:24 PM
    Over my nearly 50 years in construction and consulting engineering, I have seen a change in how women are accepted into the field of engineering.

    My sister entered the field of engineering about 40 years ago.  There were many barriers that she faced, but was able to overcome most by hard work and persistance.  She reared 3 children while employed by a huge firm that primary business was not engineering.  That company was more receptive to women in the work place.

    Early in my career, I worked for a mega design-procure-construct firm.  There was a single, young women engineer on the project  just out of college.  She was subject to the "old boys' club" attitudes and very often the subject of improper comments.  More than once I was ashamed of the men and let them know so.  I was proud of her as she learned how to put people in their place and gain respect.  It is too bad that women still face these problems in some work places.

    About 20 years ago, I worked with several young women who were facing the issues of continuing to work in the engineering field.  At that time, the employer wasn't receptive to part time or alternate work schedules.  One ultimately left engineering, while the other stayed. At that time, I was able to provide some insight to the two women.  Today, I'm not sure that providing male to female mentoring would be accepted, but there wasn't other women engineers to support them.

    I still see that women are sometimes treated as necessary to portray a firm as being affirmative in women and minority employment.  It makes me wonder why women stay with such firms, as they are not being treated as equivalent to their male counterparts, but as a necessity to meet an arbitrary goal.

    I can't speak to the equal pay issues between men and women engineers, as I always considered the individuals experience and capability in determining the person's salary.

    So, I have seen progress over the years. But just like other societal issues, there is still a long way to go before women engineers will be treated equally across all aspects of the profession.

    As more women progress to leadership positions in engineering, I hope that the issues of equality, respect and fair treatment will become a minor issue in the work place.

    Peter J. Fadden, PE
    Life Member, NSPE & ASCE

  • 22.  RE: Women in Civil Engineering

    Posted 03-07-2018 04:18 PM
    Hopefully the latest addition to ASCE's Code of Ethics, Canon 8, will help with this matter:
    Engineers shall, in all matters related to their profession, treat all persons fairly and encourage equitable participation without regard to gender or gender identity, race, national origin, ethnicity, religion, age, sexual orientation, disability, political affiliation, or family, marital, or economic status.

    Michael W. Hall, PE, M.ASCE
    Sr. Engineer
    Dolese Bros. Co.
    Oklahoma City, OK

  • 23.  RE: Women in Civil Engineering

    Posted 03-06-2018 05:36 PM
    I was frankly shocked and pretty darn disappointed to talk to a younger member at the recent Region 8/9 WRYMC that had turned down management training because looking at her managers she didn't think she could have a family and be a manager. She's 25/26, not married and not planning to have children soon. Her fiance encouraged the training. I couldn't believe that this attitude existed. I told her in no uncertain terms to TAKE THE TRAINING. If she and others like her don't TAKE THE TRAINING, become managers, and CHANGE THE PRACTICE, we're not going to get anywhere. Become a manager and then make it okay to have a family and be a manager. And if that company didn't let her do it, then she needs to change companies. It's pretty obvious we have a long long way to go. And unfortunately I was blindsided that we obviously aren't winning if someone that young had that attitude.

    Allison Pyrch G.E., P.E., M.ASCE
    Vancouver WA

  • 24.  RE: Women in Civil Engineering

    Posted 03-07-2018 11:21 AM
    Good conversation starter Ben.  In my experience, there is not a gender wage gap in civil engineering.  I have always been in private consulting and have not seen the gap where I have worked, and I imagine the gap is even less existent in the public sector, as salaries are usually public knowledge and position advancements are formally laid out with milestones and prerequisites.  

    On the other hand, I would not deny the possibility that gender could affect the hiring process.  I think our industry can be very demanding at times which can make it tough for anyone to have a good work-life balance, regardless of gender.  Mother or not, studies show that females in general, miss more days of work on average than their male counterparts.  Someone has to pickup that workload when someone is out.  I have read that some people avoid hiring young women due to the fear of maternity leave, and that one way to help rid of this would be for paternity leave to become more common.  For example, if a company knows that a person (male or female) will be out of work to care for a child the same amount of time, then it will become even more unreasonable for them to discriminate based on gender.

    It is a tricky topic for sure, and I definitely do not have all of the answers.  In general, from my experiences women in the engineering community are very intelligent and hard workers.  I also believe that many are very active in professional organizations and try to encourage young women into the STEM fields.  ASCE does a good job with this as well.  

    I have always believed that it is difficult to sell engineering to someone.  For the most part, I think it is just a field that someone WANTS to do.  Either we wanted to give back, we were impressed by an engineer, or we enjoy the work, etc.  It's difficult to persuade a young person that they will have to go through a lot of school, licensing processes, and have a time demanding profession for an average salary.  A lot of people these days can fly through business school and come out making more than the new engineering graduate.  Just my 2 cents worth.

    Professional Engineer

  • 25.  RE: Women in Civil Engineering

    Posted 03-08-2018 11:32 AM
    While civil engineering as a profession has done a better job than most in ensuring there is little to no wage gap for women in the profession, there are still biases that exist. In my experience, there is an assumption of technical competency with men in the profession while women need to prove themselves technically; the mentoring women receive is technical, while men receive more business or practice-oriented mentoring earlier in their careers. This is not to say during my career I have had mentors who solely focus on my technical skills but there is a bias here. 

    I have also chosen a branch of civil engineering largely inhabited by men, <g class="gr_ gr_1097 gr-alert gr_spell gr_inline_cards gr_run_anim ContextualSpelling" id="1097" data-gr-id="1097">geotech</g>. At some points in my career, my male supervisors have, in their attempts to interact with me, inadvertently made comments which, taken badly, could be considered sexist or harassing. I have not experienced any overt sexism or sexual harassment in my career but I have noticed biases. In working in some regions of rural Alaska, there was, occasional, discussion on the safety of female personnel when being sent to some communities alone. Sometimes, on long-term geotechnical investigation projects, female personnel would be placed with egotistical drillers because they would "improve" team interaction because they can, stereotypically, smooth over some problems.

    I think many things have improved with regards to the treatment of women in civil engineering, in <g class="gr_ gr_3088 gr-alert gr_gramm gr_inline_cards gr_run_anim Grammar only-ins doubleReplace replaceWithoutSep" id="3088" data-gr-id="3088">STEM</g> and in society but there is still a long way to go. I've spent the last 4 years working on a <g class="gr_ gr_3090 gr-alert gr_gramm gr_inline_cards gr_run_anim Punctuation multiReplace" id="3090" data-gr-id="3090">PhD</g> in civil in Quebec, Canada. The differences between Quebec and the US with regards to the treatment of women and equality are striking. Paid governmental maternity leave, subsidized child care and other programs which work to even the playing field between men and women but also aid single-parent households are all available. These may not be solutions that can be applied in the US but I hope we can work towards making equality our goal, not just at work. 

    Happy International Women's Day.

    Here is an article about why women leave STEM fields that may be enlightening.  
    Persistent Sexual Harassment Is a Primary Reason Women Leave STEM

    Heather Brooks P.E., M.ASCE
    Quebec QC

  • 26.  RE: Women in Civil Engineering

    Posted 03-08-2018 02:23 PM
    I find it telling that most of the comments that say there is no gap come from men. We all like to think that we treat everyone equally, but we all have biases that we've formed for whatever reason. We have to acknowledge that they color our communication and actions and be careful of them.

    I was just mentoring a female friend of mine about some feedback she received after not getting a job for which she interviewed. She was told that her management style was "too quiet and too nice." I'm not sure what that even means, but if someone has a management style and it is effective then what does it matter how loud or quiet or nice or firm they are? I took the comment to represent a bias. Probably a gender bias. Her not getting that job will delay her progression and depending upon how you measure her against her peers adds to the salary gap.

    Salary can't be the only thing to attract us to our careers or we would all just want to be Bill Gates. We have to find a way to attract more diversity to our profession. My retirement job is with one of the biggest civil engineering programs in the country. There are a lot more women in our department than there were when I was a student, but 32% still does not represent their numbers in the talent pool. Some of it probably has to do with our close ties to the construction industry and the historic stereotypes associated with that. How likely is someone's mother to recommend a career in construction to their daughter when they experienced the stares, whistles, and catcalls often associated with walking past a construction site. When I look back at my career, it is the service that I provided to the public that I am most satisfied with. We need to talk more about what a service profession we are.

    I think the change is coming as more sons and daughters grow up in households where there are two strong breadwinners working in partnership at home and at their offices. Change just can't seem to come fast enough.

    Robert Appleton P.E., M.ASCE
    College Station TX

  • 27.  RE: Women in Civil Engineering

    Posted 03-08-2018 06:07 PM

    It's great to see the different twists and turns in this discussion already. I am interested to see the different ideas and responses generated by our ASCE News series Women in Civil Engineering, launching today:

    Ben Walpole Aff.M.ASCE
    American Society of Civil Engineers
    Reston VA

  • 28.  RE: Women in Civil Engineering

    Posted 03-09-2018 11:50 AM
    As a faculty member in the Picker Engineering Program at Smith College (a women's college in Northampton, Massachusetts), I am glad to see ASCE taking on the topic of Women in Engineering. Diversity and inclusion are complex and also essential to our profession. One thing I have learned at Smith is that we will have greater success if we change the conversation from one about "opportunities" for women or other underrepresented groups to our expectation that our professional community reflect the diversity of our population. Here at Smith, we expect women to be engineers – to lead project teams, to work in the machine shop, to design solutions for a socially just and sustainable world. I wrote about this in a recent issue of Prism, the magazine of the American Society of Engineering Education.

    Andrew Guswa A.M.ASCE
    Picker Engineering Program
    Northampton MA

  • 29.  RE: Women in Civil Engineering

    Posted 03-14-2018 12:44 PM
    I have been watching this discussion online and wanted to contribute my thoughts. I agree with Andrew's comment that there should be an expectation that underserved groups and underrepresented minorities including women are represented in the profession. There is a lot more room for improvement on what we can do to achieve equity. I don't believe we are there yet. A good first step that ASCE could do is to make sure the professional conferences sponsored by ASCE have keynote speakers from diverse backgrounds.

    At Rowan University's CEE, we are trying to change the education landscape for Civil Engineering so that everyone feels welcome in the profession. It is important for us to highlight the successes of diverse groups of Civil Engineers so that students see role models that look like them. We are also trying to change how we teach and what we teach. Please take a look at some of our efforts on

    If you have any suggestions on what educators can do to change the conversation other than what we are already trying, please do let me know.

    Beena Sukumaran M.ASCE
    Rowan University
    Glassboro NJ

  • 30.  RE: Women in Civil Engineering

    Posted 03-17-2018 11:01 AM
    From the aerospace sector to Silicon Valley, engineering has a retention problem: Close to 40 percent of women with engineering degrees either leave the profession or never enter the field.

    Conventional wisdom says that women in engineering face obstacles such as the glass ceiling, a lack of self-confidence and a lack of mentors. But psychologists who delved deeper into the issue with a new study found that the biggest pushbacks female engineers receive come from the environments they work in.

  • 31.  RE: Women in Civil Engineering

    Posted 03-09-2018 12:43 PM

    Thank you for starting this conversation, Ben.

    I have 2 items to share to the conversation: the first is my response at

    The second item is an interesting study that was recently shared with me which points to a gender split in academic seminars based on whether a man or a woman asks the first question It's interesting to me to see that the majority of the first posts here were men.

    Deborah Besser P.E., M.ASCE, Ph.D.
    University of St.Thomas
    St. Paul, MN

  • 32.  RE: Women in Civil Engineering

    Posted 03-09-2018 11:51 AM
    ​I have been an engineer since 1976 and don't think there is or has been a gender gap in wages. That doesn't  mean that from time to time I haven't had to ask for a raise. The EEOC required reporting that made it hard to underpay women across the board in a company.
    I raised three children and now have 4 grandchildren as well, so, yes, you can have it all. My strategy has been to keep my work and family lives separate. Your potential employer doesn't need to know how many children you have.
    I worked 11 years part time, 30 to 35 hours a week, from the time I was expecting my third child until my oldest started college. I received my biggest promotion, to principal engineer, while working part time. I certainly didn't expect that. But good employees are valuable to their company. Make yourself valuable to your company and then negotiate.
    I've had my own company for 6 years and it has been very successful.
    So, have there been challenges getting hired and working as a woman engineer? Most certainly. And when promotions come, or awards are bestowed, there are a lot of folks out there who think it is because I am a woman. Such is life.

    Martha VanGeem


  • 33.  RE: Women in Civil Engineering

    Posted 03-09-2018 02:25 PM

    Is there a gender wage gap in civil engineering? Yes, in my experience, I still see a wage gap. Many on this string have noted that gender should be irrelevant. Credentials and ability should be the basis. However, I still deal with men who perceive women are not dominant enough to handle a demanding job. Maybe some of the younger women can weigh in on their experiences in more current years. Overall, I've worked with some really terrific people and the negative perspectives, I believe are waning as people become more aware of women's strengths.

    Do women still have to choose between motherhood and a career in civil engineering or can they have both? Dwayne Edward Culp nailed it on this item. Providing for part time workers or job sharing, and allowing for flex time. Although more dual working families are sharing the child rearing roles, many couples split schedules such that one parent goes in early while one is at home to get children off to school. On the flip side, the early shift parent is home in time to receive children coming home from school, prep dinner and assist with homework. Some single moms take lunch between 2:30pm and 3:30pm allowing them to pick children up from school and deliver them to caregivers and return to work to complete their day. Others take regular lunch, take an hour in the middle of the day and work an extra hour in the evening. Employers who are willing to work out flexible hours can make it work.

    What progress has the industry made over the years in terms of attracting and retaining women to the profession? It would be interesting to see a graph of number of male and female registered engineers per decade over the last 50 years to see how the numbers have changed.

    And what problems still need to be fixed? Cost of education, licensing and internships versus compensation is an issue. $60,000 in student loans right out of the college gate and some students are living with parents at 25 years of age working in $0 compensation internships to get experience to get a paid position for entry level is definitely effecting young engineers. Both male and female,  are waiting to buy homes or start families, because they can not afford to.

    Cheryl Wilson A.M.ASCE
    Engineer III
    Bristow OK

  • 34.  RE: Women in Civil Engineering

    Posted 12-16-2018 10:06 PM
    Notwithstanding all the good points raised so far about women in Engineering, let's look at it from the opposite angle: Let's report areas in Engineering where women surpass men. As a start, I'm going to list examples that I witnessed, where women Civil Engineers surpassed men. I would mention only the overall circumstances, leaving it to you to guess why. I will tell you why later, after hearing your opinions. Hint: the areas they led in are the ways of the future.

    At three consecutive firms that I worked at (a leading precast concrete plant and two consulting engineering firms specialised in subway design) it was a woman engineer that was cited as a role model for male engineers to follow. What was the role model?
    The first lady moved on to become the Engineering Manager in that leading precast plant. One of the other two, whom I kept contact with, became a senior engineer at a leading transit authority. I missed track of the third, but I'm sure she will be doing great as well.

    At a leading consulting firm, designing one of the greatest airports in the world, a young woman engineer surpassed all of us in updating structural drawings that were of utmost complexity. What was her talent that no man in the office could catch up with?

    One of the most successful engineering CEOs in Canada is a woman whose income vastly surpassed that of most male engineers in Canada. According to a colleague of mine, who was the chief structural engineer at a reputable firm, her career started when he hired her only to watch her rise to become his boss! He conceded that she had a certain valuable talent that he couldn't match. I had experience similar to his while I was volunteering at an engineering committee that included her; she became the chairperson of the committee. What was her talent? Hint: a very rare talent in engineering circles!

    This is not an exhaustive list; it's enough for now while I wait to hear your views.

    Neil Kazen, M.Eng., M.Sc., P.Eng.
    Retired Structural Engineering Manager, Transportation Division, SNC-Lavalin
    Toronto, Ontario, Canada