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What does it mean to “Transform The Future”? Some of our female engineers are here to tell you.

June 18, 2019

International Women in Engineering Day was June 23—a day to spread awareness and raise the profile of engineering for women around the globe

“No other industry has the potential to transform our world like engineering does.” Marie Fowler, a graduate civil engineer in our Brisbane, Australia, office said. “In order to transform the future, we need to have women in the industry at all levels so future generations of women can see engineering as inclusive and approachable—it would inspire young women to consider this a career avenue.”

International Women in Engineering Day was June 23. This is a day of female celebration, a day to spread awareness to raise the profiles of women in engineering, a day to focus the attention on the future of engineering by motivating young girls to get excited about this industry. Women in engineering are still under-representation, but the industry has come a long way. Not only are women encouraged to study engineering in universities, we’re starting to realize the importance of targeting the younger generation of girls—as gender stereotyping and biases start early.

Ailsa McCulloch, a civil engineer in the Minnesota, Minneapolis, office worked at a high-school semester program in Maine funded by the National Science Foundation after she graduated, before pursuing a master’s in civil engineering and joining Stantec. “Research shows that females in middle school and high school drastically underestimate their technical skills in science and math. Even though they have the skills, they think they’re not as good with technical aspects as they actually are,” Ailsa said. “Women are often strong communicators, so having that represented more in STEM fields is crucial.” Ailsa really enjoyed her work helping to shape the science and leadership skills of high-school age females. 

For a lot of women in engineering positions at Stantec, they knew at an early age that they wanted to be engineers. Celeste Ward, a process engineer for the water team in Melbourne, Australia, confirmed her love for nature and the environment on a school trip to Borneo when she was 16 years old. “I wanted a career that would work towards a more sustainable future,” Celeste said. “So, I chose to study environmental engineering. I believe girls and women should be able to choose whichever career they are passionate about. The STEM fields would greatly benefit from a more diversified work force.”

Hilal Uflaz, a project manager in the Istanbul, Turkey, office says that when she was a child, she was always curious about science and the planet. “I tried to learn how things work and find solutions to problems myself. I chose to be an engineer to realize my dreams in hoping to make the world a better place for myself and everyone else,” Hilal said. “Women participating in STEM will improve creativity and innovation by opening doors to a different perspective. The STEM field is the future, and women must be part of it. Anything men can do, we can do!”

How do we create a workplace that banishes inequality? With the help of our male counterparts. 

It’s imperative to have allies in underrepresented areas—and engineering is one of those areas. What can our male colleagues do to help? “Men that have higher positions and more opportunities should have their women colleagues join them to meet new clients. They should invite female colleagues to speaking events and talking engagements,” Matilde van der Zel, GIS consultant in the Arnhem, Netherlands, office said.

“Men need to understand that women don’t traditionally have the same advantages that they do,” Theresa Maahs-Henderson, a project manager in the transportation group in the Minneapolis, Minnesota, office said. “They need to understand that some of the difficulties women overcome, like showing up to a meeting and being the only woman, can really hold someone back. I think it’s important to think about the whole inclusion and diversity aspect—are you seeing that person for who they really are?”

What is the importance of having an even playing field? Here at Stantec, there’s a lot of opportunity to learn and grow your career. “In the Netherlands, there are not a lot of women in technological jobs,” Matilde said. “In our Geo-ICT team, the percentage of women is only about 30%, so it would be nice if that number were higher. The importance of men and women working together is that it’s good for team spirit; it’s a social balance on your team, and there’s room to learn from each other.” 

It’s time to “Transform the Future” of engineering and show that stereotyping and gender biases are a way of the past. “There’s an interpretation by men, especially in working and business life, that women are more emotional than men when making a decision,” Neslihan Sonmez, business development director in the Istanbul, Turkey, office said. “I don’t agree. When we react to things or decide on something, we approach it as rational or analytical thinking.” 

Women are here to help shape the future and make a difference in the world. Celebrating International Women in Engineering Day is great way to show some recognition to the women who pushed through the barriers and fought for inclusion.

Marie Fowler has been with Stantec for just over two years. She’s currently in the graduate program and works on the Water Solutions team where she designs sewer networks and dam safety upgrades. She also just completed a construction oversight project where she was on a mine site for five months.

Alana Duncker has been with Stantec just over seven years. She works mainly in the water system planning space as well as the development of smart decision support tools for water utilities. This includes the development of live hydraulic models, short term water demand forecast tools, and more.

Ailsa McCulloch has been with Stantec for three years. She has her master’s in civil and environmental engineering with a specialty in fluid mechanics and hydrology, and she loves to work on projects where engineering and policy intersect—that’s why she loves water resources engineering and management. 

Celeste Ward has been with Stantec for the past two years. She has local experience in water and wastewater treatment plant upgrades, master plans, and designs for Melbourne Water, South East Water, Western Water, TasWater, and Gippsland Water Factory. Celeste has been seconded to Melbourne Water as the process engineer for Southern Operations, providing process support to several water treatment plants across the region.
Hilal Uflaz has been with Stantec for four years. She’s been working in the fields of drinking water, wastewater and industrial treatment plants, energy generation from waste, and more. She takes part in different projects as an expert engineer from time to time.

Matilde van der Zel has been with Stantec for just over a year. Although not technically an engineer by trade, Matilde is a GIS consultant which helps make environmental engineers’ jobs easier by reviewing soil contamination and designing the integral maps and online map viewers needed by the engineers.

Theresa Maahs-Henderson has been with Stantec for 18 years. She started with a degree in environmental geology then went back to school to get her engineering degree. Recently, she became the US task manager of a $40M international boarder crossing project where she has been able to use her environmental and transportation background.

Neslihan Sonmez has been at Stantec for over seven years. She has a degree in environmental engineering and a master’s in project management in environmental engineering. She leads a team in preparing proposals, budgets, and writing methodologies to win important contracts.

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