Friday, May 10, 2013
Andrea Bollinger, PE, Public Infrastructure
Recently, I was a panelist at the “Women in STEM” (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) presentation hosted by the University of Colorado, Denver. The “Women in STEM” program brings together professional women in STEM-related careers to discuss our education and careers. We answer questions and offer advice that might help encourage more young women to follow their interests in STEM education and careers. The recent presentation’s panelists included engineers, a doctor specializing in neurology, a horticulturist, and a biologist.
Listening to the other panelists and the questions from young women in the audience made me reflect on my experiences as an engineering student, a young professional engineer, and my current career as a water and wastewater engineer on the Public Infrastructure team with Olsson Associates.
The reality is that women are still woefully under-represented in STEM careers. In my engineering program at the Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology in Indiana from 2004 to 2008, about 20 percent of my classmates were women. According to a recent report from the Congressional Joint Economic Committee, female engineers represent only 14 percent of the total engineering workforce. These same statistics were reflected in my early work experiences when I had few female engineering colleagues and all of my supervisors were men.
Working at Olsson Associates provides a refreshing break from the national statistics. Over 50 percent of the engineers in my office are women. The senior engineers who I look to for guidance, and who are examples for my potential career growth, include both men and women. Seeing the value of working in a balanced environment as an engineer makes me even more committed to helping young women enter STEM careers. It is not just good for the women who enter these challenging and rewarding careers, it is also great for the clients we serve to have a full range of talent working on their projects.
My advice, along with the advice of the other panelists at the recent panel, to audience members included not buying into the stereotype of women not being “good at math.” We emphasized that audience members should pursue internships, take every opportunity to gain field experience, and seek out good mentors.
I really enjoy my career as an engineer and take great pride in the work I have done as a member of Olsson’s Public Infrastructure team. I am glad for the opportunity to share my enthusiasm at the “Women in STEM” event, and I hope these opportunities help contribute toward more gender balance in STEM professions.