Inspiring Female Engineers by Making Safety ‘Seen’

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Jun 22, 2023

At Kier + Wright we celebrate Women in Engineering Week, not just Women in Engineering Day, and here’s why –  

Statistics don’t lie! While women make up 47% of the nation's workforce, they constitute only 10.9% of the AEC Industry. Meaning, when in a room filled with 10 industry individuals, only one of them is female. This statistic can be daunting when compelled to pioneer change, but that doesn’t stop K+W from being a strong proponent for women’s equality within the AEC Industry and our firm. K+W continuously honors the diversity of women in our industry, emphasizing the value and contributions they bring to our firm by changing the conversation around women engineers, celebrating the value and contributions they bring to the table, and bringing awareness to the struggles that women face in this industry. 

Project Engineer, Alexie Valkenhoff feels empowered to speak her mind and present her opinions at K+W. She is respected as a female engineer and loves the comradery of support she receives on a daily basis.  

“You truly see women supporting women here at Kier + Wright,” exclaims Alexie! “I feel very honored to have the ability to experience this type of support, especially in a male dominated industry.” 

For this year’s International Women in Engineering Day, K+W has taken the week to explore the theme of ‘Making Safety Seen’ by featuring and highlighting five of our female engineers and their views on being a woman in engineering and the safety concerns they’re met with.  

Women in engineering face issues in two main areas: physical health and safety, and workplace culture. Throughout our interviews, we found that physical health and safety concerns were found not only in the office, but also on project job sites and construction sites.  

Project Engineer Elizabeth (Liz) Lira, acknowledges that as a female, going to a job site alone can sometimes be awkward and uncomfortable. Liz confirms that K+W does a good job at creating a safe space to speak up and share your concerns to let leadership know how you’re feeling when presented with an uncomfortable situation.  

“Here at K+W, we’re lucky to have leaders who will step in and get involved to make sure you feel supported not only on your projects, but also in your personal life,” states Liz. “This makes a huge difference because you don’t feel like you’re at a disadvantage for being a woman in this industry because the support is felt across the board.” 

On the other hand, Project Engineer, Diana Vega hasn’t felt any challenges based on being a female and doesn’t feel any different than any of her fellow male colleagues.  

“I’ve never felt any different or disadvantaged for being a female at K+W,” says Diana. “For any women out there considering this field, I highly recommend them to go for it and to find a supportive firm who will empower them to succeed in their careers.”  

While K+W understands and acknowledges the physical safety concerns for women in this industry, we also promote and support good mental health by providing an inclusive workplace culture.  

Project Engineer, Nicha Kamduang affirms that inclusivity can be seen throughout K+W and that good mental health helps contribute to a safer work environment both physically and mentally.  

“While we’re making progress in this industry, the ultimate goal is to get it to a place where we no longer need to have labels such as ‘women engineer,’ but until we get there, it’s still important to have these conversations,” says Nicha.  

Making safety seen throughout this industry will help improve the gender balance in engineering, ensuring more women are part of the design teams that help build the world towards a brighter future. To facilitate this there needs to be safe spaces for women to express their concerns and provide awareness of the struggles they face.  

Project Engineer, Karen Holcombe, believes one of the greatest things about K+W is that she doesn’t feel like her skills are looked at any differently because she’s a woman. She feels respected as an engineer because of her experience and the skill set she has learned throughout her years in this profession.  

“One of the first things I noticed about K+W was how many women work here,” states Karen. “I firmly believe that K+W provides a culture that promotes inclusivity, diversity, safety, and good mental health productivity.”