Women in Engineering: Paving the Future

Author: Sarah Staub

For anyone that has ever walked past a construction site, you’d probably notice the ratio of men to women is relatively small. Careers in the Architectural, Engineering, and Construction (A/E/C) industry have predominately held by men. Even in 2024, women in A/E/C remain largely underrepresented in their fields. Gaining ground continues to be challenging due to lack of female counterparts and mentors for incoming women with interest in STEM-related careers.

Women bring a wider range of ideas and perspectives into any workplace, and A/E/C is no exception. In a field with fewer opportunities are fewer, there are also endless possibilities for female engineers to have an impact on the crucial work A/E/C provides to our communities, which in turn would inspire the next generation of women looking to enter the industry.


The Women of AHBL

We recently surveyed our female engineers to get a better understanding of the challenges they face in their field, any gender bias they come across, what their biggest challenges are working in A/E/C, and how they think the future of women in engineering can be paved for better role inclusion and create more opportunities for growth.

In our poll, 10 percent of our women engineers have worked in A/E/C for one to three years or less, 40 percent have worked in A/E/C for three to seven years, and the other 40 percent have worked in A/E/C for seven years or more; with half of the latter being in their field for over 10 years. AHBL’s women engineers reported they were drawn to A/E/C for the variety of work, community impact and environmental impact of the projects they work on, and they were interested in the construction process.

Site visits to potential or active construction sites are a requirement of the job, and aside from the opportunity to get out of the office, our engineers enjoy site visits as they allow them to see the projects they work on come to life. During site visits, they interact with their clients and teammates, and provide real-time problem solving with contractors for issues they’ve only seen on a screen or discussed in a meeting. These site visits/site walks on construction sites are performed every few weeks to monthly, and they report they seldom to occasionally see female counterparts when on job sites.

Our women engineers reported the biggest challenge in the engineering field is lack of female role models and mentors. Our engineers also reported earning respect amongst coworkers and having a voice and providing input on projects can be a challenge. All our respondents concluded that even among the challenges, their favorite part of the A/E/C industry is watching their projects comes to life or be renewed.


Reducing the Gender-gap in A/E/C

The lack of female mentors in the field creates a disadvantage for any women looking to choose a career in engineering. It is important to create mentorship and learning opportunities for girls that have interest in science, technology, engineering, math and art. By creating a positive mentor experience, girls can be empowered by their interest in STEM/STEAM, which could drive an educational path leading to a career in A/E/C.

AHBL has been a proud supporter of Washington STEM for many years. Washington STEM works to create a statewide network of students, communities, and professionals to build student success and engagement in STEM. AHBL also participates in the ACE Mentor Program, which is a national A/E/C-specific program that teams professionals from A/E/C with students and provides mentoring during the school year. Students participating in STEM and/or Ace Mentor Program gain knowledge from their experienced mentors, and these programs create opportunities for students to apply for scholarships for careers in A/E/C.

AHBL has an internal peer-to-peer training program where all our engineers can benefit by learning from their counterparts. AHBL also invites college students who are pursuing their degrees in various A/E/C fields to apply for internships we hold every year. During these internships, college students can gain on-the-job experience in their chosen fields of study to get an understanding and experience with working in A/E/C. In 2023, 80 percent of our interns were female.

By identifying challenges women in A/E/C face, hiring women, and mentoring students with interest in STEM, the A/E/C industry can benefit from the unique perspective and creative problem-solving of women engineers to support the work we do that impacts our communities.


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