Impact of Women in the Engineering Field

Thoughts from Three Female Engineers on What Inspires and Motivates them in this Rewarding Profession

Engineering has historically been a male-dominated field, and although still underrepresented as both students in engineering and working engineers, more women are entering it as the years go on. Sixteen percent of engineering undergraduates are women, and according to the National Science Board’s Science and Engineering Indicators 2014, today women constitute 13% of the engineering workforce (compared to less than 1% in 1960).

In its Spring 2015 issue, Pittsburgh Engineer, A Quarterly Publication of the Engineers’ Society of Western Pennsylvania, focuses on women in engineering, including energy, manufacturing, infrastructure, bioengineering, sustainability, and civil engineering. To coincide with this special publication, GAI Consultants took the opportunity to speak with two of our female engineers in Pennsylvania to get their thoughts and perspectives on what it’s like to work in their respective fields—what inspired them to pursue careers in engineering, what motivates them, and what advice they have for other women looking to enter the same field.

Raena indemuth RAENA LINDEMUTH, PE
Engineer Manager, Aviation Market Sector in DuBois, PA

What inspired you to pursue a career in engineering?
Raena Lindemuth: My father is an engineer and he was my role model. While in high school, he encouraged me to elect an academic curriculum and math and science interested me more than other subjects. I preferred geometry homework over writing English papers! When it came time to choose a career and a college (Penn State), engineering was a perfect fit.

Why did you choose to focus on airport engineering?
Raena Lindemuth: When I began as an entry level engineer at Lee-Simpson Associates (a GAI company acquired in 2012), I was asked what area of civil engineering appealed to me the most. My preference was transportation. Surprisingly, the DuBois office provided airport engineering services, a subject barely discussed in college. I expressed interest in learning more about the aviation industry and the more I learned, the more I liked it! I’ve been doing airport work ever since then.

What has been your most rewarding experience in your industry?
Raena Lindemuth: The relationships formed with the clients! Also, knowing that they trust in my abilities is rewarding.

What interesting projects are you working on?
Raena Lindemuth: Currently, GAI is teaming with Mead & Hunt on an apron rehabilitation project at the University Park Airport. The project consists of rebuilding the general aviation apron at grades meeting Federal Aviation Administration design criteria to accommodate larger size aircraft. In doing so, existing taxiways need to be re-routed and new airfield drainage installed. It’s a complex project on a very short time schedule, which always makes for an interesting job.

What advice do you have for other women who are interested in the field of engineering?
Raena Lindemuth: Engineering is a great field that offers many opportunities. More and more women are becoming engineers and it is not as male-dominated as once before—so don’t be intimidated!

Senior Transmission Line Manager, Electrical Transmission Line Engineering Market Sector in Murrysville, PA

What inspired you to pursue a career in engineering?
Gretchen Horn: I was always interested in math and science. My dad was an engineer which sparked my interest in the field. So, I decided to attend Penn State to study engineering.

Why did you choose to focus on transmission line engineering?
Gretchen Horn: I actually got my degree in mechanical engineering—I like to understand how things work and operate. At the time, it was a growing field with aerospace and defense careers expanding. However, my career took an interesting turn after college—I started working in quality control and then I got my MBA at Duquesne University. I moved into the transmission line engineering field after learning about an opportunity with Allegheny Power.

What has been your most rewarding experience in your industry?
Gretchen Horn: I think it’s interesting to see projects from beginning to end. I have worked on a number of projects where we started with a greenfield site and completed all of the siting, permitting, design, and finally construction. It’s truly rewarding to witness the working final project.

What interesting projects are you working on?
Gretchen Horn: Right now, I’m working on developing Engineer-Procure-Construct Scopes of Work for AEP. We gain the overall perspective on the projects and see all of the pieces—land acquisition and ROW, permitting, design, and construction. The background we have in transmission line design engineering as well as distribution, substation design, and environmental permitting has really contributed to these projects—such design knowledge helps us develop the scopes of work.

What advice do you have for other women who are interested in the field of engineering?
Gretchen Horn: Stick with it. It will be difficult at times both throughout your education and your career, but it is highly rewarding and worth every struggle. Work hard and get involved in engineering societies to build a great network and most importantly, enjoy what you do.

For a great resource, GAI encourages female engineers, and all women interested in entering the field of engineering, to check out the Society of Women Engineers (SWE). SWE is a non- profit educational and service organization with 27,000 members that empowers women to succeed and advance in the field of engineering. Raena Lindemuth, PE can be reached at 814.371.7750, and Gretchen Horn, MBA, PMP at 724.387.2170.

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