The 20%: Women in Engineering Part 3

According to the National Girls Collaborative Project, female and male engineering students perform equally well in both mathematics and science. Yet, in 2017 only 9.5% of female freshmen had any intention of majoring in engineering, math, statistics, or computer science. [source]

To us, that speaks to an opportunity issue. That’s why, as a firm, we’re committed to collaborating with regional high schools. Male or female, we hope to bring awareness to the opportunities a degree in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) can provide to anyone with the problem-solving skills and the work ethic to make it in our industry. Take a look at our efforts in STEM awareness.

With that said, let’s conclude this 3-part series with a few words from our engineer colleagues Shelby Craven, Anne Marie Ignacio, and Cayenne Tanner. We asked them, like others, to tell us of their challenges and successes as women in engineering.

Shelby Craven

I am fairly new at BFW/Marcum. I was fresh out of college when I was offered a job opportunity. I graduated with a degree in Construction Management and Design. I was the only female pursuing this degree during my time in college.

Being the only woman in 95% of your major classes certainly teaches you how to work well with an all-male team. Being in the minority is something you simply must be prepared for as a female engineer!

I find it’s easier to simply list my biggest challenges in this industry, as there are many!

  • Appropriate clothing is hard to find. Things like work boots and other PPE often come as “one-size-fits-all” yet they do not come close to fitting me. I’ve had to come to terms that the standard size and dimensions of the average engineer are not mine!
  • I want to be hired for my knowledge and work ethic, not because I am a female. Every time I would tell someone that I was a Construction Management and Design student or that I worked for an engineering firm they would always respond with the same two answers. They would say “wow that is great that you are a female in that industry” and 2 – “I’m sure you will be able to find a job easily because you are a female.” I am grateful that I was able to find a job out of college.  I want to make sure that females in this industry are being hired because we are qualified, not just for HR reasons.
  • I feel like I am called out more often than others – especially in school. An example would be in college, my professors would say things like “alright guys” then feel the need to correct themselves so they would add “and gal.”

Here are a few successes or positives I have from school and work:

  • I do tend to find my male colleagues get straight to the point, and I find that kind of person easier to work with on projects.
  • I recently have been surveying properties. I feel this was a positive experience where I was able to learn more and prove that I am a hard worker. I am treated like any other worker.
  • I’ve noticed my co-workers and professors in college admire that females have a lot of attention to detailand can give a different view to situations.
  • My classmates in college wouldn’t interact with me at the beginning of the semester as much because I was a female. However, by the end of the semester, they knew me and treated me just like any other classmate. Sometimes it just takes time to warm up to people.
  • Currently, I’m the only female in the office which means, I get my own personal bathroom!


Anna Marie Ignacio

The biggest challenge I face as a female engineer often occurs whenever I communicate with someone new. I often have to prove to them that I am knowledgeable in my field before they take me seriously, especially if this communication is via phone. I am often treated as though I am a receptionist relaying a message as opposed to a qualified engineer with valid points and questions. These condescending introductions can be very frustrating at times.

My biggest success has been designing my first building, which is currently under construction. As a new engineer, it’s encouraging to have a supervisor to help guide me with a full building design, especially since the project was much more complicated than originally planned. I am fortunate that I was able to do this so early in my career and it has been the biggest learning experience of my life.

Cayenne Tanner

My greatest challenge, and one I hear from other women often, is that you are not taken seriously from the start and often do not get full credit for your accomplishments. Throughout college, people thought the women were typically going to drop out because the degree is “too manly” for a women to do or too hard for us to do because depending on the field of engineering you have to do you have to put in more manual labor or get dirty compared to other jobs. Once people realize you can handle the dirty work you are based on successfully passing classes. I put hours into schoolwork and studying (while working full time to pay for college) to listen to people tell me that you’re getting the grades that you are because “they are more lenient on you because you are a woman”. Once you finally overcome all of those obstacles, succeed, graduate, and find a job. People think you are only hired into a company to full fill the “diversity” requirements in that company. People do not take into consideration your hard work and knowledge thus, you constantly have to work harder to show you’re capable of doing your job plus more to prove yourself to other people you are qualified for your job position.

My biggest success has always been graduating from college. The feeling that you have knowing that all the long hours and nights you put in finally paid off.  I am so happy where I am now with life. I feel as though the biggest success is yet to come. My parents always told me that anything is possible if you just set your mind to it. That, I take to heart.