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Daily CSR

Daily CSR
Daily news about corporate social responsibility, ethics and sustainability

From A Woman Engineer’s Perspective


#INWED19 campaign learns from women engineers about their experience in the professional field.

Source: flickr.com; (CC BY 2.0)
Source: flickr.com; (CC BY 2.0)
Dailycsr.com – 12 August 2019 – Celebrating the “#INWED19 campaign”, Tetra Tech sought to raise the profiles of its women engineers so as to encourage others aspiring to “become engineers and work in STEM”. Likewise, Maureen Harris was interviewed.
Maureen Harris joined the team of Tetra Tech in 2012 as a “water resources engineer” who looks into models, “green infrastructure, and stormwater engineering”. She has a “Bachelor of Science” as well as a “Master of Science” degree in “Environmental Engineering” which she completed from the “Michigan Technological University”. When asked about what she liked in Tetra Tech work culture, she answered:
“This is a challenging question to answer because I enjoy the people I work with as much as the work I do! I am privileged to work with some of the most intelligent and dedicated people you could ever meet. Since joining Tetra Tech in 2012, I’ve had opportunities to network with extremely talented people across the company who truly inspire me. Through these relationships, I’ve worked on so many interesting and challenging projects and interacted with clients from around the world. I am passionate about applying engineering to solve complex environmental issues, and Tetra Tech has given me the means to affect change and have a positive impact in ways I never imagined”.
Talking about her inspiration for pursuing engineering career, Harris added:
“I knew I wanted to be an engineer from a very young age. My dad was my earliest inspiration—he was an automotive engineer in Metro Detroit where I grew up. My twin sister followed in his footsteps and earned an advanced degree in mechanical engineering. Subjects like physics and math always came easily to me, but my passions extended far beyond that. I was fascinated by environmental science, biology, and chemistry. The questions I wanted to find answers to were things like, ‘Why can’t I swim in Lake St. Clair today?’, ‘Why can’t I eat the fish I catch from the Clinton River?’, ‘Why does this road flood when it rains?’, or ‘What happens to that polluted rainwater after it enters the storm drain?’ Environmental engineering provides the ideal balance between traditional engineering and the sciences that led me to a career where I can solve the complex environmental problems that we face. And as a water resources engineer, I get to work on interesting and challenging projects and learn something new every day. What could be better than that?”
Harris often thinks about how to encourage girls to take up engineering career while she has seen her twin sister in a “male-dominated field” and she herself is “a mother of two young daughters”. According to her, one such challenge lies in dispelling the “perception that boys naturally perform better or are more competent at STEM subjects than girls. In fact, recent research by NBC News and others suggests that the opposite may be true”.
Harris continued by recounting:
“In my experience, succeeding is a matter of confidence; because of the gender stereotype, girls may feel like they are at a disadvantage and their performance is actually impacted by this perception. At a young age, confidence and believing in your abilities are everything. We need to introduce female students to women engineers and show them that not only that it can be done, but also that women are in high demand in our field. By doing so, I think we will be more successful in recruiting women into engineering. Professionals like me should work with local schools to seek or create opportunities for all students, not just female students, to regularly engage with women engineers”.
It might not be easy in the beginning for the girls to adjust in STEM field but Harris shared something that was told to her by one of her bosses which still motivates her. She said:
“Research suggests women, more often than men, struggle with “imposter syndrome,” which is a false perception that your success or position isn’t legitimately earned or that your abilities are inadequate when you compare yourself to your peers. In my very first consulting job after I finished my master’s degree, I had a fantastic boss who recognized this in me and gave me some of the most motivational advice I’ve ever received; it completely changed how I view myself and how I face my job every day. I told him that I felt inadequate and sometimes even questioned how I was hired into such a competitive and prestigious position at a highly regarded consulting firm. He told me, ‘Take a look at everyone who works here. You have them on a pedestal, but they all started off in the exact same position that you are in now. And you know what? None of them are more intelligent or more deserving than you. They just have more experience. And you will get there. Don’t give up’”.
Harris further added that there is a difference in the way men and women think.
“This directly relates to the way we communicate, solve problems, and manage conflict. I can safely say that every project, challenge, and decision we face on a daily basis benefits from including multiple perspectives. Multiple perspectives don’t simply come from males and females but from things like different backgrounds, beliefs, professions, life stages, and experience levels. Speaking specifically to women, I think we tend to naturally be multitaskers, conflict resolvers, and promoters of inclusive environments. These qualities make women engineers effective managers and leaders as well as valuable team members. On a related note, I will add that becoming a mother has afforded me some unexpected but very handy skills in project management and conflict resolution!”