All Member Forum

National Engineers Week 2020: A Female in Engineering! Beyond Diversity?

By Ms. Cecilia Kadeha posted 02-16-2020 06:33 PM


A few days ago, I read a post from one of the females I look up to in the transportation industry, Ms. Alyssa Rodriguez. It was about her conversation with a Lyft driver asking her what she did for a living. When she told him she was an engineer, the driver told her that engineering was a man’s job. Unfortunately, whether we accept it or not, the Lyft driver represents a large group of people who for some reason, still think that women are not equipped enough to be scientists or engineers. I lost count of the number of times people have come to me with a similar concern. Seriously? In this era? Sure, there is still much to be done to educate our society that each individual, regardless of their gender has equal chances of bringing positive changes to the world, be in Engineering or any other discipline.

Gone are the days when women were considered weak and incapable of comprehending the marvels of Science. For the short time I have been exposed to the Transportation community, I have interacted with so many talented Engineers, both females and males, who have become my role models. The Institute of Transportation Engineers (ITE), for instance, has introduced me to some of the most influential people in the transportation industry. Despite being an international female student, I was never unwelcomed, nor did I ever felt that I do not belong. If anything, I have only been motivated to do better as an Engineer irrespective of gender or cultural backgrounds. Thanks to that exposure, I am growing up to be a female Engineer who believes in limitless possibilities and understands that everyone deserves a seat at the workforce table. I normally tell my peers that if I were not an engineer, I don’t know what else I could do to have an impact on the daily lives of many people.

ITE believes in diversity and has for a while been encouraging the idea of bringing together people from different backgrounds and experiences through its Diversity and Inclusion Committee. The Institute also seeks to shape the future of the profession and transportation by supporting the growth of its future leaders through the Diversity Program Scholarship and other initiatives. ITE has been focusing on involving professionals from diverse backgrounds, by welcoming people from all walks of life, from the young aspiring transportation Engineers through Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) activities to the retired experts who mentor other professionals in the industry and continue to provide direction and vision to the transportation industry.

Diversity, although often considered from gender and cultural backgrounds, has another form that is not usually given due consideration: occupational diversity. The transportation community touches the lives of every individual in all parts of the world. It is the way we commute that dictates the daily activities, social interactions among communities, health, education, economy, etc. More recently transportation has evolved into a more social aspect with an increased promotion in Mobility as a Service (MaaS)/Mobility on Demand (MoD). Technology is increasingly becoming a substantial and integral component of transportation developments. With these fast-paced advancements mostly focused on consumers and the need for our communities to stay connected, the transportation industry needs to embrace diversity in occupation.

Transportation industry in general, and ITE in particular, has to be open to including not only transportation engineers and transportation planners, but also Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, Computer Engineers, Data Scientists, Network Specialists, Healthcare Professionals, Lawyers, Economists, Environmental Activists, etc. Welcoming these groups of individuals into the ITE fold at the Chapter, Section, District, and International levels, will create an inclusive culture that embraces the diversity bringing together different occupations, all working towards the sole goal of improving the safety and mobility of our transportation systems.

Overall, our industry is embracing diversity; we see more women and more professionals from different cultural and ethnic backgrounds. We are seeing more planners and non-engineers. We are also seeing professionals from different stages in their careers. ITE has been doing exceptionally well in welcoming diversity within its membership. I consider myself fortunate to be a part of the ITE family, especially in this era.

Happy Engineering week!