Empowering Women Engineers on Women’s Equality Day

August 25, 2023

At HR Green, we proudly embrace diversity as a cornerstone of our identity. As Women’s Equality Day approaches, we stand alongside the global community in recognizing the incredible contributions of women in society, specifically in the engineering field.

With a legacy deeply rooted in ‘Building Communities and Improving Lives,’ we’re honored to amplify the voices and experiences of the remarkable women who drive innovation and excellence within our organization. Through their testimonies, we unveil stories of determination, resilience, and passion, highlighting the pivotal role they play at HR Green. Join us in celebrating Women’s Equality Day by delving into the inspiring narratives of these exceptional professionals who embody the spirit of progress and equality in engineering.

Cindy Farrar

Construction Technician III, St. Louis, MO

Cindy Farrar

Cindy is a construction inspector, so she verifies the construction of transportation projects, specifically asphalt, concrete, bridges, guardrails, and anything else along the roadway. Cindy hasn’t always been in construction. After her children were school-age, she returned to work, applying for an opening with the Missouri Department of Transportation. During her first summer, Cindy mowed grass, and at the end of the season, they were looking to place people in full-time employment. It was then that Cindy moved into a full-time construction position. She quickly fell in love with construction, enjoying working on projects from plans to completion. After 28 years, Cindy retired from the Missouri Department of Transportation and started her current position with HR Green.

How has the workforce changed since you began your career?

“When I started, in 1998, I felt like everybody was older. I looked up to older men who had been doing this a long time and tried to learn from their experiences. There were a couple of women, and I still remember a few of them. I really looked up to this one lady named Judy, who was an engineer. We see more women in planning and design now than when I started. But as far as women in the field, I’m kind of sad to say it feels like there hasn’t been much of an increase.”

How does HR Green support diversity, specifically women?

“I feel like employers are so much more family-friendly now than they were 27 years ago. Back then, I was kind of looked down upon when something would come up related to my family, like kids coming home from school sick. I feel that the industry has come a long way and become more family-friendly. This is true at HR Green with schedule flexibility. Working from home is so beneficial to anyone with a family, in addition to good family time and leave.”

Do you have any advice for other women in STEM?

“There were times early in my career when sometimes I might have taken offense in meetings and felt discouraged. Don’t sit back in the corner and let others have all the opinions. If you have thoughts, speak up. Even if you might think, others might not agree. Just speak up. Also, fight to get a well-rounded experience. Ask to be on the special teams and projects. Don’t be afraid to do something new and out of your comfort zone.

Kyla Jacobson

Business Development – Water and Wastewater,  McHenry, IL

Kyla Jacobson

Kyla found her passion for engineering accidentally. Her goal was to go to medical school, and when it didn’t work out, that’s when she saw an ad for a municipality looking for a chemist. She dove into her position in drinking water and quickly discovered and later accomplished her goal to be the water utility director. After 33 years, she retired from the municipal water department and began her career with HR Green to continue developing water practices.  

Can you share some challenges you’ve faced as a woman in engineering and how you’ve overcome them?

“There are several places and people that still view women as less. When I started my career in the mid-eighties, I would be the only woman in the office. While I rose through the ranks in my career, my stepping stones were not the same as the men in my department. Promotion came with raises, titles, and other compensation. When I would reach the same promotion, it was never at the same level. I had to fight for years to be treated equally, and at times never won. Today, women still face challenges in being seen as capable. However, there are more people and organizations that see these differences in treatment and compensate fairly.”

How does HR Green support and promote gender equality and diversity within the workplace?

“HR Green does a fabulous job with their diversity programs. I think that they do a really good job with the other initiatives that they’re working on as well, and they embrace diversity besides just women in engineering. We’re making strides to get more people involved and get more people to understand what a diverse workforce can do.”

How can we encourage more girls and young women to pursue STEM fields and engineering in particular?

“First of all, exposing girls to these opportunities begins in junior high. By high school and college, we tend to have already formed some opinions. But starting earlier gives young women more opportunities and introduces them to more options. Then, it’s ensuring they are supported. Not everyone has the same opportunities, finances, and support systems. Finally, shining a spotlight on women in STEM will help young women feel empowered in their own dreams and goals.”

Andi Schumann, PE

Project Engineer – Transportation,  St. Louis, MO

Andi Schumann

Andi began her career at HR Green nearly 10 years ago when she interned the summer before her college graduation. She has been with the company since her graduation and is an engineer in the company’s Transportation Business Line in the St. Louis office. Andi enjoys the transportation design aspect of civil engineering. In her day-to-day, she primarily focuses on project delivery, meeting client expectations, delegating work to her team members and answering questions, making sure they know the tasks that are in front of them.

Can you share some challenges you’ve faced as a woman in engineering and how you’ve overcome them?

“I think that one of the main challenges women face is that most fields are male-dominated. So I think that, in general, it can just be intimidating to go into when you know that there may be fewer women in your office or on the projects that you’re working on. One of the biggest challenges is just personally overcoming that and not letting yourself be intimidated or hindered in your career growth. You have to learn how to advocate for yourself and navigate working in a majority-male work setting. I will say, though, at HR Green, I have yet to really feel that there was much of a hindrance to me. Overall, I do think we have a pretty good culture here, and I have yet to feel like that has reduced any of my opportunities.”

As Women’s Equality Day approaches, why do you think it’s important to celebrate and recognize the achievements of women in engineering?

“It’s important to have and show diversity in all aspects of the office, bringing together thought diversity, unique perspectives, and individual skills. I think that having examples of this in your life does make a big difference. If we all, especially younger girls, can see that there are women in the industry, they will believe it is something they can do too.”

How does HR Green support and promote gender equality and diversity within the workplace?

“A great example of this at HR Green is the fact that our CFO, Michelle Byard, is a woman. In several companies and municipalities you look, only men are in leadership roles. Having somebody on our executive leadership team that’s a woman is awesome to see. And I think it should make all the other women in the company feel like there’s endless opportunities.”

Developing Connections and Community

In addition to professional development programs, HR Green values comradery. Through several groups focused on employee connections, team members can find mentorship and support from their colleagues.

Employee Connections

  • HeR Green connects women professionals across the firm, providing support and camaraderie to cultivate skills, encourage career development, and exchange ideas.
  • Young Professional groups discuss topics relevant to career development, augment formalized training, and provide community to professionals from entry-level to ten years of experience.
  • Innovation Lab is a platform for positive change, allowing all employees to communicate improvement ideas and business opportunities to decision-makers and senior management.

As we commemorate Women’s Equality Day and honor the strides made by women in engineering, we invite you to explore the heart of HR Green’s culture. These remarkable women exemplify the values that fuel our commitment to diversity, creativity, and collaboration.

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