Engineering is one of many fields that reflects the global issue of gender inequality. A recent study shows that more than 400 women in the engineering field often face multiple disparities. While women have made unquantifiable contributions towards advances in the engineering field, they have been misrepresented in their achievements, regularly being overlooked due to gender inequalities in their area.
60% women in the engineering field had experienced sexism in the workplace or their place of education, while one in three women did not feel confident in reporting experiences of exclusion or discrimination to their employers. The findings were broken down for the first time to present an 'intersectional analysis' by considering the experiences of women from black and minority ethnic backgrounds, disabled women, LGBT women, and women with caring responsibilities.
Midas believes that it is essential to promote and encourage the advancement of women in the engineering field. To explore this topic, we interviewed one of our expert influencers. She is the lead bridge engineer at Clark Engineering now IMEG (Sioux Falls, SD) and specializes in bridge design, load rating, strengthening, and forensic analysis, Yanling Leng, PhD, PE.
We talked to Yanling Leng and had a conversation about her career journey as a woman engineer. Through our conversation, she shared that engineering was her first significant choice, and she never worked outside her engineering field so far.
"When I was a high school senior, I saw my brother working with his advisor in college, designing an apartment building. Designing a structure that is buildable seemed very cool to me. I decided that I wanted to do something similar. I gained my bachelor's degree in road engineering. However, I was motivated to become a bridge engineer, as I heard bridge engineers are the smartest and most respected in the civil engineering field," she added.
Yanling Leng shared that being an engineer is something that she proud of. There are a lot of moments when she felt so happy about her job and knowing she is doing something that impacts other people's lives. "I was hired to inspect a bridge, when the owner introduced me to his crew and said, "This is the expert that is going to save this bridge's life." At that moment, I felt a sense of responsibility and knew my mission was important."
As a bridge engineer, Yanling Leng has done so many projects, and one of them is very fond of her memory. She participated in the forensic investigation of a collapsed adjacent precast, prestressed concrete, box beam bridge, in China, in 2011. She had the opportunity to work with extraordinarily talented and experienced bridge engineers during that time. Inspired by what she learned from that project, she spent six years studying the failure mechanism, safety evaluation procedure, and strengthening techniques of that specific type of bridge. She also shared that she gained her master's degree and doctorate because she was so intrigued to learn more about this project.
In the bridge engineering field, there are not many women engineers. According to the National Society of Professional Engineers in 2004, there were approximately 192,900 female engineers throughout the country, compared with over 1,515,000 men. We asked Yanling Leng about her perspective regarding this issue and how she perceives the engineering field.
"Civil Engineering as a career has been traditionally viewed as a male-oriented field, maybe because of all the dirty fieldwork involved. The closer you get to the construction world, the more offensive joking and the like there will be. Fortunately, being an engineer is not just about being in the field or doing dirty work; it also has designing, analysis, modeling, presentations, client interactions, etc. The field needs motivated engineers regardless of gender, and most engineers I know seem rational and tend to judge folks on their ability and attitude, rather than their gender," she added.
Yanling Leng also said that "In the past, I've seen some women leave the industry as they didn't fit well, but women engineers who have endured it and are still around, are also really good at what they do, achieved an excellent work-life balance, and a good pay packet and job security. I am incredibly fortunate and grateful to have had visible role-model women engineers in my working career. They helped me navigate the workplace, and I greatly benefited from their insights and encouragement.
Midas believes that it is essential to encourage and to show young girls around the world how female engineers are making the world a better place and encourage them to explore this exciting career path. Midas also thrilled to have Yanling Leng as one of our expert influencers in the Midas Expert Network. We hope there will be more female engineers joining the Midas Expert Network to connect with a talented engineer like Yanling Leng. “I am honored to pass down the lessons I've learned in the 15 years using Midas Civil and mentor young engineers navigating their careers," said Yanling.
This month Midas celebrates all women engineers in the world who have made significant contributions towards advances in the engineering field and society. Happy Women in Engineering Day to all women engineers.