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Celebrating Women in Engineering

Published by Kate Whittle, Marketing Coordinator on February 23, 2024

by Bailee Petersen

In the historically male-dominated field of engineering, women have long been underrepresented. To the male engineers reading this, take a moment to reflect: do you remember how many women were in your university engineering program? Although the number of women in STEM fields is rising, they continue to be vastly underrepresented in the ranks of engineers and architects, only 15% of the workforce (Pew Research Center, 2021). Despite facing numerous challenges, women have made significant contributions to the world of structural engineering. Here are some of the women who have defied convention and pushed the field forward. 

Elsie Eaves (Image: Wayne State University)

Elsie Eaves, born in 1898 in Texas, was a trailblazing figure in structural engineering. After graduating from the University of Colorado with a degree in civil engineering in 1920, she embarked on a remarkable career marked by groundbreaking achievements. Eaves became the first woman to be a full member of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) in 1927.

Her contributions to the design of large dams, including the iconic Hoover Dam, solidified her reputation as an excellent engineer who happened to be a woman.

Beyond her technical expertise, Eaves supported women in the profession, serving as president of the Society of Women Engineers and championing inclusion in male-dominated fields. In an article she wrote in the 1980s for the Society of Women Engineers, she recalled many instances where men at first mistrusted her or belittled her, and credits the mentors who advocated for her entry into the ASCE. “I am delighted with the growing number of women in cost engineering,” she wrote. “My belief that they have special insight and add complementary talents to the profession is strengthened by the bigger and bigger job s and the important AACE offices they hold.”

Norma Jean Mattei, Ph.D., P.E., F.SEI, M.COPRI, M.ASCE

Norma Jean Mattei is the third woman to serve as President of the American Society of Civil Engineers!

In 2012, President Obama appointed Mattei to the Mississippi River Commission, which oversees engineering policy and planning recommendations on the massive watershed. She was also appointed by the governor of Louisiana to the state’s licensing board for professional engineers.

Mattei serves on multiple ASCE committees, including the Committee on Diversity and Women in Civil Engineering, advocating for inclusivity and equity within the profession. She is also current faculty at the University of New Orleans.

Laura Champion, P.E., F.SEI, F.ASCE
Laura Champion is an award-winning structural engineer with decades of experience in many sectors, and has also guided the nonprofit Structural Engineering Institute of ASCE in leadership roles. Laura was responsible for overseeing the institute’s operations and programs, which has a mission to advance and serve the structural engineering profession at every career stage. She retired in 2023 and is still active on Linkedin.

Laura’s outstanding work has been recognized with several project awards, including the Connecticut Society of Civil Engineers structural EOR award for the Housatonic Community College project in Bridgeport. She also received the American Council of Engineering Companies of Connecticut Structural EOR Award for Manchester Community College.

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