Our 4th Epstein #ILookLikeAnEngineer spotlight star is civil design engineer Jen Palma. Jen joined Epstein in 2008 and during her 7 years with Epstein has worked on numerous transportation and infrastructure projects for clients like IDOT, the Illinois Tollway and the O'Hare Modernization Program. Read on to learn why Jen became an engineer, if she had any women mentors and what she thinks are the biggest challenges to becoming a women engineer.
Why did you want to become an engineer?
Honestly, I didn't want to fit a stereotype. Early on as a child, I already felt like there was an expectation for me to become a nurse, a profession that was generally associated with girls. Many of my family members are/were nurses or medical technicians. Maybe this expectation was just in my head, but it was there and it was real for me. Luckily, my father is a civil engineer, so that gave me more access than most people in terms of understanding what civil engineers do. I have probably been to more construction sites as a child than most children regardless of gender. It was fun to see pavement being placed or watching piles being driven into the ground. I excelled at math and science, and he encouraged me to pursue engineering.
Did you have any women mentors?
I've had to think about this question for a while, and honestly, I didn't know many women who I've try to emulate while growing up. Luckily, I have met and befriended women who are of like mind with me, and we have all been a support system for each other regarding personal and career goals.
What are the toughest obstacles to overcome being a woman engineer?
I recently read a news blurb that discussed the reasons why there aren't many women in STEM fields. There are a greater number of women entering the STEM field these days, but that the number decreases the longer they stay in their careers. The reason that really hit home for me was starting a family. I have a small child, and I completely understand why women may leave their profession, temporarily or permanently, in order to raise their children. But nowadays, I don't think that women are forced to make a choice between career and family. I think with the help of a great partner/husband (woohoo, Ermin!), we can have the best of both worlds.