A common stereotype in society says that women are better at “soft skills” like communication and empathy than men; therefore, they are better suited for professions outside of engineering.
Darlene Fernandez ’06 is one woman who is flipping that stereotype on its head.
In March, Fernandez was appointed executive director of the Miami-Dade Expressway Authority. She is using her knack for communication along with her civil engineering experience to implement the needs of Miami-Dade commuters while leading an interdisciplinary team of engineers.
“I believe that women’s ability to communicate and interact effectively combined with a strong technical background can take them very far,” Fernandez says. “We just need to build up young women’s confidence and self-esteem first so they know they can do this job. . ”
Fernandez says programs that introduce young people to engineering, like FIU’s Engineers on Wheels, are vital to getting more women into the profession.
“A lot of young women say,‘ Hey, I don’t want to be in an office all day. Is there anything else women engineers can do? ‘”Fernandez says. “If you show them what women engineers do who are 10 to 15 years out of school, then it becomes easier to understand how hands-on this profession can be.”
Naomi Lowe is one student at CEC who interacted with engineering at a young age. She was brought to the profession by a program at her high school. Lowe continued on with it and is now a mechanical engineering senior and a driver for Panther Motorsports.
“For me, I just like how engineering is a way to apply and create your thoughts,” Lowe says.
This early experience is now leading to a promising career. In August, Lowe will be conducting data acquisition for motor emissions as an intern for FEV North America, Inc.
“Making things better motivates me,” Lowe says. “Our pollution problem and greenhouse gas problem are things that I want to work on.”
“If the opportunity is out there, it means it’s there for you to take. If you’re intimidated, it means it’s worth taking.”