THE ACRONYM STEAM REFERS TO THE STUDY OF FIELDS OF SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY, ENGINEERING, ARTS AND MATH AND ITS IMPORTANCE IS BECOMING INCREASINGLY APPARENT IN OUR WORLD TODAY. IT PLAYS A MAJOR PART IN OUR GLOBAL COMPETITIVENESS AND SOCIETAL ADVANCEMENT. TRADITIONALLY, THE STEAM FIELDS HAVE IN LARGE PART BEEN DOMINATED BY MEN BUT WOMEN ARE MAKING TREMENDOUS GAINS AND IMPRESSIONS IN THESE FIELDS. POSH SEVEN SPOKE WITH KIMBERLY CALDWELL, OF SPIRIT AEROSYSTEMS, ABOUT HER EXPERIENCE WORKING AS AN ENGINEER FOR THE PAST TWENTY YEARS. WITH HER UNDERGRADUATE DEGREE IN ENGINEERING SCIENCE AND MECHANICS AND A MASTERS DEGREE IN AEROSPACE ENGINEERING SHE HAS LAUNCHED A SUCCESSFUL AND BRILLIANT CAREER WHILE MAKING HERSELF A STELLAR ROLE MODEL FOR HER FOUR CHILDREN.
PS: What made you get interested in Science and Engineering?
My father is an engineer, so there was always opportunity to discuss and visit his projects. He also took the time to introduce me to female architects and engineers in his office.Those were impressionable encounters for me. I enjoyed the creativity in middle school science fair projects and had quality calculus and physics teachers in high school that solidified my interest in pursuing an engineering degree in college.
PS: Do you think women face additional challenges in this field? Did you personally experience this?
The challenges in engineering are not unique to women. The education is rigorous, requiring dedication and perseverance. Being a part of advanced technology development efforts is a lot of fun and requires teamwork. Although I’ve never felt there were more hurdles as a woman in engineering, necessary teamwork always required me to be comfortable working alongside a largely male colleague base. Throughout my career, I’ve always been treated with respect for technical competence and leadership.
PS: Are your male colleagues warming to the idea of more women in their domain?
Most of the male colleagues I’ve encountered have respected and welcomed women in the field. Have I encountered a few professional situations where men showed surprise that the woman in the room was an aerospace engineer? Yes, but those are far and few between. We are fortunate that there are many young women pursuing advanced science and math degrees. Engineering is fun!
PS: What new opportunities are opening for women?
There will always be advancements in science and technology and a need for those that want to work in this dynamic environment. I would encourage all young women to be confident in their technical skills and ability to learn new things. We are fortunate to live in a time when women are respected for their intellect and capabilities and previous barriers are gone. Be an engineer. It’s an extremely fulfilling career.
PS: How do you balance your professional and personal life?
Balancing a professional career with quality family life with four kids ranks right up there with the toughest of all challenges. It’s a balancing act and absolute perfection cannot be part of the solution. I worked flexible job assignments when my kids were little, which allowed me to advance my career while growing my family. I now have three teenage daughters and a nineyear old son that do a great job pitching in to make our family run smoothly. Now that the girls are older, they’ve developed a respect for my career and an interest in what I do, even if they do roll their eyes sometimes as I talk animatedly about a project at work. I don’t micromanage their school work. They understand my expectations and all seem inspired to pursue sustainable, challenging careers.
PS: Advice to young women entering the workforce?
Find a career that capitalizes on your strengths. Embrace challenge and pursue a career in which you can continue to grow and develop into a leader in your field. When life gets busy, develop a course of action, and lean forward to meet the challenges.