Thursday, March 8, 2012

Introducing ALL kids to Science: A reason to BLOG today - STEPPING ON MY SOAP BOX!

Last week I was totally disheartened and felt defeated when I was made aware of this article by one of my colleagues.  I stirred about it over the weekend, and finally, yesterday, put pen to paper.  I sent it to my bosses to 'vet' before I hit send, and signed my name/company to the bottom of the letter.  Well, today I hit send and I instantly feel much better.  I have a good feeling that it will probably never be published.  In fact, when you respond to an article via a 'letter to the editor', you already know that the said person does not share in your perspective.  It is THEIR magazine, not YOURS.  And in the end, to protect themselves, they don't really have to respond, acknowledge you, let alone publish your thoughts.  However, I'm OK with that.  I'm merely satisfied with hitting the 'send button' and sharing my thoughts with them and with my friends.  So, In an attempt for someone to hear my thoughts on this, I thought I would finally awake my nearly 'dead' blog, and share this with you.

So, here is the original article:

And here is my response below.  I encourage you to send your thoughts as well...particularly my teacher friends who should be equally offended.

Enjoy my step 'up on the soapbox' for today :)  Below is the letter I wrote (the long winded version - which eventually I also sent a shorter one via a probable word count for publishing).

As a practicing structural engineer, wife and mother of twins with a baby on the way, I was disheartened by Mark Zweig’s column in the January issue of Structural Engineer. Mr. Zweig has managed in one column to do a huge disservice to our profession, civil engineers, teachers, his daughters and women in general.  I am extremely disheartened that he has seemed to reverse the efforts that many of us work towards every day to promote and encourage young kids (particularly young girls) to not only enjoy science and math, but to choose it as a career path.  Believe me, I know the trials and tribulations of striving to be successful in my career and at home as a wife and mother.  However, I do not see how being a woman, in today's age, disqualifies me from working in a profession that purely makes me happy.  I have a husband who doesn't just 'expect' me to have dinner ready on the table every night.  We ride the train in and out of the city most days and enjoy sharing our daily challenges with our 6 year old 'sponges' at night on the interesting buildings and bridges we are working on or have visited.  I spent time two weeks ago in the Kindergarten classroom of my twins - educating 22 five and six year olds that this is a fun job that ANYONE can do...regardless of your age, sex, or background.  I was lucky to grow up with a construction father and his brother and my grandfather ran a construction and redi-mix company...many summers of which I worked as a member of the family business.  My dad worked 11 or 12 hour days and Saturdays.  He took me to work with me, taught me what he knew, and naturally - when I was old enough to think about what I wanted to do with my knowledge for construction and love of math - engineering was the best choice.  Yes, it is hard to 'balance' everything in life, of course it is!  But how is structural engineering different between a man or a woman - or that of being a teacher?  In today's world, my husband and I are in the same profession - working for separate companies.  I have continued to work full time and love the fact that I work for a company that appreciates the value that I, and other female structural engineers on staff (where nearly 50% of our engineering staff is female) bring to the table every day.  Do I sometimes travel? - yes.  Do I sometimes have to work long hours? - absolutely.  I also have friends who are teachers who will argue that these requirements also co-exist in their field as well.  What we should be doing is not discouraging women - or men- from choosing a career path they feel passionate about, but encouraging companies and the leaders within them to provide an environment for people to be able to have a more successful work/life balance and making it a pivotal part of corporate policy.  I work for a company that not only allows me, but encourages me, to be active in my children's lives.  I coach T-Ball, I assist as a room mom at the school, and I run full marathons (in which two of my seven races have been while I was pregnant each time).  I have pushed my twins in a double stroller thru over forty 5k road races.  I'm not just a structural engineer, wife, and mother - but I am involved and active in their lives, and show by example that you can have a fulfilling life outside of your career.    If I had to tell my children one day that I had chosen not to follow my dream of being an engineer, and had only chosen a job that kept me at home more, but left me unsatisfied, what type of example would that be to them?  My husband and I also educate both her and her brother on the difficulties we both face everyday in the line of work we do.  In the end, I hope they marry someone someday who not only appreciates their passions for their career, but is an equal partner in raising their children and managing their home.  And I hope when that happens, twenty years from now, the wide spread corporate leadership for structural engineering firms will focus even more on balancing family needs, as they do in bottom dollar.  I am happy to say that the place I work has already 'figured it out' and morale is extremely high.  Turn over among technical staff is extremely low, and people work hard naturally as a big 'thank you' for having a great job at a place that allows us to pursue our dreams and also be integral cogs of the wheel in our home, raising our children, and managing our home  - as partners with our spouses.   I invest my time in my profession and family and to imply that I would invest less time in my profession if I were a general civil or teacher is just plain wrong. I grew up in a family construction business – I knew the commitment involved in this profession. My son and daughter are growing up in a structural engineering family – they will both know the cost and rewards of a structural engineering career. And my daughter will know that you can be a structural engineer, a woman, a wife and a mother AND maintain a proper work-life balance.

Tabitha S. Stine, S.E., P.E., LEED AP

Director of Technical Marketing

American Institute of Steel Construction

Practicing Structural Engineer for 11 years

If you would like to respond in addition to my comments, please email here:

Dan Cuoco
Corporate: 800-466-6275

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