There are plenty of reasons why I senjoed spending a day with Randall Lamb Associates’ Calina Ferraro, P.E., pme’s 2018 Mechanical Engineer of the Year.

First, Ferraro is located in San Diego, a city I’d never visited. The town’s reputation for perfect weather did not disappoint. I seriously considered never coming back to Chicago. I’m sure my wife would’ve understood. I would’ve found a way to get her there eventually.

Of course, the main reason I appreciated my time with Ferraro was her insightfulness on a broad range of topics. (For the full profile of Ferraro, see this month's cover story) Most notably were her thoughts on being an intelligent, progressive woman in a still predominately male-dominated industry.

“It’s definitely still a thing. Certainly it’s common for me to be the only woman in the room in a technical role,” she says. “I show up to a lot of industry and networking events and people will ask: ‘You’re at Randall Lamb. What do you do there?’

“I reply, ‘Well, I’m an engineer. We’re an engineering firm.”

We, men, have to be better.

Ferraro states she still has to walk a fine line during heated project discussions. Ferraro believes if she were to yell and scream over anyone she’d be labeled as “pushy” or “bossy.”

“As a woman, you can’t get into a shouting match because you’d lose all credibility. I’d lose standing if I were to get that angry,” she says. “Socially, women still don’t have that ability to be able to display anger, right? Whereas men can. Men can scream into a phone and get into a shouting match and be a bulldog or whatever, you know?”

Again, we, men, have to be better. There’s no reason why someone as smart and talented as Ferraro shouldn’t be allowed to challenge us in a setting, particularly when she has the answer to the problem. 

Ferraro knows there are times when being the only woman in the room has some benefits, particularly in crisis management.

“I do think as a woman in the room, it seems as though I have an opportunity to diffuse conflict quite a bit more easily, which comes up in construction,” she says. “This can be a contentious issue. It does seem like (I’m) able to deescalate a situation easier. (That’s better) than a bunch of men sitting around the table screaming at each other.”

Even still, we, men, have to be better. It’s good to know Ferraro knows how to diffuse issues, but she shouldn’t have to be the peacemaker. We need to be able to listen to anyone — at any level of respectful discord — to find the right solution for the problems at hand.

I have to say my time with Ferraro, coupled with my visit to the 2018 ASPE Convention and Expo event (full report on page 40), proves there are many women continuing to make an imprint on the industry.

At ASPE’s opening breakfast and keynote address we were introduced to the 2018-2020 board of directors. It features a lineup of women who will make a major impact.

  • Carol Johnson, CPD, of Hoover, Alabama-based Edmonds Engineering is the new ASPE president.
  • Blair Minyard, P.E., is the new vice president of education (be on the lookout in an upcoming issue of pme for a profile of Minyard).
  • Brianne Hall, P.E., (featured in the Oct. issue of pme) is the new vice president of legislation.

“The new ASPE board embodies the spirit of community and brings talent, expertise and energy to the table,” Johnson says. “I am fortunate to have them by my side as we continue to strengthen the plumbing design industry and profession.”

And women such as Ferraro, Johnson, Minyard, Hall and a host of others will be crucial in the continued strengthening of the industry. I am excited to see it.