Women of HAWA

Tamar McManus, Electrical Engineer

What made you want to pursue a career in engineering? What sparked your interest?

“I was always interested in math, which led me to look into the engineering field. The great thing about consulting is the projects you work on are always different, so you are constantly being challenged and learning something new.”

Were you aware of the underrepresentation of women in engineering/STEM when you chose to pursue your career?

“Women were the minority in classes and my career. Being outnumbered isn’t going to change anytime soon, but we can be there to help women who do want to grow in this field and continue to make a difference in the numbers.”

Were you able to learn from other women engineers throughout your career, and if so, did you receive any valuable advice?

“It is rare to find a female mentor in the industry. Most of my coworkers are men, but I’ve been lucky enough to have some great mentors who were patient and helped me grow. Together we can help create more female mentors in the industry.”

What has HAWA done that has benefited your growth as an engineer?

“My coworkers at HAWA have set a great example of what a leader should be and have helped me grow by taking the time to show me the steps of how to get there.” 

What advice do you have for women who are interested in engineering?

“My advice for someone interested in engineering would be to go for it. Engineering has so much to offer. The greatest thing you can do for yourself in this industry is to believe in yourself.”

Elise Wilcox, Mechanical Designer

What made you want to pursue a career in the A/E/C industry/design? What sparked your interest?:

“I started at a community college, not knowing what I wanted to do until I took my first AutoCAD class and really liked it. I started co-oping at different firms before I started at HAWA and discovered I enjoy drawing and designing HVAC.”

Were you aware of the underrepresentation of women in the industry? Did this influence your decision in any way when pursuing your career?

“I was somewhat aware of the underrepresentation of women in the industry. However, as I started working in the field, meeting other women engineers, and hearing their experiences, I realized just how underrepresented women could be. I was concerned, but not enough to hold me back from pursuing the career I wanted.”

Do you feel that you have a unique perspective that your male counterparts might not have?: 

“I have a unique perspective on knowing how women can feel underrepresented, so as I work with other women in the field, I can understand them better, and as more young women engineers begin their careers, I can better understand what they need to be successful.”

What advice have you received from other women in the industry?

“The advice I have received from other women in the industry is not to be afraid to go for what you want and don’t let others hold you back.”

What advice do you have for women interested in entering the design field? What should they anticipate, and what skills should they cultivate?

“My advice for other women is to work hard, be confident in yourself, and always try to better yourself and learn new skills. There is always something new to learn. They should anticipate learning a bunch of new things and being challenged daily. New skills to cultivate are multi-tasking and communication. Both are important in the industry to complete a project on time and successfully.”

What about your career do you enjoy the most? What are you looking forward to achieving/learning?

“What I enjoy the most is the design aspect of my career. I find it fascinating to see how we can get HVAC, plumbing, and electrical into a building and make it function efficiently. I look forward to learning about everything mechanical and taking the lead on a project. I’m hoping to achieve my P.E. license and then be able to stamp drawings.”

What has HAWA done that has benefited your growth?

“HAWA has dramatically benefited career growth. They have always made sure I am learning as much as possible, from mechanical design in buildings to different design software. They push me to be better at what I do every day and do my job to the best of my ability.”

Virginia Porter, Electrical Co-op

What made you want to pursue a career in engineering? What sparked your interest?

“The thought of being an engineer was always in the back of my head as an option. Growing up, I was always stronger in math and science. Once I got into high school, I took some CAD classes to determine if engineering was what I wanted to pursue in college or if I fit in another field. I enjoyed it, so I had to decide which specification interested me the most.” 

Were you aware of the underrepresentation of women in engineering when you chose to pursue your career? Did this influence your career decision in any way?

“I was aware of the underrepresentation of women in engineering. Still, I thought that was mainly for the current workforce and was optimistic that there would be a higher female population in college, but there is still a huge gap. I thought about it when deciding to be an engineer, but it didn’t deter me.”

Was there a noticeable lack of representation in your classes, and has this proved challenging while completing your major?

“Yes, my friends and I were constantly reminded that there weren’t as many women as men. So I joined an engineering club with 50 members and two women, so I left the club because it was an uncomfortable learning environment. This is why I join predominantly women’s engineering clubs; for me, they have more similar experiences to mine and create a more comfortable learning environment.” 

Please explain the goals of the Society of Women Engineers and Women in Flight and how those groups seek to encourage women to achieve in STEM.

“SWE and Women in Flight aim to empower women to be strong leaders and promote STEM to young girls, so hopefully, there’s a future where women have equal representation in the STEM fields. SWE empowers women in the workplace by fostering professional relationships with companies through biweekly meetings with reps to understand how they are promoting inclusivity in their company. Women in flight primarily empower young women of all ages through various activities such as going to middle schools and doing science projects and then explaining why the reactions occur.”

What insights have you gained working with similar-minded women in those organizations?

“These organizations have helped me understand the possibilities I have and the many industries I can work in as an electrical engineer. Also, no one knows everything, and you will always have questions.” 

Back to News