This week is National Engineers Week — a time of recognition organized by the National Society of Professional Engineers and dedicated to ensuring a diverse and well-educated future engineering workforce by increasing understanding of and interest in engineering and technology careers.
American Water is proud to have more than 400 professionals working in the engineering function across our business, and many more that are using their engineering education or experience in a different capacity to support the company. Its not unusual to talk to American Water employees in other parts of the business only to learn that they have an engineering degree or worked in engineering earlier in their career. Every day, each one of them plays a critical role in maintaining the reliable flow of water and wastewater services to homes and businesses across the country. In recognition of them, and the countless other engineers making a difference when it comes to our country’s infrastructure, we’ll share just some of the things they do to keep life flowing and the ways that we support them.
Engineering in water and wastewater utilities.
Engineers who work in water and wastewater services, such as those at American Water, have a wide range of responsibilities. These include, but are not limited to:
- Engineering planning studies: They evaluate water and wastewater system needs and develop engineering solutions to serve our customers.
- Project design: They develop innovative designs to build safe, resilient, and efficient infrastructure.
- Project oversight: They manage and supervise water and wastewater capital projects from start to finish.
- Process evaluations and technical support. They collaborate with operations to troubleshoot and provide support to address operational challenges and optimize our system performance.
The engineering teams across American Water have topical expertise in all aspects of water resources management, from developing sources of water supply through treatment and distribution, as well as wastewater collection and processing. We also have expertise across a wide variety of engineering disciplines needed to deliver our capital program and support our operations, including process, site civil, mechanical, electrical, structural, hydrogeology, and construction, just to name a few. Overall, our engineers are creative, problem-solving, proactive and intuitive —they know how to work as a team and get the job done, no matter the situation.
Recognizing the need for gender and racial diversity in engineering.
For all the incredible work done by engineers around the globe, this particular field of work continues to struggle in one aspect: diversity.
According to the U.S. Census, the percentage of women working in engineering has increased over the past five decades, from 3% in 1970 to 15% in 2019. And, while this does show a positive trend for women in the field, it also reflects how the large gender disparity in STEM fields, including engineering, continues today.
People of color continue to be underrepresented in engineering as well, even in comparison to other STEM fields. According to a 2021 study from Pew Research, of all the STEM fields studied (including health, life science, math, physical science and computer-related work), engineering had the lowest percentage representation of Black Americans, the second lowest for Asian Americans and came in on-par for representation of Hispanic Americans. Meanwhile, the study found that 71% of engineers are white — topping all other STEM fields by at least three percent, the average for all STEM jobs by four percent, and the average for all jobs by eight percent.
American Water has made inclusion and diversity a priority across the board, including in engineering. Over the last several years we have made good progress in increasing the representation of women and people of color in engineering, including engineering management positions. But we know there is always room for improvement, and with that in mind, we’re hopeful we can help inspire the next generation of engineers and continue our journey to develop more diverse teams.
Looking for the next generation of engineers.
By knowing what the field has and what it needs, we can now look to the future. The National Society of Professional Engineers is dedicated to changing how the world views the engineering profession — putting emphasis on the creativity involved and the potential to make a difference in people’s lives through our everyday work.
At American Water, our hope is that, with increased awareness of what being an engineer means, combined with an increased emphasis on inclusion and diversity in the field, the next generation of engineers will represent a new age. One that carries the carries the skill and ability of the past, represents the current diversity of our communities across the nation and the communities we serve, and embraces future possibilities.
For more information on National Engineers Week, click here.