Honoring the women of hydro

The above video may seem extreme, but it is a very accurate portrayal of the uphill battle many women fought as children because of their love of science and math.

This nearly viral video crossed my inbox this weekend and I found myself nodding along as I watched, remembering my own struggles. You see, I was “the writer.” After writing my first short story at age five and publishing my first poem at age nine, my course was clear: editing, newspapers, magazines, novels, and eventually the New York Times Bestseller’s List. I grew up hearing about how “right-brained” I was and how it made me excellent at _________. The blank was filled with pretty much all of the social sciences and arts at one point or another. My own mind would insert the one thing that was not like the rest: biology.

Cells. Blood disorders. Organ systems. Chromosomes. I loved it all. I dreamed of being a research scientist with the World Health Organization and creating the serum that would, once and for all, eradicate HIV from the Third World.

Yet, I’m an editor, using my right brain for 8+ hours a day.

Did I fall victim to societal pressures and stereotypes? Not in the way you would think. While no one discouraged me from pursuing my love of science, the concept that I “can’t do both” was a prevalent one in my mind and in my education.  

This idea that men are somehow more able to excel in math and science than females is not new, and appears clearly in national statistics. According to the National Science Foundation, 66% of fourth grade girls stated that they enjoyed math and science. I can raise my hand and nod as I was one of them. The percentage of those girls that go on to obtain degrees in engineering is incredibly small however. Of the students graduating with degrees in engineering in a given year, only 18% are female.

What happened? Societal pressure and stereotypes? Unintentional discouragement? I’m not quite sure, but I’m grateful for the women that break through those walls, particularly those in hydropower. 

In light of the challenge many women face in realizing their vocational dreams in the areas of math and science, the women I’ve met within the hydropower industry honestly wow me, for a number of reasons.

Hydropower is such a male-driven industry, from engineers and CEOs to technicians and researchers. In an average magazine issue, the bulk of my authors are male. Over the last two years, this disparity has become quite clear.

For that reason, I am very proud to announce the PennWell Hydro Group’s newest program: the “Women with Hydro Vision” awards.

Designed to recognize and honor women that have made and/or are continuing to make major waves in the hydropower industry, these awards take the time to acknowledge the extraordinary work of women in 10 unique categories. These women were nominated by you, their peers. In my opinion, that in itself speaks so loudly of the influence these fantastic professionals have had on the industry.

The inaugural class of recipients is as follows:

Communications; Public Relations; Industry Support:

Deborah Linke, Executive Director, Hydro Research Foundation and President, Linke Consulting 

Dam Safety:

Peggy Harding, Chief Dam Safety Engineer, Turlock Irrigation District

Engineering Consulting and Plant Services/Maintenance:

Lorraine Krout, Chief Executive Officer, Hydro Consulting & Maintenance Services

Environmental Protection and Mitigation:

Celeste N. Fay, Senior Project Engineer, Alden Research Laboratory Inc.

Equipment Supply:

Jeanne Hilsinger, President, Mavel Americas Inc./Executive Chairman, Mavel, a.s.

Marine and Hydrokinetic Energy:

Susan Skemp, Executive Director, Southeast National Marine Renewable Energy Center at Florida Atlantic University

New Development:

Kristina Johnson, Chairman and CEO, Enduring Hydro LLC

Policies and Regulations:

Linda Church Ciocci, Executive Director, National Hydropower Association

Power Plant Portfolio Management/Operations and Maintenance: 

Janet M. Audunson, P.E., Esq.,  Senior Counsel — NY Regulatory, National Grid

Research and Technology:

Maryse Francois-Xausa, Senior Vice President, Global R&D and Product Management, Alstom Renewable Power Hydro and Vice President, Global Product Management, Alstom Hydro

What these women have accomplished in their careers is simply astounding. They are gifts to the industry, and I for one, am very grateful that they didn’t let anything get in the way of their dreams.

Thank you, ladies, for your hard work and investments in our industry.

We would love to have you present at a luncheon honoring these women at HydroVision International, Tuesday, July 22, 2014. It will be a great opportunity to sit down over lunch and hear them talk about what they are working on and what they have accomplished in the past. You won’t want to miss it! For more information and to register, click here.

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Bethany Duarte formerly was associate editor of Hydro Review and HRW-Hydro Review Worldwide magazines.

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