Our industry-leading team is our foundation, technically skilled and invested in company culture. In this new series, “GSer Spotlight,” Kelsie Priest, Project Engineer at Glotman Simpson, shares her passion for her work in structural design and her hopes for greater inclusion for women in the engineering community.
How did you enter the world of structural engineering?
My Dad is an engineer, so I set my sights on engineering as early as elementary school before fully understanding what an engineer did! As I progressed through high school, I was most interested in math and science classes and motivated by the challenges and problem-solving in those classes. My friend’s Dad was a structural engineer and early on, I remember him pointing at various high-rises in downtown Vancouver that he had designed. I thought his job was the coolest job ever, and I never lost interest as I grew up!
What is the best thing about working in engineering?
The best thing about working in engineering is having an impact on changing the fabric of the communities I live and work in by designing homes, offices, and other structures that people depend on.
What is the biggest challenge about working in engineering?
The biggest challenge in engineering is the lack of female role models in my industry. When I started working as an engineer, I didn’t see someone like myself in the role of partner or associate of a structural engineering firm. It was initially hard to imagine myself succeeding in my career.
How did you overcome that challenge?
As I’ve grown in my career, I’ve learned to appreciate the unique perspective that I bring to Glotman Simpson, and to see strength in my differences. Founding Women in Consulting Engineering (WCE) with the female engineers at Glotman Simpson was instrumental in finding role models in my field. Our industry events have featured many women in leadership positions who taught me numerous things. For example, being soft-spoken doesn’t equal a lack of confidence, and ‘empathetic’ and ‘caring’ are valuable leadership traits in a successful engineering firm. Between the community I’ve found within WCE and the support and guidance I’ve received at Glotman Simpson, I’ve defined what success means to me.
What advice would you give to women who are interested in the structural engineering industry?
My advice is to follow your passion and go for it! Structural engineering is a challenging and fulfilling career that gives you the power to flex your creativity and develop cities with safe spaces for people to live and work. This career can take you to some of the most interesting cities worldwide to design extraordinary structures as architects push the boundaries of complex buildings, challenging us to think outside the box and work in teams to solve multifaceted problems. Once you’ve decided on a career in structural engineering, my advice is to build connections and find a community that will empower you throughout your career. Community can be found among peers at work, university friends, or one of the many non-profit or professional groups in structural engineering.
What do you hope to see change for female engineers in the future?
My goal is to see women make up at least 50% of the engineering community and for women to hold high-level positions across all fields of engineering. Our industry is seeing gains in the number of women studying engineering, as well as the number of women becoming newly licensed Professional Engineers. However, we still have a long way to go. According to Engineers Canada, women currently make up 21% of newly licensed engineers in Canada. To reach 50%, we still need more young girls interested in engineering and more support for women working as engineers to stay in the profession and reach leadership positions. Fortunately, universities like UBC have programs to recruit more girls to engineering, and non-profit industry groups like Women in Consulting Engineering, and Women in Science, Engineering, Technology and Trades (WinSETT) are supporting women in their careers. This goal is also supported by companies adopting inclusive policies and providing support to their female employees. Glotman Simpson is a leader in inclusive hiring practices, and we have been highly successful in attracting talented female staff. The number of women engineers working at Glotman Simpson has grown significantly. I’m proud to be part of this shift at Glotman Simpson and of my volunteer work with WCE and WinSETT that supports women’s success in our industry.