Bringing Men into the Conversation

Phil Bringing Guest Blogger
Written by Phil Steiner, PE, Principal and Managing Director, Altieri

I am honored and grateful to be the first male contributor to wom(EN)gineer, a blog in which important conversations are happening. Increasing the number of women in our industry and throwing bright light on their contributions simply makes good sense. Achieving diversity within an organization has a positive impact on innovation, employee engagement, a firm’s ability to attract more diverse talent, all key ingredients to business success. As our own Amanda Cortese advises young women engineers in her recent wom(EN)gineer blog post, Taking Stock Mid-Career, “Your unique perspective as a woman in engineering can bring valuable insights to projects and teams.” For almost 65 years, Altieri’s strength has been rooted in our people. We range from Baby Boomers – some of whom have contributed to Altieri’s success for over 40 years – to members of Gen Z. Our heritage has included those born-and-bred in Norwalk and others who came to the US from China, Colombia, Brazil, Trinidad, Taiwan, India, Ukraine, and Poland. We have first-job employees and those on their second careers.  We have benefitted greatly from this rich tapestry, which we believe is the foundation of perspective, curiosity, resilience, and innovation, yet there continues to be considerable room for leveraging the strengths of a more gender equitable workplace. To succeed, men must be part of this significant conversation, acknowledging that this is not a “women’s issue,” but a challenge for our collective future.

It is no secret that the engineering community, both historically and presently, has been dominated by men, a story that is ever so slowly receding to just that – history – as more and more women see engineering as a viable, rewarding career.  I recall my Introduction to Thermodynamics course as a college sophomore, with over twenty young men and one young woman.  Today, enrollment of women in the Department of Mechanical, Aeronautical and Nuclear Engineering at my alma mater, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, is 21%.  Better, but there is still room for improvement.  At Altieri we are working to move the needle with important initiatives such as this blog, our Women In Engineering (WIE) group, mentorship programs, supporting the work of Society of Women Engineers (SWE) on campus and beyond and, importantly, community outreach focused on educating young women about careers in engineering. STEM or STEAM programs in middle school and high school can and do influence young women to explore their curiosity of the physical sciences and the application of this curiosity to, in our case, the built environment via engineering. It takes strong women to navigate the old perceptions that engineering is not a good career choice for women.  It takes women and men to break down those perceptions and open the field to qualified candidates regardless of gender, race, or any other false dividers.

Phil And Family
Phil with a few of the influential women in his life.

I have been surrounded by strong women all my life and have seen what strong women contribute and achieve. My mother held a full-time job while raising four children and she obtained her bachelor’s degree at night.  My sister, now a successful intellectual property lawyer, had to shorten her name to make it non-gender specific, in order to be elected to Student Council at Johns Hopkins University.  My wife had a successful career in financial services firms meeting the needs of high-net worth individuals and has gone on to found her own real estate firm.  My daughter turned her love of biology into a career in medicine; today she is a practicing pediatric endocrinologist.  My partner, Kari Nystrom, is the first woman Principal at our firm but not the only one – we introduced Kristen Butts as Principal at the beginning of 2023.

Strong women achieve what they put their minds to, while overcoming obstacles that men do not face. When I look at my young granddaughters, I say silent prayers that they will be able to pursue and be successful in whatever endeavors they choose without thought or pushback. For my young grandson, I wish him the good fortune of having these young women as colleagues. Today, our job is to continue putting attention, energy, and resources into removing the obstacles and opening doors for women and girls. Again, this is the responsibility of each and every one of us.