Last fall, members of the ASCE Board of Direction lined up for their official portrait photographs, as they always do, at the ASCE 2022 Convention in Anaheim, California.
Each class of electees takes photos together – the group from three years prior, the group from two years prior, the group from one year prior, and the newly elected group of directors ready to begin work on the board.
Looking at the groups, it was not difficult to spot a trend.
“The first group was all men; the second had one woman; the third had two women; and our class was almost all women,” said April J. Lander, ENV SP, A.M.ASCE, the new Region 10 director. “It was an interesting way of seeing the change that is coming.”
Lander is one of six women joining the 2023 ASCE Board of Direction, along with President-Elect Marsia Geldert-Murphey, P.E., F.ASCE; At-Large Director Rossana G. D’Antonio, P.E., GE, ENV SP, F.ASCE; Region 2 Director Carol C. Martsolf, P.E., PMP, LEED AP, F.ASCE; Region 7 Director Erin M. Steever, P.E., M.ASCE; and Technical Region Director Karen C. Kabbes, P.E., ENV SP, D.WRE, F.ASCE.
Including returning leaders President Maria C. Lehman, P.E., ENV SP, F.ASCE, and At-Large Director Elizabeth Ruedas, P.E., QSD, QISP, ENV SP, M.ASCE, the current ASCE board boasts eight women among its 18 voting members. Newly installed treasurer Marsha D. Anderson Bomar, F.ASCE, also is among the non-voting members.
“I am thrilled to preside over such a diverse board and expect great things from this very talented and forward-thinking board,” Lehman said.
Lehman and the board meet Jan. 22 in Charlotte at the conclusion of the first 2023 Multi-Region Leadership Conference.
Lander attends the meeting as the first female to serve as director of Region 10. Martsolf is the first woman elected to director of Region 2.
“It’s fantastic,” Lander said. “It’s quite an opportunity to be a role model for women globally.”
Lander, who said she is prioritizing collaboration with other engineering societies around the world in her role leading Region 10, grew up in Illinois, before living and traveling in Europe, Latin America, and Asia. She now lives in New Zealand. She said her parents both made her feel there was no barrier to entry for any career she chose. She hopes to move civil engineering in that direction overall.
“The more diverse perspectives we have the better,” Lander said. “And I don’t want to see women as being ‘diverse.’ It should be just business as usual that we have that number of women on the board. It should just be representative of the population.”
Lehman, in true engineering-brain fashion, sees gender diversity in Society leadership as an efficiency equation.
“Research shows that gender diversity improves the quality of group decision-making by enhancing the preparation and participation of other members and improves the quality of group decision-making by increasing the range of perspectives in the boardroom,” Lehman said. “Researchers randomly varied the diversity of different groups and then measured their performance. The decisions made by diverse groups were significantly more accurate than those made by homogeneous groups. Diversity increases the likelihood of threats and opportunities getting noticed and addressed.
“So it is great business practice to have such diversity representing our members.”
Lehman is the sixth woman to serve as ASCE president, with a seventh – Geldert-Murphey, waiting in the wings.
“As we address more complex infrastructure challenges that require sustainable and resilient solutions… diversity of thought at the leadership level is critical,” Lehman said. “I hope that during my lifetime we will see a civil engineering workforce and ASCE leadership that reflects the demographics of the population as a whole.
“If in the 2023 ASCE election we elect just two women, we will meet that metric for the ASCE Board of Direction. That would be an incredible accomplishment. But now we need to focus on racial diversity as well. I am very hopeful for the future.”