Lift Every Voice - Women's History Month

March is Women’s History Month, a time to recognize and celebrate the contributions women have made to society and culture. Whether through politics or science, art or business, we remember and honor the determined women who forged a path for change and progress.

1. Which historic or iconic female has inspired you or had the greatest impact on the arts, sciences, civil rights, or society in general?

Christine Cronkright, Internal Communications Manager: It's so hard to pick one amazing woman from history. We stand on the shoulders of those who came before us, so I look at Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, Eleanor Roosevelt, and most recently, Justice Ginsburg. There are just so many women who do amazing things. And I think we can find women who make history every single day. The working moms in 2020 had it especially rough. I think we've made incredible strides, and it's still hard, but we’re working on it and doing great things. I think you can find iconic, amazing women every day if you just look for them.

Heather Eickhoff, Director of Human Resources: Billie Jean King is an absolute icon, and when I think of women in history who have had a direct impact on me, she would definitely be at the top of the list. She used her athletic status to bolster women in sports, and she was a self-proclaimed guardian of Title IX, which afforded equal opportunity to women and girls in education and athletics at the high school and collegiate levels. She was also a pioneer in fighting for equal pay for women. Whenever I think of people who have had an impact on the lives of so many young girls and women, it would definitely be Billie Jean King.

TrucAnh Elliott, Senior Project Engineer: As a student, of course you learn about people like Marie Curie, Rosa Parks, and Amelia Earhart, who are all strong women and successful in male-dominated fields. As far as engineering goes, when I first got into it, we didn't really hear about a lot of female engineers in the field. You didn't hear about people like Elizabeth Bragg, who was the first woman to receive an engineering degree in the late 1880s but ended up not really working as an engineer. 

One of the people who inspired me to become the engineer that I am today is my dad. Though not a woman, he told me I could become one, which is a big deal in our culture where women have to be more respectful to men than vice versa. And people like my father’s coworker, who told me I couldn't do it because girls just weren't engineers, also inspired me to succeed. All the women in engineering who I've met along the way, like the other girls who were engineers in my classes, also inspired me. After graduation, my first job had a female vice president, and coming to Gannett Fleming, you see people like Martha Averso and Esther McGinnis in leadership positions. All these women I've met along the way inspired me more than the historical women I learned about in school. Seeing women succeed every day is one of the most inspirational things for me as an engineer and makes me feel like I can do it.

Gloria Gutierrez, Project Manager: I think any woman in the world who has been able to do something for the first time that only men were able to do is inspirational, and more so if it's a female who is speaking up. María Cano is one of those women. She was from the city where I was born and raised, Medellín, Colombia, and she was the first female political leader in my country. She fought against unfair working conditions and for the civil rights of the workers, so I find her to be a role model when it comes to speaking up about unfair situations.

Sherina Mutesi, Highway Design: There are a lot of women who have had an impact on our society. One of those women is Katherine Johnson, who was the first African American woman to work at NASA as a scientist. Today, we can look at her as a role model and a trailblazer for all the young women interested in pursuing careers in the sciences.

Tracy Sheffield, Project Coordinator/Administration: The woman who has most inspired me and who I think has had such a profound influence on society is Marie Curie. She was born in what would later be Poland and was a pioneer in the field of radioactivity. She would be the first woman to win the Nobel Prize, and she won it twice for two different scientific fields. She was also pioneering in her own family, and she would be the first of five Curie family members to win the Nobel Prize. I think that her dedication to the sciences and ultimately her sacrifice of her life to the sciences really makes her an outstanding example for women to look up to.

Thafhim “Muna” Siddiqua, Project Engineer: For me, it's always been Maya Angelou. Growing up, I loved reading her poems, and she used her work to express her strong feelings. She played many roles in society; she was a dancer, civil rights activist, and many more things, and she used her platform to impact and inspire others.

Ro Singh, Connected Women at Gannett Fleming Ambassador/Office Admin. Asst: It gives me great pleasure to talk about Harriet Tubman and the reasons why I picked her as the most iconic woman of all time. She's courageous, resilient, a go-getter, she did not take “no” for an answer, she didn't give up fighting for what she believed in. I admire her strength and her courage. One of her most popular quotes that resonates with me to this day is: “Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.” That just sits with me, and it reminds me every day that I have a purpose, and with the help of all the amazing women in my life professionally and personally, we can all achieve great things. We can make a difference. We can leave our mark on this world for generations to come. I admire Harriet because she reminds me so much of my own mother, who is so strong, does not give up, and to this day, she still works and does everything on her own. She taught me to be strong, don't ever give up on your dreams, don't ever give up on being a good person, and to always do good and help whenever you can.

Deb Wilhelm, Exec Assistant: Eleanor Roosevelt, and I actually wrote a book report about her when I was in the fourth or fifth grade. She was a strong champion for human rights, she served as a delegate on the United Nations, and she was also a major influence on FDR when he was president and lobbied him to put more women in office, which he did.

2. How does Gannett Fleming benefit from attracting, hiring, and retaining female professionals to serve in leadership roles?

Christine Cronkright, Internal Communications Manager: I think diversity is important not just for gender rights. It’s good for business. When you have a diverse staff and leadership, it doesn't just help you make better decisions, it helps you represent your community in the best way possible. That's really important because it's not just about looking at having a wide variety of ideas, it's looking at having a wide variety of solutions, and you can develop better solutions when you have a diverse group of people to make those decisions.

Heather Eickhoff, Director of Human Resources: Diversity of thought leads to innovation, impactful solutions, and an overall better performing organization. Recognizing and accepting different perspectives is invaluable, and when everybody has an equal seat at the table, it is only going to result in success.

TrucAnh Elliott, Senior Project Engineer: I think having women like Martha and Esther in leadership roles really provides great role models for the younger engineers who come in and see that it is possible for a company to have women in these positions. I think women can bring a different perspective than you would typically see, and I think any different viewpoints, personalities, and cultures can bring a different perspective. It's always good to have very different perspectives when you're problem-solving, like you do in engineering.

Gloria Gutierrez, Project Manager: Gender diversity in leadership is good for business. Having input from different points of view helps with decision-making, which leads to greater success for the company. Also, having female leaders in the company who can help as mentors to other females and help with their career growth and job satisfaction is always a plus.

Sherina Mutesi, Highway Design: As our industry continues to grow and grow, there is a need to make our workforce more diverse. I believe that hiring more women in leadership roles will help us build more women leaders who can then inspire other women or the younger generation of girls interested in pursuing a career in engineering or science. Hopefully those young girls can grow up and come work for Gannett Fleming, so that Gannett Fleming can take part in building up women and helping them serve as leaders in our society.

Tracy Sheffield, Project Coordinator/Administration: Over the centuries, I think that the strength women have has not been recognized as far as what we are capable of. I think for far too long we’ve been put on the backburner and not been allowed to really show our strengths. Whether it’s our intelligence, physical strength, or work ethic, I think that by attracting, hiring, and promoting female employees, you are bringing in a perspective that has been lacking. Hiring and promoting women helps companies and society as a whole.

Thafhim “Muna” Siddiqua, Project Engineer: I think having a higher percentage of women in leadership roles provides more organizational structure, creates more meaningful work, decreases the burnout rate, and it also creates a culture where a junior employee like me could hope to someday be in a leadership position as well.

Ro Singh, Connected Women at Gannett Fleming Ambassador/Office Admin. Asst: Women are amazing! We are strong, we are go-getters, we're driven, we love a challenge, and we're fun, too! We make Gannett Fleming a fun place to work, and we're part of Gannett Fleming’s secret sauce. I admire that, at Gannett Fleming, they make you feel included. Being here for 18 years, I've seen so much growth. I feel the inclusion, I see the diversity within Gannett Fleming, and it's just an amazing place to work.

Deb Wilhelm, Exec Assistant: Gender diverse companies outrun their competitors because they have more profit, market share, and sales growth. Also, teams with gender-diverse employees come up with more innovative ideas and solutions.

3. How have you seen Gannett Fleming change over the years as a result of various initiatives launched to support diversity and inclusion?

Christine Cronkright, Internal Communications Manager: Gannett Fleming is welcoming of employees bringing their full selves to work, and I think this is really important. I have been fortunate to be a part of our Connected Women at Gannett Fleming™ employee resource group (ERG), which has been an amazing avenue for women across Gannett Fleming to lift each other up, take our voices and magnify them through the various channels we have internally at Gannett Fleming, and support each other collectively across the board. I think it’s really important that women support women, and we have that at Gannett Fleming.

Heather Eickhoff, Director of Human Resources: I've only been with Gannett Fleming for five years, but the change that I've seen in those five years is extraordinary to say the least. We have a team of executives who walk the walk, and they are passionate about ensuring there is equal opportunity for all. They are passionate about bringing everybody's ideas to the table and ensuring that we are promoting diversity and inclusion at all levels throughout the organization. I think that the ERGs that have been created and the Diversity & Inclusion Committee that is responsible for the ERGs has given credibility to Gannett Fleming in terms of our efforts. It's been amazing to watch, and I'm excited about what the next five years will bring.

TrucAnh Elliott, Senior Project Engineer: Definitely. I started in engineering when I was young, about 20 years old, as an intern. Now that I'm older, shall we say, and working at Gannett Fleming, I have definitely seen the changes over the years, especially compared to other companies. I have women friends at other engineering companies, and they have even noticed it. Gannett Fleming is very proactive in bringing in women, and not just women, but all different, diverse people and personalities, making everyone feel welcome. I hear it from other friends that their companies just don't do that sort of thing or haven't done that sort of thing yet, and their goal is to have more inclusion like we have at Gannett Fleming. 

Gloria Gutierrez, Project Manager: I believe that the various initiatives the company has supported in the past few years that are associated with diversity and inclusion have created an environment of support and awareness. I was very lucky to be part of Connected Women at Gannett Fleming™ from the beginning, and I believe that this group has created a space for female empowerment that is very unique and that we can all benefit from.

Sherina Mutesi, Highway Design: I personally have seen Gannett Fleming put a lot of effort into diversifying our workforce and helping more women achieve their goals. I remember when I was an intern at Gannett Fleming, Connected Women at Gannett Fleming™ was just starting. I remember being excited, and I could not wait to meet all the other incredible women in the firm, learn from their experiences, and also see how I could become better and grow within the company. I think that Gannett Fleming is doing a great job helping women and building them up so that they can become leaders and achieve their goals.

Tracy Sheffield, Project Coordinator/Administration: I've only been at Gannett Fleming for a couple years now since the acquisition of KEH & Associates, but I can say that of all the companies I have worked for, Gannett Fleming is by far the most diverse and the most dedicated to diverse hiring practices and attracting female leadership. For someone who has never worked in that type of environment before, it really is inspiring to see these female leaders and watch them climb the ranks. I really appreciate Gannett Fleming for doing that.

Thafhim “Muna” Siddiqua, Project Engineer: I would say people are more aware of different religions and the different cultures we came from. I've always felt happy working for Gannett Fleming because I felt like I could be who I am. I remember last year our CEO Bob Scaer sent out an email letting all employees know that Ramadan was coming and that Gannett Fleming was participating in a food drive. In general, that created an environment where people in my office asked what Ramadan was and how they could help me to be productive during the fasting hours. It shows that people have become more caring and more aware.

Deb Wilhelm, Exec Assistant: Gannett Fleming now has a diversity and inclusion committee. Additionally, Gannett Fleming currently has 56 women serving in key leadership roles, including one woman on the board of directors who’s also an executive vice president. Our chief communications officer and our chief legal counsel are also women, and we have about 100 other women who serve in managerial positions at Gannett Fleming. We also have a few employee resource groups. There’s the award-winning Connected Women at Gannett Fleming™ , LGBTQ+ at Gannett Fleming, Future Generations of Gannett Fleming, and Military Veterans at Gannett Fleming. All of them have firm support from our leadership, co-workers, and peers. We are very fortunate.