Continuing our series on Women in Engineering Management (#WiEM) featuring a fireside chat with ASEM's most recent Past President, truly a leader in engineering management. Learn more about Dr. Suzanna 'Suzie' Long, PhD, CPEM, F.ASEM, F.IISE and hear her views on the future for women in EM.
"Let the voice in your head be a positive one, one that reminds you of why you are where you are, how hard you worked, and why you need to be there. The voice in your head should always be a kind one."
Q1: What led you to the field of engineering management?
My department is Engineering Management and Systems Engineering (EMSE). It was none of those things that led me to the department. My undergraduate degrees are in Physics & History, and my first graduate degree was in history. I went to work for the National Archives and Records Administration. Because of Physics, I was assigned to work on scientific records because I had a unique background to be able to characterize what is uniquely valuable for the good of the Nation. Then I started falling more and more into how you effectively manage technology. I started looking for PhD programs, and I was drawn to EMSE because it had a strong program in looking at the concept of an engineering system or sociotechnical system. My PhD is in EM with a systems flavor and so one of the first professional societies that i joined as a graduate student was ASEM because I was so enchanted in this concept of the management of systems and the management of technology. So with that, whereas most coming into ASEM through a student membership, I joined as a professional member from the get-go.
Q2: Why do you think its essential to have have women in engineering, and specifically engineering management?
I think a lot about this, even on my own campus, I am currently the only female chair. One of the things that I feel very strongly about is that diversity of thought, diversity of experience, diversity of opinion is essential. If you are not considering all dimensions of a problem, your solution is simply not robust. Not just women need to be actively involved in EM, but across all diverse dimensions, we need that to have the engineering solutions we need to move the profession forward. It’s been a privilege to be a women leader in the field of Engineering Management. It’s still far too rare.
You didn’t ask about challenges but it becomes a disheartening thing when you know because there is a deeper voice, capable of being louder that sometimes you’ll be shut down or talked over. Or more importantly they will pick up your idea and it’s attributed to them and not you. I think we still have a lot of growing to do, and until we get past that our default leaders look a certain way, we have made no progress.
Q3: Is there anything you think educators can do to make Engineering more attractive to women?
Part of it requires that we actually think about education from a more inclusive respective. NSF is currently using a term called convergence, which is starting to be designed. [. . .] What it means to me is that we are trying to work towards a framework where diversity of thought is truly present in our systems designs and in our engineering management approach in everything from work to life. If you think of things as a sociotechnical system, and most engineering managers are looking at that, then to be perfectly honest we spend way too much time on the technical, and not enough time on the integration of the human into the management system.
The way you look at things, whenever you got a human, there are dimensions and emerging conditions that cannot be clinically designed so that’s why you can’t have an artificial intelligence approach constantly. There’s got to be compassion and cultural awareness as part of the system.
Q4: What are some of your memories from ASEM or some of your proudest accomplishments?
I’m going to back to my early days on the faculty here at Missouri S&T about 12 years ago. In my second year as a faculty member, we hosted the ASEM conference in Springfield, MO. I remember being so proud of the team I was able to put together to attend that conference, both that conference and the next one. We had 9 different graduate students presenting research in EM. When I started thinking about contributions and ways to give back, it occurred to me as I was sitting in one of their sessions, 'Wow! this is the future of our society, you’re here on the ground floor getting to mentor and benefit from their perspective and I was so proud of that.'