She doesn’t like being called a pioneer in her field. That’s because Pam Dingman, county engineer in Lancaster, Nebraska, says that she thought the women in the generation before her were pioneers, and that men and women in STEM fields should be even by now. However, since only 11% of engineers are women, and only 30% of those receive a license to practice engineering, the statistics prove that the field is by no means even.
Today, we’d like to highlight Nebraska’s first-ever female county engineer, who worked at achieving her professional goals while raising two boys as a single mother, certainly no small feat. GantDaily reports that as a young woman, Dingman was fascinated by storms. “Nebraska is part of tornado alley,” she says. “It’s how I became interested in storms’ impact on a community and its infrastructure.” After eight years at various firms, she was 34 when she was told that she had made it as far as she could ever go in her engineering career.
So in 2003, she joined Engineering Design Consultants in Lincoln and acquired the firm two years later. Finally, two years ago, Dingman was elected as Lancaster County’s engineer, where she is responsible for the construction and maintenance of infrastructure. As engineer, Dingman told the Lincoln South Rotary Club that she oversees 100 employees in 18 locations, and is responsible for the design, construction, and maintenance of nearly 1300 miles of county roads and over 300 bridges. In addition, the engineer is responsible for all county vehicles.
In other words, Dingman is a walking example of what it means to never give up and not listen to anybody who tells you that you’re as far as you can go in your career, especially if that is a result of your gender or race. When giving her keynote speech at the Nebraska Entrepreneurship Summit, Dingman explained that she “was born poor, into a very poor family. I was born into a family that was in cycle of addiction and alcoholism.” The speech is certainly worth watching, especially if you’re interested in female entrepreneurship. After being told to stop trying to be an engineer, Dingman persisted. “It’s not over, it’s not ever over unless you decide it’s over. I wasn’t ready to give up,” she said. Today, not only is she the first county engineer, but she’s actually a millionaire thanks to the successful engineering firm that she runs and operates.
Dingman was also asked to speak at TedXLincoln last year, where she discussed the dearth of women in the engineering industry. “We have to begin to embrace diversity now,” she said. “True economic development requires diversity. If either gender unilaterally fails, we all fail. We have to make ourselves the community of opportunity for all.” You can watch the rest of the talk, along with her insightful comments here.
Finally, Dingman doesn’t just talk the talk, she walks the walk: She regularly invites young girls to shadow her on the job. “Many kids are turned off by engineering, thinking engineers just sit in a corner with their heads down, doing work on paper all day,” said Dingman. “It’s eye-opening for them to see that it’s so much more exciting than that.”
We are proud to have Pam Dingman as a positive force for change and a constant source of inspiration in our Nebraska STEM and manufacturing communities! Engineers are vital to ensuring that our society functions smoothly, and we are grateful for all she does.
Photo credit: CNN