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Engineering is for Everyone

Engineering is for Everyone

NTTA would like to see more young girls dream of growing up to build bridges and roads. Elizabeth Mow, P.E. is our top engineer as the Assistant Executive Director of Infrastructure at North Texas Tollway Authority and one of the few female  leaders in the transportation industry. Like NTTA, Elizabeth would like to see an increase of young girls interested and exposed to careers  in engineering and technology related fields through programs like Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM).

Elizabeth Mow NTTA Engineer Woman Gerry Carrigan

Elizabeth Mow collaborating with NTTA Director of Maintenance, Mark Pavageau, and NTTA Executive Director Gerry Carrigan.

Only 14% of engineers in the U.S. are women, an increase from 5.8% in the early 1980s according to the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME). Mow believes that women are just as capable as men to succeed in engineering roles and believes  young girls should be encouraged and inspired to pursue the discipline.

Mow grew up the youngest of four children in Ohio surrounded by family who supported and encouraged each other not to let any barriers stand in the way of their dreams and career pursuits.  The odds of a young girl from Ohio becoming an engineer may have seemed remote in a male-dominated field so how did this little girl from the Midwest grow up to have a great career in engineering and transportation? Mow believes her strong family upbringing, where she was given exposure to engineering at an early age, gave her the confidence to believe in herself that she could do whatever she put her mind to.

“I knew from a young age that I wanted to see the work that I produced; I knew I could do great things that at the end of the day helped other people and made me happy,” Mow said. She got her degree in Civil Engineering from the University of Toledo in Ohio and later her Professional Engineering License in civil engineering in Texas. She began her career in structural engineering designing bridges with HNTB Corp. for almost 10 years. Mow has worked on teams that designed complex interchanges across the country including the High Five Interchange, the largest at the time in the DFW area.

As a young child, Mow didn’t exactly know she wanted to become an engineer, but she  always displayed characteristics attributed to engineers. She wanted everything organized and planned out in logical way. She approached life in a methodical manner developing routines in her everyday life. As a child, Mow organized her room in an orderly fashion and wanted to create  the perfect arrangement for her clothes and shoes to fit neatly in her closet.

Mow had an early benefit of being raised in a family of engineers. Her father is an electrical engineer, and her cousin and are both civil engineers. Surrounded by engineers, she was exposed to the industry from an early age. She understood as a child that she had a similar skills to the engineers in her family.

Mow attributes her “no limits” thinking to her mother,  a strong, loving woman who instilled confidence in her by modeling equality and respect in marriage, career and general life ambition. There were high expectations in her family for good grades and work performance; good choices and behavior were rewarded. Mow knew she could follow her dreams and do whatever she wanted, something that was always reinforced by her supportive father as well.

She excelled at engineering design, but early in her career was also encouraged by her boss to take on additional management roles. She designed and managed projects for HNTB, which allowed her to travel and network with people across the country. She learned that engineering is a fun and exciting adventure; an adventure that has lead to so many opportunities.

After working with NTTA managing projects as a consultant for two years, she was invited to apply for a position with NTTA as Director of Project Delivery. In this new role, she immediately began overseeing a $4 billion capital expansion program. Leadership, hard work, teamwork and results have paid off for Mow at NTTA. The organization has encouraged her to keep climbing the ladder while gaining more responsibilities. As the Assistant Executive Director of Infrastructure, she now oversees the engineering, maintenance, and operations departments for NTTA.

Mow attributes her success to her willingness to try new things and continue learning from the people around her. She does not pretend to know everything, but is always eager to grow in her field. Mow said, “Throughout the course of my career, I’ve reaped significant value by focusing on what matters most: honing my craft, delivering excellent service and maximizing how my time is spent.”

She’s not the type of executive you would be intimidated to approach. She is fun, full of smiles, and thinks of herself as a champion of her team. Mow holds her team, and herself, to high standards of excellence and finds satisfaction in motivating colleagues to succeed. When she’s not being the boss at work, she’s being a mom at home. She says she has found a good balance of leaving work issues at work so she can focus on family time at home.

The biggest thing Mow would like to see change is increased awareness and exposure to technology and engineering opportunities for young people of all backgrounds. “It’s heartbreaking to me that my son’s math club has no girls or minorities in it,” she said. Mow would like to see greater diversity of children encouraged to take advantage of clubs and programs that inspire confidence. Many children feel that they aren’t smart enough to be engineers and never explore all the possibilities. She feels it is our responsibility to build confidence in young children and expose them to everything so we can finally realize an increase in women in engineering fields.

Elizabeth’s daughter, Victoria Mow, is always crafting something.

“In my home we don’t talk about girl colors and boy colors, or girl toys and boy toys. My husband and I co-parent, sharing the load, and teaching our children that you can do anything you put your mind to.”

Mow makes an effort to stimulate her children’s curiosity by making them aware of their environment. She asks them questions like, “How do you think this bridge got over the water?” She doesn’t want to overwhelm her young children with big intimidating words like “engineering,” but rather make exploring the world around them an adventure.