March was Women’s History Month, and to celebrate, on International Women’s Day we hosted a meeting, open to all the EERC, to celebrate the history and achievements of some of the women we work with. Women make up just over one third of the employees at the EERC, slightly above the national average for science and engineering occupations.
Short speeches were given by ten women from a variety of career fields. The conversation covered a wide variety of experiences, from memories of childhood and early career aspirations to stories of leading the way in new job fields. There were also observations regarding the way other countries treat and value women and reflections on being strong and independent, whether by choice or necessity.
Erin O’Leary, CFO/COO, grew up with nine siblings, all very close in age. When she was in school, O’Leary wanted to be an altar server at her church, a job not available to girls at the time. O’Leary said that in high school, girls were encouraged to go to college for bookkeeping or teaching, not science or engineering. She worked hard to put herself through college as a single mother, even coordinating a job-sharing position with a coworker. “The EERC has always been a very supportive organization, regardless of gender,” O’Leary said.
Christin Fine, Assistant Director of Environmental Health and Safety, shared how O’Leary helped her gain confidence in in her position when she started at the EERC. She now follows O’Leary’s example and encourages others in their positions. She actively tries to create an environment where others feel comfortable speaking up in meetings and around the office. Fine spoke about feeling valued in her career, and the importance of recognizing that her skills and talents have led her to her current leadership role.
Chantsa Dahlkaa shared experiences of growing up in Mongolia—she grew up feeling appreciated as a woman in Mongolia through the tradition of celebrating International Women’s Day. Sofiane Djezzar, who works with his wife Aldjia at the EERC, added his admiration for American women in their fight for gender equality.
Gloria Rodriguez, IT Systems Administrator, grew up in Colombia and moved to the United States not knowing any English. A single mother with three children, she moved to Grand Forks to work for Amazon and soon changed jobs to begin working at UND and taking classes. She met an EERC employee who encouraged her to apply for a position with our programming team. Rodriguez discovered programming was not the right fit and went back to UND for her master’s degree in Cybersecurity. She then returned to the EERC to work with the IT department. With self-confidence, and the encouragement of mentors along the way, she has established herself as an invaluable resource to the EERC and a mentor to others.
We are incredibly proud of the women working at the EERC. They are leaders in their professional and personal endeavors and are an inspiration to so many. As a print hanging in Director of Communications and Information Systems Nikki Massmann’s office says, “Empowered women empower women.”