Women making strides in STEM careers: ‘I went to interview for a drafting position, and they wanted me to be a secretary’

Local News

SPRINGVILLE, N.Y. (WIVB) — It’s International Day of Women and Girls in Science, and News 4’s Kelsey Anderson visited an engineering firm in Springville to talk to women who have overcome challenges in order to become successful in the industry.

Encorus Group has two offices, one in Buffalo and another in Springville.

Shannon Vrenna led a morning scheduling meeting at the office in Springville on Tuesday morning. Vrenna is a drafting manager. The office will call her the ‘fixer,’ since she checks drawings daily, and edits them if needed, before they’re sent to clients. She’s been in the field for 15 years, and has seen her fair share of obstacles in that time.

“I had two years experience (and) I went on a job interview, and they offered me a position as a secretary,” Vrenna said. “I went to interview for a drafting position, and they told me because I had a pretty face, they wanted me to be a secretary to get my foot in the door.”

She said she was the only woman in her college class at ECC, pursuing an associates degree in drafting. She’s now going back to school for her engineering degree, and says it’s about 50 percent men, and 50 percent women.

At Encorus, Vrenna said just five years ago, the ratio of men to women was 10:1. Today, it’s about 3:1.

“I enjoy proving people wrong,” she said. “I enjoy surprising people, so I like to be the only woman. I like to show them that I can do the same as they can do.”

“I feel like I had to do twice as much research, and get twice as much work done to get taken seriously,” Mary Padasak said, an environmental engineer.

Mary Padasak had similar experiences when she first got into the industry about 14 years ago. Padasak is a project manager at Encorus.

Both Vrenna and Padasak encourage other young women to pursue their dream jobs, no matter what others around them may be saying. And Padasak said she believes a diversified workforce helps the office in the long run.

“Any time you can bring more people in with different ideas and different backgrounds, it lends itself really well to the experience and working on the projects, and having a more well-rounded project,” Padasak said.

If you know of a woman who is leading WNY, email Kelsey Anderson: kelsey.anderson@wivb.com.

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