In celebration of International Women’s Day on March 8, and this year’s theme, #EachforEqual, we are featuring stories from our leaders and employees throughout the week of March 2, across editorial themes ranging from the importance of inclusivity to the power of allyship.

When I started my career, federal planning was a very male-dominated field and sometimes, it can still feel that way. It has been gratifying that some of the most challenging and rewarding projects of my recent career, such as the rebuild plan for Tyndall Air Force Base and the mission-resilience based Installation Energy Plans, have had female leadership from both AECOM and our clients sides.

The cycle of mentorship, the presence of positive role models and even the less-than-desirable role models have inspired me to create nurturing and collaborative female relationships that focus on solution-oriented strategies to succeed. It has been rewarding to work with like-minded women, inside and outside the company. Rather than simply acknowledging a glass ceiling and stopping there, I choose to encourage female colleagues, looking for direction, to focus on what they can observe and learn from all types of leaders and then …ask! I remain a firm believer in the power of asking for what you want, rather than waiting to be noticed and “given” opportunities

I try to connect like-minded female clients to one another in hopes of fostering a culture of strong female leadership within the field. At AECOM, we are helmed and directed by strong female role models. Their passion, guidance and strong desire to collaborate has enabled our employees to see their own futures reflected in their leadership and to ask for guidance and opportunity. To help promote and expand exposure to industry role models, we need to keep investing in and encouraging our female colleagues to participate and present at industry events. The Society of Military Engineers, Federal Planners Division and Energy Exchange are examples of great organizations for young female professionals to find role models, develop relationships with peers and grow professionally.

When I reflect on the impact my role models have had on my career, I understand the value of hard work, the impact of accumulated knowledge and power of strong communication skills. In the federal planning practice, military clientele are trained to respond to authority regardless of source. I encourage all aspiring leaders to find their voice to communicate knowledgeable authority and establish leadership agnostic of race, age, gender or sex. Speak up and Ask!

Originally published 03.6.2020

Author: Komal Dewan