After graduating from high school in 1983, Kelley Bieghler, managing partner, KBSO Consulting, was excited yet nervous to pursue a career in engineering.

“Engineering sounded intimidating to me as I contemplated career choices,” said Bieghler. “I misunderstood the breadth of the field and imagined myself focused on a single task with little interaction with others. Designing a turbine blade or improving a manufacturing process sounded lonely and uninspiring.”

While deciding which college to attend, she was keen on the local engineering school — lauded as one of the best in the nation. However, despite her aptitude and outstanding grades, and test scores, the institution deemed her unfit to attend. The reason she was kept out was simple: She wasn’t male.Kelley Bieghler

“Thankfully, times have changed over the past 30 years,” she said. “I’m happy to say I’ve since worked alongside a couple of extraordinary female graduates of that same university.”

Bieghler pivoted to the University of Evansville, where she earned her bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering. In 2015, after spending more than 20 years in the industry, she, along with business partner, Seun Odukomaiya, P.E., elected to start their own company, KBSO Consulting.

“Consulting has provided me an opportunity to collaborate with interesting people on a multitude of project types,” she said. “If you think about stereotypical gender profiles, women are typically thought of as creative, social, and multitasking individuals, while men are typically thought of as focused and task-oriented. Engineering requires both.”

While Bieghler has accomplished a great deal through her storied career, she encourages aspiring female engineers to jump in with both feet.

“Dive in and go for it,” she said. “There’s plenty of room in this industry for your talents. There will be challenges for women in any career, especially the male-dominated ones, but they can be overcome. How you respond to them will define your success.”

20 to Watch: Women in HVAC

While Bieghler’s story is a wonderful example of how women are thriving in the engineering industry, women are still vastly underrepresented in the workforce. According to the National Science Foundation, women only represent 28% of all science and engineering workers, comprising 29% of physical scientists, 25% of computer and mathematical scientists, and 13% of engineers.

In 2018, Engineered Systems created a contest to honor the outstanding work done by the industry’s leading ladies. In January 2019, the magazine introduced the winners of the inaugural 20 to Watch: Women in HVAC contest. Upon a warm reception, we continued the contest in 2020, 2021, and 2022.  I’m excited to share this contest will be back for a fifth year in 2023.

Our 2019-2022 lists include 80 outstanding individuals, each boasting their own achievements and stories. The 2023 list will round out our first 100 winners. Nominations for the 2023 rendition of the 20 to Watch: Women in HVAC contest are now open and will remain open until Sept. 30.

From a journalist’s desk, I cherish the ability to share these women’s stories — tales of success that continue to nurture the flourishing role of women in the industry. Here’s a great opportunity to grant the women at your firm the recognition they deserve. Nominate your leading lady today!