Hatley Addresses Profession’s Ethical Duties With Society of Women Engineers

A movement within the engineering profession aims to help guide responsible application of technology and assess the impacts on communities.

Tricia Hatley

Freese and Nichols Executive Vice President Tricia Hatley, a national leader on preparing young engineers and expanding the profession, addressed the topic in an article in the Fall issue of SWE, the magazine of the Society of Women Engineers: “Tech Stewards Expand the Scope of Responsible Engineering

Hatley discussed joining the Engineering Change Lab-USA’s working group on racial justice after the “eye-opening” experience of learning at an organization event about America’s controversial past building major highways through underrepresented communities.

Here’s an excerpt from the article:

“If I had learned that in school — how our cities developed and the role that politicians and engineers played — I would have thought differently about certain municipal roadway projects,” said Hatley, whose mission has always been to ensure that engineers approach their work ethically and to help women advance in their engineering careers.

But Hatley inherently understood the importance of ethics and sustainability in civil engineering.

“To me, it’s the right thing to do,” she said. “We’re designing infrastructure that will be in place for 50 to 100 years. We’ve got to think about how it will impact future generations.”

Hatley, the 2020-2021 president of the National Society of Professional Engineers, chairs Freese and Nichols’ corporate social responsibility steering committee, which is focused on sustainability, and kicked off the firm’s “Women Empowered” employee resource group to support women engineers for leadership roles.

“People encouraged me to take on leadership roles,” said Hatley, who earned her civil engineering degree from Oklahoma State University. “I want to show other women they can be leaders if they want.”

Hatley, who was often the only woman in her college engineering classes, would also like to see higher percentages of today’s undergraduate women earn engineering degrees. And while they’re studying engineering, Hatley said she wants tomorrow’s engineers to learn while they’re in school about racial justice issues and the impact their work can have on future generations.

“It seems that engineers don’t look at social or racial justice as an ethical responsibility,” she said. “They see themselves as technical people. They typically understand life safety, but not the social justice issues.”

Read the full article in SWE: “Tech Stewards Expand the Scope of Responsible Engineering