TogetherBeyond TogetherBeyond
Q&A Mar 7, 2022

Celebrating International Women’s Day with Jacobs Women’s Network Superstars

Talking #BreakTheBias experiences and International Women’s Day with the Jacobs Women’s Network.

A woman smiling during a meeting

International Women’s Day (IWD) is one of the key dates for the Jacobs Women’s Network (JWN) because it offers an opportunity to show how Jacobs’ commitment to gender equality furthers the global conversation. The JWN is one of Jacobs’ eight Employee Networks and focuses on accelerating a cultural shift by empowering women and promoting gender equality.

This year’s International Women’s Day theme is #BreakTheBias, which is about celebrating women’s achievements, raising awareness against bias and taking action for equality. Jacobs Chair and CEO, Steve Demetriou spoke with International Women’s Day and shared how Jacobs is better when we live in inclusion. As we strive to have more women in our workplaces; it’s not just about numbers, it’s about leveraging each person’s unique perspectives, contributions, and dreams to make us stronger.

To mark the occasion, the JWN has organized activities to celebrate and highlight our diverse employees. We connected with several JWN superstars to talk about the significance of IWD and their #BreakTheBias experiences.

Meet Nichol, Aoife, Kori, Emma, Karen and Alessandra:

Nichol Ferges

Nichol Ferges, Project Manager & Senior Manager, Quality & Performance Excellence, Perry Hall, Maryland, U.S.

Hi, Nichol! Why is International Women’s Day important to you?

International Women’s Day is important because gender bias (conscious or unconscious) is at the root of gender inequality. And, while there has been encouraging progress, gender bias is systemic in all cultures around the world. Movements and celebrations like International Women’s Day remind us that there is more work to be done.

This year’s International Women’s Day theme is #BreakTheBias. How are you breaking the bias?

I am breaking the bias by celebrating women’s achievements and calling out gendered actions or assumptions in practice, not just for International Women’s Day but every day.

What do you enjoy most about being involved with the Jacobs Women’s Network?

What I enjoy most about being involved with the Jacobs Women’s Network is the connections I have built for myself and that I have helped others to make. Making connections is not always easy, but when connections are made with intention, like they are in the Women’s Network, they can be so rewarding because of the commonalities we share in gender and in purpose.

What’s your proudest JWN moment?

My proudest JWN moment was promoting IWD 2020 #EachforEqual and leading the fundraising event hosted by my local chapter that I now chair. We hosted a successful charity drive for Dress for Success®—a non-profit, community-service organization whose mission is to encourage and empower women who are developing their careers and striving to achieve financial independence. We received generous cash donations and nearly 100 items of clothing and accessories, including blouses, suits, dress slacks, coats, sweaters, shoes and purses.

Who are your female role models?

My female role models are the women in my family (mom, aunts, grandmother, great aunts.) Who better to follow than the ones who look like you, raised you, and raise you up?!

What’s your favorite thing about being part of #OurJacobs team?

THE PEOPLE! No lie…I genuinely adore and care for the people I work with!

If you aren’t working, what would we be most likely to find you doing? 

When I’m not working, you would most likely find me hanging out with my husband, at my son’s sporting events (soccer, football, or basketball games), my daughter’s extracurricular activities (gymnastics or roller-skating practice), or sketching, painting and listening to a good audio book. My latest favs are Win the Day (Mark Batteson), Will (Will Smith), The Power of a Half Hour (Tommy Barnett), and Think Like a Monk (Jay Shetty.)

Aoife Cullen

Aoife Cullen, Process Engineer, Dublin, Ireland

Hi, Aoife! Why is International Women’s Day important to you?

Hello! To get straight into it, more and more, the purpose of IWD is being muddied by consumer goods companies who use it as an opportunity to put out inclusive messaging with little substance for the sole purpose of getting us to consume more.

A cheery opener I know! But by acknowledging this reality, we can then focus on what we really need IWD to be about and why it matters.

To me, it’s a time to pause and look around at the brilliant women in my life and celebrate them and all their achievements. I’m extremely thankful for the women in my life, and IWD is the perfect time to make sure they know that.

It’s also a time to acknowledge our collective progress toward achieving gender equality and most importantly think about where we need to get to. IWD being a globally recognized day makes it an amazing opportunity to galvanize support for the fight for equality and that’s why it’s important.

This year’s International Women’s Day theme is #BreakTheBias. How are you breaking the bias?

Prior to joining Jacobs, I’ve spent my career working in hands-on operations roles, both in Ireland and Hungary. I’ve experienced being the only female working on a site, and while my experience in Jacobs has been very different, as a female engineer, I am still often in a minority, if not the sole female in meetings.

I work to #breakthebias by making my voice heard in these situations and ensuring I am being afforded the same respect as my male colleagues.

Acknowledging the lack of gender diversity in a team can be uncomfortable, but it isn’t necessarily something that others notice, and calling it out can help embed the culture of inclusion we have at Jacobs.

What do you enjoy most about being involved with the Jacobs Women’s Network?

Since I joined Jacobs in 2021, I haven’t had a lot of opportunity to interact with colleagues beyond my immediate team due to remote working. Getting to know the JWN committee and working closely with other members to deliver initiatives has been the most enjoyable part of getting involved. The committee is full of kind and amazingly supportive people, and they’ve also helped me understand so much more about the company and all the things we do here at Jacobs.

What’s your proudest JWN moment?

With a ton of support from the wider committee, myself and Rafeek Basheer were initiative leads for the JWN UK&I (United Kingdom & Ireland) Career Journey Calendar earlier this year. The calendar was packed with daily activities including articles, Ted Talks, podcasts and events to help our members take control of their own career journeys.

I’m really proud of what we delivered and hope we helped empower our members in making their next career move.

Who are your female role models?

Back in 2018 when I was living in Budapest, I went to a Frida Kahlo exhibition in the Hungarian National Gallery, and I have been obsessed with Frida ever since. She had an incredibly difficult life, and her resilience and ability to channel her pain into her passion was astounding. Her art takes on a new level of beauty when you understand what she was going through at the time. I ended up going to that exhibition a further five times and now Frida and her art is all over my flat!

A contemporary activist I feel I value from is Jameela Jamil. While she may have a controversial reputation, listening to her interviews has introduced me to new and thought-provoking ideas. Some of these include getting comfortable with not being liked, embracing the process of changing your opinion (inspired by the Maya Angelou quote “do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better”) and learning to critically analyze the portrayal of women in the media and consider how that impacts our own attitudes and opinions on women.

Most importantly, Jameela was the first person I heard speak about intersectional feminism and how we apply it to the feminism movement today. Recognizing intersectionality in our activism is the only way for us to achieve true equality and understanding that made a massive impact on me.

What’s your favorite thing about being part of #OurJacobs team?

To me, #OurJacobs means not only being surrounded by inspiring role models and global expertise, but the feeling that the opportunities here are boundless. As part of #OurJacobs, I feel encouraged to learn, explore, ask questions and seek out what I feel passionate about. I feel I’ve grown as a person as well as an engineer since joining Jacobs last year and I’m excited to see what lies ahead. 

If you aren’t working, what would we be most likely to find you doing?

I’ve played the trumpet since I was a kid, and I’m a member of the Dublin Concert Band. I’m not particularly talented, but it’s great fun and I love playing as part of a group and performing concerts. I also love sea swimming and finding new and beautiful spots around Dublin to go for a dip.

Kori McKenzie

Kori McKenzie, Site Civil Engineer, Denver, Colorado, U.S.

Hi, Kori! Why is International Women’s Day important to you?
Our history books seem to exclusively teach us stories about great men – so having one day a year where we pay attention to the contributions of women feels like the least we can do.

This year’s International Women’s Day theme is #BreakTheBias. How are you breaking the bias?
One small thing I have changed in my day to day is using gender neutral pronouns for everyone, until I know which they prefer. Not all women are feminine presenting and not all feminine presenting people are women.

What do you enjoy most about being involved with the Jacobs Women’s Network?

I moved to Denver recently and the Women’s Network was the first place I turned to meet colleagues in the area, because I knew that women attending JWN events would make me feel welcome.

What’s your proudest JWN moment?

I am so proud of the way my last chapter (Dallas) showed up for Girls Inc. of Metro Dallas. We built a real relationship with the organization to inspire the next generation of Women in STEAM. I am looking forward to rebuilding the relationship with Girls Inc. Denver now that I am the chapter leader in Denver.

Who are your female role models?

My godmother has always been my best role model. She always shows up for those who need her and that’s a quality I hope to emulate.

What’s your favorite thing about being part of #OurJacobs team?

I love working for a company whose values align with my own.

If you aren’t working, what would we be most likely to find you doing?

Baking or traveling to a new place to try their baked goods.

Emma Keating

Emma Keating, Sales Operations Manager, Newcastle, New South Wales, Australia

Hi, Emma! Why is International Women’s Day important to you?

International Women’s Day is important to me as a time to slow down and reflect on the past year and what we have achieved in gender equality in our workplace and wider community. I find that it’s rare to pause and take pride in achievements when we are so busy, but it then helps me to set goals for the following year. It is wonderful to acknowledge the achievements of our fellow women in business and shine a spotlight on them, it is so inspiring to read and listen to what others are doing.

This year’s International Women’s Day theme is #BreakTheBias. How are you breaking the bias?

Such a great theme!

As a non-technical staff member, I find that I often need to fight harder than others to have a voice in meetings and project teams to show that I can add value. I will often get dismissed or spoken over, and I need to be really quite firm to get my point across. I have seen improvement especially in the last year; however, there is still a ways to go. My mission is to fight for everyone to feel heard as we need a diverse mix of people to solve complex problems to find innovative solutions. We need to look at problems from many angles to make sure we are finding the optimal solution – I see it as my job to challenge the “experts.” In the great words of Shirley Chisholm, “If they don't give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair."

What do you enjoy most about being involved with the Jacobs Women’s Network?

It has to be the people. I have met so many wonderful people who are each inspiring and passionate. It has been such a wonderful opportunity to connect with colleagues who I may not work with on a day-to-day basis but broaden my network.

What’s your proudest JWN moment?

I am really proud of the courageous conversations we had last year across Australia and New Zealand for the Everyday Respect Campaign. Sharing something deeply personal myself with an audience of over 400 people and then listening to the incredibly powerful stories shared by others in such a vulnerable way was an incredible experience. It made me so proud to work for a company that was willing to listen without judgement to these quite raw stories and then turn around and create action.

Who are your female role models?

Melanie Perkins, Shemara Wikramanayake, Jacinda Ardern

What’s your favorite thing about being part of #OurJacobs team?

The people!

If you aren’t working, what would we be most likely to find you doing?

Spending time outdoors with my husband and two dogs, enjoying the beautiful city we live.

Karen Jones

Karen Jones, Program Management Office (PMO) Analyst within Critical Mission Solutions, Cyber & Intelligence Business Unit (BU), Mission Operations & Readiness (MO&R) Performance Unit, Herndon, Virginia, U.S.

Hi, Karen! Why is International Women’s Day important to you?

I didn’t know International Women’s Day existed until I joined Jacobs, and honestly, I think that’s one of the reasons it’s so important. The importance of celebrating women’s achievements, of creating higher visibility of women in traditionally male-dominated fields, and of promoting awareness of what still needs to be done to achieve gender parity cannot be overstated. Equality for women is equality for all!

This year’s International Women’s Day theme is #BreakTheBias. How are you breaking the bias?

I am working on understanding, addressing and dismantling the biases and gender-based expectations I have in myself and exploring these topics in conversations with those close to me. Additionally, a large part of the membership of the JWN chapter I co-chair comes from the Cyber & Intelligence BU; by sharing our stories and challenges, we encourage each other to continue breaking the bias.

What do you enjoy most about being involved with the Jacobs Women’s Network?

I love the community and camaraderie that has come out of my JWN involvement. Most people in the Dulles View JWN chapter are on client-site or remote contracts and do not interact with Jacobs colleagues outside of their contracts; JWN and the other Jacobs Employee Networks provide the opportunity to experience more aspects of Jacobs’ culture. I’ve been able to cultivate friendships with people I probably wouldn’t have met otherwise, and we’ve been able to help each other by filling in information gaps and sharing ideas, by providing encouragement in difficult or uncomfortable situations, and by celebrating achievements.

What’s your proudest JWN moment?

The Dulles View chapter held two amazing, well-attended events in January of this year, and I was so proud of the chapter for pulling these events together. One of our co-chairs was concerned about some of the statistics in the Executive Presence e3 challenge last fall, and the conversations she started around those topics eventually led to the Executive Presence event we held, in which four amazing women in Jacobs leadership (Dawne Hickton, Karen Wiemelt, Kate Kronmiller and Rebecca Lane) discussed their own experiences with executive presence. Our other January event, a virtual webinar presented by Vanguard on Women and Investing, was arranged completely by one of our more active chapter members. It was so awesome to see such great events come out of our chapter discussions.

Who are your female role models?

I struggled a little bit with this question because I don’t have a specific, well-known person that I aspire to be like. I am grateful, however, to the many women in my life that have been mentors to me, whether they’ve known it or not: family members, friends, professors and colleagues. They have modeled strength and vulnerability, professionalism in both ideal and difficult circumstances, faith, allyship, positive relationships, and so many different images of womanhood. I hope to do for those around me as they did for me.

What’s your favorite thing about being part of #OurJacobs team?

My favorite thing about being part of the #OurJacobs team is the focus on inclusion and equality; through various Jacobs programs, I came to realize how much of a passion this is for me.

If you aren’t working, what would we be most likely to find you doing?

Haha, right now, it doesn’t feel like much, due to the pandemic! That’s not entirely true, though:  when I’m not working, I’m typically spending time with my husband, hanging out with the friends in our “pandemic pod,” reading, singing, cross-stitching, or crocheting. I guess when I put it that way, I’m pretty busy!

Alessandra Salvato

Alessandra Salvato, Process Engineer, Milan, Italy

Hi, Alessandra! Why is International Women’s Day important to you?

It’s the celebration of the Women Ruled World that has constituted the only world I’ve known since I was 10 years old when my dad passed away. Born and raised in the south of Italy, where you can feel the hidden power of women that make “magic jumps” to meet family needs, especially when economic resources might be strict. In the past, men were considered householders, while women housekeepers but also during those times, the predominance–leadership of women in the social sphere of any southern Italy family was tangible in so many aspects. My grandmother and my mom have definitely forged my values and indirectly built in me the “bias” that women can do it all, even sadly but proudly without man support!

This year’s International Women’s Day theme is #BreakTheBias. How are you breaking the bias?

First of all, I am starting to learn more about how biases – consciously and unconsciously – may shape and affect relationships as well as people’s well-being.

So I’m trying to work on eliminating the hidden challenge that I feel whenever confronting a man who fails – consciously or unconsciously – in gender biases. I have been given the opportunity from the Jacobs Women’s Network to participate in the MARC dialogue program. It has revealed what was unseen to me, sometimes our male mates are just not aware of gender biases and how they can impact women, in the workplace to give an instance. What I’ve learned so far is that awareness is the key. So when we openly discuss about biases, we can unbuild them and start to recognize men as allies. We need to recognize when biases occur and call them out to actually have an impact in breaking the biases.

What do you enjoy most about being involved with the Jacobs Women’s Network?

The feeling of belonging and the belief that empowerment is possible when we support each other, cause any member success is a bit our success or that small hope that everything is possible.

What’s your proudest JWN moment?

Being nominated as Initiative Lead for this year’s IWD Global events organization. I got the opportunity to collaborate with our amazing JWN steering committee members and networking with some of the coolest people of our Jacobs such as Robbie Edmonstone.

Who are your female role models?

Excluding my mom? Well, definitely I owe her my grit but thinking about Italian role models I would say Rita Levi Montalcini, for sure.

What’s your favorite thing about being part of #OurJacobs team?

For me, one of the retention elements that makes Jacobs the attractive company like no other is providing the employees a wide range of opportunities to build a successful career, still maintaining strong commitment to employee’s work-life balance. Another thing I love about Jacobs is that it is a people-oriented environment where everyone can learn from each other simply by using a bit of “social” curiosity and engagement in any of our eight Employee Networks.

If you aren’t working, what would we be most likely to find you doing?

In the last period, my not paid work has been as advisor for my new built family apartment for which I wore the hat of lights designer as well as kitchen designer, including calculation of lumen & location for utilities, I am the engineer of the family after all. But also brainstorming with my creative sister on furniture design ideas. Pretty exhausting and challenging but I’m really excited to see the final results in the coming months.

When I’ll get back some spare time: I love dancing salsa, reading about science and psychology, traveling and listening to many kinds of music.

More on IWD at Jacobs

Additionally, JWN will host two global events for employees – a roundtable with network leaders to discuss bias, stereotypes and discrimination, and a live session with Linda Fayne Levinson, who recently retired from Jacobs’ Board of Directors. Linda has experience challenging the status quo as the first female Partner at McKinsey and first female Board Member at Jacobs. Jacobs is proud to feature Linda to help employees learn from her about how to break the bias throughout her career.

Join #OurJacobs team

What drives you drives us as we work to build a better world – together. At Jacobs, every day is an opportunity to make the world better, more connected, more sustainable. We’re always looking for dynamic and engaged people to join our team. Bring your passion, your ingenuity and your vision. Let’s see the impact we can create, together.