Trailblazing women of the Portland District

Sarah Bennett
Public Affairs Office

In 1903, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers headquarters employed just three women. All worked as clerks. It wasn’t until World War II that two women broke into engineering positions with the Corps. Today, the Portland District employs hundreds of women in a variety of fields. They are leaders and supervisors, engineers and rangers, scientists and administrators.

For Women’s History Month, which is observed in March, Portland District highlights four of our trailblazing women who have redefined the roles of women in the Corps of Engineers.

 

Debbie Chenoweth

Deborah Chenoweth

Deborah Chenoweth
Chief, Operations Division

Debora Chenoweth, an inductee into Portland District’s Distinguished Employees Gallery, retired from the Portland District in 2007 as the chief of operations. She began her career three decades earlier as one of the few female park rangers, and worked her way up to the operations project manager at Bonneville Lock and Dam, becoming the first woman from a non-engineer background to lead a hydropower project.

What advice would you give to another woman in your field?
For anyone, male or female: work with your strengths.  You will get out of your career what you put in to it.

What is your vision for women in your field?
I have seen women make great progress in the natural resources field. They further the effort to protect the environment by bringing the ability to collaborate, listen and multi-task. In most entry and mid-level positions, women are accepted as equals. I hope to see women reach positions of real influence.

 

Laurie Lane

Laurie Lane

Laurie Lane
Paint Crew Supervisor, Bonneville Lock and Dam

During her 39 year career, Laurie Lane has worked in a variety of different fields, many of which were traditionally dominated by men: Resource, Supply Unit, Warehouse and Maintenance Department.

What is one of your proudest accomplishments?
One of my biggest accomplishments was becoming the Paint Supervisor. I was able to establish and lead a highly motivated paint crew and manage a maintenance schedule of a hydro-electric power plant. I feel my success will be measured after I am gone, when our crew doesn’t miss a beat and they continue to accomplish great things.

What advice would you give to another woman in your field?
Work harder. Prove to others that you can do the work. There is stigma that women can’t perform physical work. But we can, and do, when afforded the opportunity.

 

 

Salina Hart

Salina Hart

Salina Hart
Chief, Reservoir Regulation and Water Quality Section

Salina Hart is the chief of Reservoir Regulation and Water Quality, and her team is responsible for the complex system of dams and reservoirs that provide hydropower generation, fish and wildlife enhancement, navigation, recreation and flood risk management.

What do you find rewarding about your job? What do you find challenging?
What I find rewarding are the challenges. My position involves working with so many variables: people, weather, infrastructure, budgets, etc. I overcome challenges usually by talking them through with the people in my section or elsewhere. I never feel like I have to go at it alone.

What advice would you give to another woman in your field?
Don’t underestimate your abilities! Keep pushing boundaries. Do what makes you feel complete, and don’t let anything or anyone stop you.

 

Amy Lynn

Amy Lynn

Amy Lynn
Hydraulic Engineer, Hydraulics and Hydrology Branch

Amy Lynn is a hydraulic engineer who works on projects ranging from coastal engineering to hydraulics at Portland District’s dams.

What do you find rewarding about your job?
I learn something new every day. It can be challenging to maintain confidence when you are constantly learning, but I have been lucky to find great mentors. The people I work with are a huge part of why I love my job!

What advice would you give to another woman in your field?
Figure out your strengths and growth areas. Do not try and be like the guys. Take advice, try it out. But at the end of the day, figure out what works for you and make it your own.

What is your greatest hope for women in the future?
Within STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math), I hope we will get to a point where we are not classified as “women engineers.”  We are all engineers.