Three Women Engineers on Birmingham Water Works Staff Help Utility Reach Milestone

Three Women Engineers on Birmingham Water Works Staff Help Utility Reach Milestone

From left, engineers Jaquice Boyd, Ashlyn Manzella and April Nabors of the Birmingham Water Works Board.

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While engineering remains a male-dominated field, the Birmingham Water Works Board (BWWB) is changing those expectations with three female engineers on staff with doctorate degrees in the field.

BWWB engineers Dr. April Nabors and Dr. Jaquice Boyd, along with newly-hired engineer Dr. Ashlyn Manzella, who started at the utility in May, each hold doctorates in civil engineering and work in water filtration for the utility.

Upon their graduation from the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) earlier this month, Boyd and Manzella were among three women earning their doctoral diplomas, the most in a single graduating class from the university’s School of Engineering.

Meanwhile, Nabors obtained her doctorate degree from UAB in December 2019. Nabors was also inducted last spring as a member of the UAB Graduate School Chapter of the Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society. This distinction is bestowed upon the top 10% of UAB graduate students.

Achieving excellence and breaking barriers

Nabors, Boyd, and Manzella work in the Engineering Purification Group, also known as the Research Group. Established 15 years ago, the five-member team (with one open position) evaluates, tests and recommends new instrumentation and analyzers for plant operations in collaboration with treatment, raw water, engineering, distribution, Envirolab, SCADA, and engineering and maintenance teams, among other duties.

“We have talented and experienced engineers across the board, and these ladies are breaking barriers by achieving excellence in their field,” says Derrick Murphy, M.E., assistant general manager of Engineering & Maintenance for the Birmingham Water Works Board. “I am extremely proud of their hard work and dedication to our team which will inspire future leaders to follow in their footsteps.”

Nabors and Boyd pursued their degrees through the utility’s Education Assistance Program. Eligible full-time employees enrolled in accredited degree programs or credit hour courses at universities, colleges, community colleges, technical and trades schools can receive financial assistance with tuition, fees, and books through the program.

Just how rare is it for the BWWB to have three female doctoral graduates in civil engineering? Census Bureau data shows that more than 85% of civil engineering jobs are filled by men. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are just 180 water resources engineering jobs in Alabama.

Moreover, according to the National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics, approximately one-third of individuals holding a research doctorate degree in science, health, and engineering fields earned at U.S. academic institutions are women.

See the video below to meet Nabors, Boyd and Manzella as they grant interviews:


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