More than Mentoring

I was one of the fortunate dozen or so men who attended the Sept. 30 all-day conference called "Groundbreaking Women in Construction," along with 300 women, in San Francisco. Your editorial, "Both Men and Women Should Mentor Youth with Talent," builds on the topic of mentoring, which speakers and panelists discussed throughout the day (ENR 10/11 p. 48). The audience may have thought mentoring was the intended major theme of the conference.

To me, the conference was a great deal more than that. At one level it was a celebration of how far women have come in the design and construction arena since the pioneering days of Julia Morgan. I think the data presented clearly shows there has been progress. At times it seems that there was a tacit assumption that anything less than 50% representation of women in this field is a regrettable shortfall. Whether numerically equal partic-ipation by women is imperative and desirable for its own sake was seldom questioned.

But the final riveting keynote speech by Midge Costanza had even greater meaning for me. To her it is not the absolute number of women in construction that counts, but the absolute need for women to have the freedom and opportunity to follow any career they choose. And why? Midge’s simple point–because it’s fair. Ms. Costanza’s speech was inspiring even to the men in attendance, and it elevated the level of the event. The conference was truly worthwhile and should be repeated in some form and place periodically.

WTC Disagreements

After reading the article, "WTC Findings Uphold Structural Design," that concluded there was nothing wrong with the design of the World Trade Center towers, I felt the need to disagree (ENR 11/1 p. 10). The new design methodology of strong core and relatively weak surrounding structure goes against the basic tenets of structural engineering and may be the primary cause of the disastrous failure of the towers. Just as box beams are the strongest structural steel sections, so are buildings where the perimeter structure is the strongest and stiffest component.

If the WTC had been designed in accordance with box beam philosophy, which has been used for generations, not only might the buildings have withstood the heat better, but the relatively light airplanes might not have been able to destroy as much of the structures as they did.