International Women in Engineering Day: Making Safety Seen

On June 23, the Women’s Engineering Society (WES) celebrates the 10th annual International Women in Engineering Day (INWED). In the Department of Aviation's Capital Development Group, female engineers are involved in projects across both Philadelphia International Airport (PHL) and Northeast Philadelphia Airport (PNE) – from managing the Restroom Renovation Program to ensuring environmental protection and permitting compliance, these women guide projects to success. This year’s theme is #MakeSafetySeen and the Department of Aviation is committed to safety every day. 

The airports' engineers emphasize the importance of safety throughout the process when speaking about their work. Julie Coyle, a project/construction manager leading the Restroom Renovation Program, shares that “This dedication to safety not only benefits the contractors and the construction management team on the job, but also protects airport employees and passengers.” She emphasizes safety considerations such as accessibility, egress, and signage.

Deputy Director of Aviation- Capital Development Api Appulingam leads the multi-billion-dollar Capital Development Program at PHL and PNE. Speaking on her work in the industry she says, “I am proud to be an engineer in the aviation industry, and to plan, design and build critical infrastructure that provides a safe and efficient aerospace system.”  

According to the Society of Women Engineers (SWE), only 14 percent of the engineering workforce in the United States is comprised of women. Appulingam highlights some of the gender gaps in the industry, sharing how far there is to go: "It is important to not only encourage and inspire young girls to pursue engineering degrees but also maintain an inclusive environment for women already in engineering.  As one example, this is seeing the term ‘flagmen’ on construction drawings and updating it to ‘flag person’. These subtle and not so subtle cues, when not corrected, can make women feel as if their skills and work is not valued and to think about leaving the industry."

Document Controls Manager Tonia Karoo has a role that is integral to enforcing safety regulations within engineering projects. She upholds strict compliance with Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requirements, ensuring safety in engineering remains the top priority. Karoo also emphasizes the importance of safety in construction, recognizing the potential risks associated with hazardous chemicals. Her advice to young women looking to break into the field is empowering. "Go for it and never listen to the negative voices, even from yourself,” she says.

The projects led and supported by engineers in Capital Development demonstrate that safety is not just "seen" at PHL and PNE—it's a priority. The female engineers on the team are an essential part of reaching the safety goals at the airports. As we celebrate International Women in Engineering Day, their work inspires all, especially young women, considering a career in engineering.

Visit to learn more about the history of International Women in Engineering Day.


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Christine Ottow
Director of Strategic Communications
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Heather Redfern
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