Women in Tunneling

Erika Moonin, Engineering Project Manager - August 2019's #WomenWhoTunnel

By Molly Burford posted 08-07-2019 12:57 PM

  
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Each month, Women In Tunneling will feature an exemplary female member of the tunneling industry. For August 2019, this particular trailblazer is Erika Moonin, Engineering Project Manager of SNWA! Read our interview with Moonin below all about her involvement in the industry, how she got started, and what we can do to bring more women into this exciting field. 

What is your actual involvement in the tunneling business?

My involvement in the tunneling industry began in 2005 when the Southern Nevada Water Authority began planning the Lake Mead Intake No. 3 project. I was assigned as Project Manager to oversee planning, design, construction and commissioning of the multi-billion dollar Lake Mead Intake No. 3 project and the Low Lake Level Pumping Station project. All of the Lake Mead Intake No. 3 projects included extensive and challenging underground work, both drill-blast and TBM excavation methods.   Prior to 2005 I was also involved in come smaller micro-tunneling.  

How have you been introduced to tunnel industry?  

Prior to 2005 I was also involved in come smaller micro-tunneling and then during the early planning of the Lake Mead Intake No. 3 project, I expressed an interest to be involved.  As the planning for the project advanced, the tunneling-by-TBM underneath Lake Mead became the preferred alternative.  To manage such a challenging project, I became introduced quickly to the tunneling industry and have loved it ever since!

What do you think women can bring to this business?

Heavy civil construction in general has become wide open to women in all facets – engineering, planning, permitting, field work, etc. Tunneling, specifically, remains sparsely tapped by women but nonetheless welcoming to women, from my experience.  A woman brings a different perspective to an established industry with ideas and new approaches to bring about a cohesive and highly functioning project team.  A woman can bring a fresh camaraderie to the crews and the entire project team.

Do you think that the presence of women changes a tunneling work environment? Did you have different experiences in different countries?

If a woman’s presence changes a tunneling work environment, I hope it is for the positive. Speaking personally – in my experience it has been positive! I have always been welcomed as a peer and leader both in the office and in the field. I had the opportunity to tour an underground project and work with various contractors and suppliers from overseas and the contractor/supplier and owner were very open and welcoming. The design-build contractor for a major component of the Lake Mead Intake No. 3 was Salini-Impregilo, based in Milan, Italy. They brought a great deal of Italian tunneling culture to our project, for which I am thankful.

Even if the number of women has been increasing over the years, the tunneling industry is still considered a male oriented environment. What can be done in your opinion to bring awareness of this business to a larger number of women?

To bring awareness of this business to more women, I enjoy speaking to professional groups, industry peers and students about the incredible opportunities that are available in heavy civil construction and tunneling specifically. We are a small group, women in tunneling, but a group that is welcoming and eager to spread the word about the rewarding careers and great opportunities to all interested!
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