Through a valuable education, incredible career, and numerous accolades, College of Engineering alumna Gayle Roberts, has become more than the president and chief executive officer of Stanley Consultants−she is a true role model and inspiration for young women in the industry.
Looking at where she is now, it’s hard to believe engineering is not the place she started out.
When she first arrived at Iowa State, Roberts was on track to earn her degree in home economics. She spent two years in the program while also taking elective courses in the areas she enjoyed most, like chemistry and calculus. She was also known for helping engineering majors in her residence hall with their homework.
It wasn’t until her junior year that Roberts was able to work up enough courage to change her major to chemical engineering, a decision that helped to shape her future.
As she wrapped up her undergraduate degree, she worked closely with a few different professors, assisting some with research and grading papers for others. She also studied abroad in London, something she says all students should do, during the summer of 1980.
After earning her degree in 1981, Roberts wasted no time jumping into her first job as a process engineer for Stanley Consultants, a worldwide provider of engineering, environmental, and construction services.
“At the time I thought that I would only be with the company for a few years, but I have been here for 30,” she explains.
During her tenure with Stanley Consultants, Roberts has served in roles such as a business leader, project manager, resident engineer, industrial market leader and business development manager, continuing to move up from one position to the next. She also earned an MBA from St. Ambrose University and has become a licensed professional engineer in seven states.
“My career has been a great progression of many different assignments,” she says. “It was never about climbing the corporate ladder for me, but continuing to learn and taking on challenges. I was able to find that within the company and now have the privilege of serving as president and CEO.”
Because of her dedication and perseverance, Roberts has been recognized with many awards, including the;
- Upward Mobility Award from the Society of Women Engineers
- Woman of Influence Award from the Corridor Business Journal
- Voice of the Engineer Award from the Iowa Engineering Society
- 50% Solution Award from the Iowa Women’s Foundation
- Large Company Innovation and Leadership Category of the Iowa Women of Innovations Award from the Technology Association of America
- Professional Achievement Citation in Engineering (PACE) Award from the Iowa State College of Engineering
More recently, Roberts was presented with the 2012 ATHENA Leadership Award from the Women’s Connection. The ATHENA Award is given each year to a woman who has shown professional excellence and community service, as well as consistently promoting women in their efforts toward high professional achievement and developing exceptional leadership skills.
Even with all the recognition, it is still difficult for Roberts to think of herself as a mentor. However, she admits that throughout her education and career she has always been among a small group of women in the field and understands the importance of being a positive example for others.
“Working primarily among men is all I have ever known and I have never felt I needed to make an issue out of it,” says Roberts. “But, with only 10 percent of the engineering workforce being made up of women, it is important that all women in this industry recognize they are being looked up to.”
Roberts is married and has two daughters and three step sons. One of her favorite things to do when she’s not traveling is to cook dinner with her husband. She also enjoys running and is currently training for a half-marathon.
In the future, she plans to continue in her leadership role with Stanley Consultants, navigating the company through difficult economic times as it expands as well as working to maintain its members, or employees, by providing them with the opportunities to grow and help their clients succeed.
Supporting and inspiring more women to delve into the fields of math and science will also a priority.
“I tell young women to have confidence in themselves and their abilities,” says Roberts. “The world needs them to do great things. I believe the best way I can give back is to make the way a little easier for those who will be leading in the future.”