Houston Matters

The Only Woman In The Room: Making A Place For Women In Engineering

Dr. Pamela Obiomon, the first woman dean at Prairie View A&M’s College of Engineering, talks about encouraging more women and minorities to study engineering.

Pamela Obiomon, Prairie View A&M Univ.
Dr. Pamela Obiomon is the dean of the College of Engineering at Prairie View A&M University.

Pamela Obiomon got interested in engineering as a kid when her parents bought their family a set of encyclopedias for children.

“And we wore those encyclopedias out,” she said. “That’s because I was always a hands-on person.”

When she was in fourth grade, her older brother was an engineering major at Prairie View A&M University.

“And I loved the way that he would study all the time, and he would be up all night, and he was working with a slide rule and a calculator,” she said. “And I was just impressed with that, and so I wanted to be an engineer just like him.”

Well, now she’s done much more than that. Not only is she an engineer, but also Dr. Obiomon is the first woman dean at Prairie View’s College of Engineering, a position she’s held since September 2018. She’s also worked in the biomedical field and worked on flight software used by NASA. And she’s been pursuing “smart city” technology in her leadership role at Prairie View.

Prairie View Engineering Student
Amy Fritz, a 2016 Prairie View A&M alumna, is a mechanical engineer at NASA’s Johnson Space Center.

Obiomon says there are still many challenges to be addressed in a field often dominated by men. For one, at conferences she’s often the only woman in the room.

“Being female and also being African American, I was a speaker and they would not know it,” she said. “And so just kind of introducing yourself to the field of people not really thinking you are the person who should be there.”

In the audio above, she talks with Houston Matters producer Joshua Zinn about what attracted her to engineering, about women and minorities finding their place in the field, and about her new role as dean.

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Michael Hagerty

Senior Producer, Houston Matters

Michael Hagerty is the senior producer for Houston Matters. He's spent more than 20 years in public radio and television and dabbled in minor league baseball, spending four seasons as the public address announcer for the Reno Aces, the Triple-A affiliate of the Arizona Diamondbacks.

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