In the next two weeks (Sunday 1/29 and 2/5 at noon ET), WxGeeks will feature two episodes about Women in Weather – highlighting the challenges and opportunities that female meteorologists face. I’m honored to be a part of those shows and urge you to tune in – we had a great conversation that kept going even during the breaks for commercials.
As for my weather story, I’ve been interested in weather since I was young. For many meteorologists there is that one storm: a tornado, hurricane, or big snow storm. For me, it was just a general fascination with it all! Growing up in southeastern PA, I experienced a lot of different weather from the Blizzards of 1983, 1993 and the ice storm of 1994, a day off of school from Hurricane Gloria in 1985. And countless thunderstorms – some with hail!
Watching the weather on TV was always my thing. In then morning when other kids had on the Smurfs, I knew that at :42 past the hour it was the International Business Forecast on The Weather Channel. I was part of that first generation that The Weather Channel helped inspire. My family, friends, and teachers played a big part too. My parents always encouraged me and my sister to think like a scientist. My friends, who often gave me a hard time for my obsession with weather, very much supported and encouraged it. My teachers were very influential, from Mr. Bannister – who lent me his pilot textbooks, to Mrs. Russell – a strong female science teacher, to Mr. C – who helped me make my first “Local on the 8’s ” slideshow using Lotus 1-2-3, and Mr. Flango – who had a crossword puzzle on his bulletin board in AP Calculus showcasing careers for people that like Math. Meteorologist was one of them!
I went to Penn State because of their well known and well-respected meteorology program. Right away, I jumped into the Campus Weather Service on the early am shift. I guess I am a morning person! The curriculum was top-notch, but it was interaction with the faculty that made it such an enriching experience This led to an internship at The Weather Channel – a dream come true. And that led to a full-time job at The Weather Channel when I graduated. Another dream come true! Still living the dream!
I never felt the pressure to not be in a science-minded career because I was a woman, in fact it was probably more of the opposite. Because I expressed interest in science, I felt lots of support and encouragement. But it was always obvious that the male to female ratio in school and work was not equal. I had a lot of help and mentors (some scientists, some business professionals, some male, some female) along the way, and I try to pay it forward by going to schools to talk about weather and mentoring students when the opportunity allows. I urge young people to pursue their interests and see where it takes them! And I urge parents to help their young kids give science a try. I’m in the middle of Science Fair season right now with my elementary age girls. It’s a lot a work that demands a lot of patience and it becomes a family affair, but the critical thinking skills and curiosity will last a lifetime. Mine did!