Penny Wirsing, Environmental Manager at Torrance Refining Company LLC, officially accepted the title of president of the largest nonprofit professional association for women in engineering, the Society of Women Engineers. Wirsing was inaugurated with the FY19 Board of Directors and Board of Trustees at a reception at the Portofino Hotel in Redondo Beach, Calif. Wirsing plans to use her position as president of the Society to inspire other women that they can accomplish their dreams of being a successful woman engineer, even if it means breaking some boundaries, just like she did.
After high school, Wirsing took a path that was traditional for the other women in her family – she quickly married and had a child. After the marriage did not work out, she was a single mother working as a secretary at an office among engineers. She observed the work the engineers were doing and thought, “I can do that too.” Working as a single mom 30 hours/week, Wirsing attended Michigan State University to get her engineering degree. With no real role models, and roadblocks that none of her other peers were experiencing during college, she was blazing a trail and breaking boundaries.
Wirsing didn’t live on campus, so she joined the Society of Women Engineers as a way to connect with like-minded women studying engineering, many of whom attended classes with mostly male students. “The network really kept me going and made me feel part of something bigger.”
Since graduating with a civil engineering degree, Penny has held multiple positions as an environmental engineer, most recently at Torrance Refining Company, managing a diverse group of environmental advisors, first line supervisors and technicians to ensure the refinery’s compliance with local, state and federal regulations. Wirsing also plays an integral role in organizations in addition to the Society of Women Engineers, including the Pediatric Therapy Network and Soroptimist International of Manhattan Beach.
Wirsing says she finds volunteering her time to be very rewarding. “There are so many opportunities to make a difference in the world around us, and some of those only take a small amount of effort. It’s an incredible return on investment.”
Wirsing has been with SWE for nearly 30 years, serving in several roles in SWE leadership at the section, region and Society levels, including Conference Program Board Chair, Senator, Treasurer, Director of Emerging Initiatives, Fellow and now President.
“SWE means a lot of things to different people, and for me, it’s evolved over time,” explained Wirsing. “At the beginning, I joined for the comradery and access to people and information. As I progressed in my career, I found the Society to be a great outlet to test out skills such as public speaking and leadership in a non-threatening environment. Now, I see the Society as a place I can give back. Speaking to college students and mentoring young co-workers is an opportunity for me to make an impact in determining the future direction of engineering, and to create a place for women on that path.”
Wirsing attributes much of the success she’s had in her career to SWE. “I would not be where I am in my career if I hadn’t been involved with SWE,” said Wirsing.
The FY19 Board of Directors and Board of Trustees positions are effective July 1, 2018 through June 30, 2019. Wirsing and her peers will be joined by other members and leaders within the society for the official induction.
“We are looking forward to this next year with Penny as the Society’s leader,” said Karen Horting, CEO and Executive Director of SWE. “Penny’s story is an excellent reminder of the need for support and advocacy for women pursuing engineering, especially those who may be entering engineering via non-traditional paths, and we know she will continue to have a great influence on our future generation of women engineers.”
For more information about the Society of Women Engineers, visit www.swe.org.
The Society of Women Engineers (SWE), founded in 1950, is the world’s largest advocate and catalyst for change for women in engineering and technology. The not-for-profit educational and service organization is the driving force that establishes engineering as a highly desirable career aspiration for women. To ensure SWE members reach their full potential as engineers and leaders, the Society offers unique opportunities to network, provides professional development, shapes public policy and provides recognition for the life-changing contributions and achievements of women engineers. As a champion of diversity, SWE empowers women to succeed and advance in their personal and professional lives. For more information about the Societyplease visit www.swe.org or call 312.596.5223.
About Torrance Refining Company LLC
Torrance Refining Company LLC, a subsidiary of PBF Energy (PBF), owns and operates the Torrance Refinery in Torrance, California. PBF Energy is one of the largest independent petroleum refiners and suppliers of unbranded transportation fuels and other petroleum products in the United States. The Torrance Refinery features modern refining technologies that produce a range of products that provide consumers with the highest standards of living and mobility in history, including the cleanest-burning gasoline and diesel fuel in the United States, along with aviation and marine fuels and other products. The refinery is capable of processing nearly 20 percent of the gasoline demand in Southern California Region, or 10 percent statewide. For more information about the Company, please visit www.torrancerefinery.com.