The all-women engineering team that designed the ill-fated pedestrian foot bridge at Miami’s Florida International University were highly touted for their advances in a field that is typically dominated by men.
But critics are pointing the finger of blame at the female engineers for design flaws that may have brought the bridge down.
Investigators are still on the scene of last week’s bridge collapse that killed 6 people and injured 9 on the FIU campus in Southwest Miami.
The investigation is focusing on the work done by a team of all-women engineers who were employed by one of the construction firms that designed and built the bridge.
Munilla Construction Management (MCM), the South Miami-based firm that designed the FIU foot bridge, has been sued multiple times for unsafe practices in the past.
In early March MCM was sued by a construction worker who was severely injured when MCM’s “makeshift bridge” at Miami’s International Airport collapsed.
MCM is a Cuban-American, family-owned Miami company founded in 1983 that employs more than 1,000 people in several states. The company is a federal military contractor for the U.S. Army and Navy.
MCM was awarded the $14.2 million minority contract to design and build the cable-stayed bridge. The company is well-connected in Miami politics and it promotes inclusion and diversity in the workforce.
According to Politico.com, Munilla Construction is “about as politically connected as they get in Florida.”
The lead engineer on the foot bridge project is a female, Leonor Flores, who is a graduate of FIU.
Flores led a team of all-women engineers and designers who oversaw the crews that built the prefabricated “instant bridge” by the side of the road using FIU’s own accelerated construction techniques.
MCM partnered with the FIGG Bridge Group, a Tallahassee-Based engineering firm, to move the massive foot bridge into place over 8th Street in just 7 hours on Saturday, March 10.
MCM hailed Flores and her all-women design team in celebratory social media posts on Twitter.com in the hours before the deadly collapse.
But critics say simple mathematics would have prevented the disaster in Miami.
Studies all over the world have shown that boys and men are twice as good at math as girls and women. The gender disparity in mathematics scores explains why there are far fewer women engineers than men in the world.
The FIU foot bridge was designed to be supported from above by a system of thick steel cables (see illustration) and a reinforced concrete center support column. But the cables and the center column had not been installed before the 950 ton, 174-foot bridge was moved into place over 8th street on Saturday.
Sen. Marco Rubio, who lives a few miles from FIU, rushed to the scene of the collapse and shared insider information that the cables were “being tightened” before the bridge collapsed.
It isn’t clear if Rubio was referring to the missing cables that were not installed on the bridge.
After the collapse, MCM stated the cables were not scheduled to be installed on the bridge until 2019. The company did not explain what temporary supports were being used.
MCM Construction deleted their @WeAreMCM Twitter account following the disaster. But the Twitter account is still cached on Google.com.