National Weather Service United States Department of Commerce
Kathryn Gilbert
Kathryn Gilbert

Location: College Park, Md
National Centers for Environmental Prediction (NCEP)
Job Title: Deputy Director for two NCEP National Centers: the Weather Prediction Center and the Ocean Prediction Center
Kathryn Gilbert



What is your name, and where did you grow up?

I’m Kathryn (Hughes) Gilbert.  I grew up in a small township just outside of Marion, Ohio.

Where did you go to college?

I am a proud Buckeye, I received a Bachelor’s and a Master’s degree from The Ohio State University in Atmospheric Science, through their Geography Department.

When did you know that you wanted to pursue a career in STEM?

I was pretty competitive from an early age - board games, school work.  I never believed that because I was a girl I couldn’t do something.  The women in my family, my mother’s generation,   didn’t go to college.  I wanted more opportunities than they had.

In our 7th grade science class, my favorite assignment was drawing features on a weather map. In high school I figured I would be an engineer, my dad was an engineer, and I didn’t know any meteorologists.  The job prospects for engineers were pretty good and I had a very strong desire to have a career that would allow me to be independent.  I was an engineering student for the first three years at OSU but I wasn’t having a lot of fun.  I didn’t enjoy the circuit boards and I was having a difficult time caring about the tensile strength of a bolt.  I tracked down a civil engineering professor to see if there was an engineering track that would combine my interest in weather with engineering.  I’m grateful to this day this professor was on the board at UCAR and steered me towards the geography department.  I took a meteorology class just for fun as an elective, and I was hooked.

How did anyone or anything you saw in the media influence your desire to go into the STEM field?

My father played our local radio station, WMRN, when we were getting ready in the morning.  I loved listening to the weather forecasters from the Cleveland forecast office. I thought they had the coolest job.

Looking back to your childhood, to what extent do you believe your interest in STEM was accepted and praised?

My dad encouraged my interest in STEM.  I remember him taking me to his office and showing me around the factory, telling his friends I was going to study engineering.

When you were in school, what were some barriers or opportunities to express an interest in the natural and physical sciences?

I was fortunate when I was growing up, even through high school, that I was never made to feel like I couldn’t do something.  It wasn’t until I went to college that I realized there were a few people who felt I didn’t belong in a science or engineering class.  The first time it happened it was pretty shocking.  I was embarrassed, and then I was mad.  I was the only female in the class.  The instructor was walking around the room checking our work.  When he stopped at my desk, he wanted to know who I had copied off of when he saw I had completed the assignment.  It left me with an impression that I was going to have to prove myself and maybe work a bit harder than my colleagues.

Current Work:

How long have you been working at NWS?

I joined the NWS in 1990 as a GS-7 Meteorologist.

What is your current position at NWS?

I am the Deputy Director for two NCEP National Centers, the Weather Prediction Center and the Ocean Prediction Center.

Did you start in this position? If not, what was your first position?

I came in to the NWS as an applied research meteorologist with the Techniques Development Laboratory - now known as MDL, to work on statistical model post-processing.  As a student In the engineering department, I had taken a number of computer programming courses, which turned to be very helpful as I started my career with the NWS.

What would you say is the best thing about working at NWS?

We have a great mission and a highly motivated workforce. People work here because they want to work for the NWS.

Women in STEM Now and in the Future:

Why do you think there are so few women in STEM careers?

I think it is tough to have a demanding career and give your family enough attention. There is pressure or maybe it’s guilt to feel like you have to make a choice between being a good parent and staying on the career track.  It can also be a little lonely at times when you feel like you don’t belong in the classroom or the conference room.  I keep a quote by Robert Frost in my office which reads “Being the boss anywhere is lonely.  Being a female boss in a world of mostly men is especially so.”

Do you believe there is a need for more women at NWS? Why or why not?

I do believe there is a need for more women at the NWS.  We want a diverse workforce.  We want people that can bring a different perspective to a problem.

Do you have any advice for women and girls interested in STEM careers?

Do what will make you happy.  Find a field you will enjoy.

In what ways have you encouraged young women to explore an interest in STEM?

I am a big supporter of the Pathways program.  This isn’t intended only for young women of course, but any aspiring student.  I mention the Pathways program specifically because it is our opportunity to reach out to a diverse pool of candidates early in their careers.  It has been disappointing as a hiring official to see so few female candidates for our GS-13, -14 and -15 positions.  This March I’m looking forward to representing the NWS at the Girls Inspired and Ready to Lead (GIRL) event in Fairfax County.

Additional Questions for Bloggers:

How do you spend your time outside of work?

I love music.  I’ve found an outlet for this ringing handbells.  I’ve had the opportunity a few times to play with some of the best ringers in the country at Distinctly Bronze, and I’ve had the opportunity to ring the National Anthem at the Washington Nationals baseball game with 500 other ringers.  I’ve volunteered with the Anne Arundel county SPCA by fostering animals until they could be adopted, and of course, adopted a couple myself.  I enjoy traveling, my husband and I like to visit the National Parks on our vacations.  I’m also the proud mom of my daughter Megan, who is keeping us busy with plans for a wedding this fall.