In honor of International Women’s Day 2017, we’re celebrating 17 of our favorite females revolutionizing the engineering field. These women succeed daily in roles dominated largely by men. While the number of women studying engineering has increased globally in recent years, only 13 percent stay in the workforce. One recent study by MIT discovered that the drop stems from often-less-qualified male counterparts relegating women to menial tasks. However, these women clearly didn’t let anything – or anyone – stop them.
For female engineers proving themselves, for young girls wanting to pursue the STEM fields or learn to code, this list is for you:
[Image Source: Wikipedia Creative Commons]
This IT executive and current CEO of Yahoo! can do just about everything. She attended Stanford University with the intention of becoming a pediatric neurosurgeon. However, she graduated with honors and earned her bachelor’s degree in symbolic systems. Two years later, she earned her Master’s in computer science. She joined Google, becoming the company’s first female engineer in 1999.
Mayer is no stranger to controversy and tough decisions. Mayer recently dealt with several security breaches mishandled by senior executives early into her role as CEO. Rather than place blame elsewhere, Mayer took responsibility and requested that her annual bonus and grant be redistributed to Yahoo employees.
[Image Source: Ford Motor Company]
Ford Motor Company knew what it was doing when it hired Curry. This biomedical engineering specialist used her distinctive background to innovate driver assistance and other technology for Ford vehicles. She’s also been granted the company’s Henry Ford Technology Award – twice.
Johnson isn’t just one of the brightest engineering minds, she’s also one of tech world’s best businesspeople. This former electrical engineer currently serves as executive vice president of Business Development at Microsoft. She led Microsoft’s $26 billion takeover of LinkedIn. She developed partnerships Salesforce, Dropbox and Uber. She’s also on Microsoft’s 12-person senior executive board.
This Mensa member became Affirm’s first female engineer at the age of 23. Affirm is a tool that allows users to make monthly payments via smartphone. Max Levchin (co-founder of Paypal) called Kothari “one of the most exciting up-and-coming coders in America.” We cannot wait to see what else Kothari can create.
[Image Source: Wikipedia]
After a legendary career with NASA, Ochoa currently serves as Director of the Johnson Space Center. In 1993, Ellen Ochoa made headlines as the first Hispanic woman to ever go into space. She flew aboard the Discovery space shuttle as the payload commander. In total, Ochoa logged almost 1,000 hours of flight time in space. She also holds a doctorate in electrical engineering and three patents for optical systems all used by NASA. Ochoa currently serves on several NASA boards. She’s a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and she promotes females in aeronautics.
Breazeal is the force behind a lot of robotics innovations, particularly with regard to human-robot interactions. She’s an Associate Professor of Media Arts and Sciences at MIT. She serves as the director of Personal Robots Group at the MIT Media Labs. Breazeal is responsible for both the Kismet and Leonardo robots. Basically, if the world ever had a robot/human crisis, this electrical engineer would be the one to turn to in a time of need. You can watch her TEDTalk about the importance of personal robots here.
[Image Source: LinkedIn]
Matsuoka is a hot commodity among major tech companies. In January, Google parent company Alphabet’s executives seemed thrilled when she announced her return to the company. She stepped back into her role as CTO of Nest, where she’ll no doubt continue to develop AI for the home. Matsuoka very briefly worked as CEO of Quanttus, a health data startup. She worked for Apple in 2016 on some hush-hush health tech before returning to Alphabet.
Widnall remains one of the most influential women in aerospace engineering and politics. She served as US Secretary of the Air Force under President Bill Clinton from 1993 to 1997. She currently serves as an aerospace researcher and Institute Professor for MIT, her alma mater. She’s the first woman to lead military branch in the Department of Defense. She also worked on the investigation board for the Columbia space shuttle disaster.
[Image Source: LinkedIn]
Intel’s technical assistant has been blooming since she joined the company in 2002. Basu’s PhD included experiments with the International Space Station. While many might see that as the zenith of one’s career, Basu continues to push herself and Intel’s technology. She developed the world’s first lead-free patterning process. Thus, Intel became the first chip manufacturers in the world to reduce the use of lead in production.
As Graduate Dean at the University of Leicester, Atkinson holds one of the highest positions in the UK’s higher education system. She was formerly the Head of the Department of Engineering. Her specialty? Materials sciences, and her work has been praised by mechanical, chemical and electrical engineering bodies throughout the world. Atkinson consistently finds herself on lists of top influential engineers.
[Image Source: Princeton University]
This Austrian native developed a revolutionary laser system for Princeton University within the first year of her arrival. She currently serves as the Eugene Higgins Professor of Electrical Engineering at Princeton. Gmachl leads projects regarding quantum cascade lasers, which can be used in studying semiconductors. She also chairs collaborative engineering projects via the MIRTHE group – six universities work together to develop the next generation of sensors.
Anna Patterson is one of the most influential and important women in technology to date. Patterson currently serves as Vice President of Engineering in research and machine intelligence at Google. She helped found the Progressive Women of Silicon Valley. While working for Android, she developed the infrastructure that took Android from 40 million phone units to over 800 million. Patterson credits her success in tech to her artistic and creative pursuits.
Want to know where most of the military’s training simulations come from? Thank this woman. Saravia serves as vice president of global programs at Bohemia Interactive Simulations – one of the world’s largest simulation companies. BIS recently scored two major contracts with the US Marines in addition to its current contracts with the United Kingdom and Australia. Saravia is the only female senior executive on BIS’s entire board.
Dragan is becoming one of the rising stars of the robotics scene. She is the head of the InterACT Lab at UC Berkeley which specializes in human/robotics interactions, algorithms and compatible artificial intelligence systems. Dragan’s work spans from assistive robots to manufacturing to even autonomous vehicles.
[Image Source: Wikipedia Creative Commons]
Bryant boasts an entire career most engineers (both male or female) could only imagine. She got her training in electrical engineering before pharmaceutical companies’ chief IT director and programmer. Bryant noticed that throughout her career, there was a severe lack of women and people of color in her work. She founded Black Girls Code in 2011, and since then, it’s become one of the world’s leading coding resources for young children.
While Elon Musk might be the first name that pops into your head when you hear “SpaceX,” Joy Dunn plays a crucial role in giving Musk something to celebrate. Dunn leads the aerospace company’s New Product Innovation. She basically keeps everything in check for existing rocket programs while brainstorming production on new features. Prior to joining SpaceX, she was the senior manager for Dragon engineering. She led the engineering team responsible for crafting the Dragon rocket ship.
Aderin-Pocock discovered she had dyslexia at a very young age, but her passions for space propelled her beyond the limits of her reading disability. She studied at the Imperial College London where she earned her PhD in mechanical engineering in 1994. The London native worked for the UK Ministry of Defence and later helped develop a high-resolution spectrograph for the Gemini telescope. She remains one of the most outspoken activists toward getting children involved in the sciences, particularly aeronautics engineering. You can watch her passionately talk about what attracted her to space in this video below:
Interested in more inspiring women in engineering? Are you a female engineer looking to connect with other female engineers? Check out IEEE Women in Engineering, an excellent resource for bringing professional engineers together across the globe.