Lessons from the Most Influential Women Engineers

Women in engineering

Engineering is slowly but surely becoming a more welcoming environment for women, but there’s still much work to be done. That’s why some of the most powerful and influential women in the industry wear more than one hat.

The goal, as many of them see it, includes introducing girls to engineering at a young age, mentoring them and helping them make the right choices before entering college so they can compete in the growing industry later.

There are many smart, accomplished, and determined women in engineering who make a difference every day. Here’s what some of the top in their field do to advance the industry and level the playing field.

Heidi Ellis: Professor, Western New England University

Getting students excited about engineering.

Heidi Ellis didn’t come to engineering through any usual means. She earned her undergrad degree in Animal Science, according to her WordPress blog. Unfortunately, that didn’t pay the bills.

Ellis went on to earn her master’s and a Ph.D. in Computer Science and Engineering.

Heidi’s vision for engineering is one of excitement: how to generate more, and how to encourage students to want to learn. She explains that the Xcite Group is one of her primary areas of research. She’s also focused on helping students develop the soft skills—communication, problem-solving and critical thinking—that they need to succeed in engineering.

Rosalind Fox: John Deere Factory Manager

Helping children and people of color connect with STEM fields.

Rosalind Fox oversees a John Deere factory, according to Business Insider.  She earned her undergrad degree from the University of Missouri-Columbia and her graduate degree from Missouri-Columbia, Northwestern University and the Kellogg School of Business.

Fox explains at John Deere that she entered engineering because she wanted a job with a higher purpose. Improving agricultural output to serve a growing global population makes her love her career.

Rosalind wants to encourage young people, especially children of color, to enter STEM fields. With the John Deere Inspire program, which she helped create, company volunteers visit schools to communicate with kids and get them involved in fun activities such as robotics competitions.

Women in engineering

Scholarships can help more young women enter and stay on the STEM track.

Jessica Rannow: AmerisourceBergen, the Society of Women Engineers

Connecting young women with STEM scholarships.

Jessica Rannow already had a successful career in engineering when she took on the role of president of the Society of Women Engineers (SWE). She works as a senior industrial engineer and engineering project manager for AmerisourceBergen.

Rannow has been an SWE member for over 20 years. She explains in an SWE interview that opportunity through scholarships helped make her engineering career possible.

Jessica’s advice for prospective students is to go for scholarships. “Don’t be afraid to apply!” She encourages applying at the local and SWE society level and says students should stay true to themselves in their essays. You never know which judge will be impressed by who you really are.

Kimberly Bryant: Black Girls Code, Pahara-Aspen Institute Fellow

Breaking down STEM barriers and creating opportunities for young girls of color.

Kimberly Bryant got her start as an electrical engineer and computer programmer, says Business Insider. She worked on “major IT projects for a host of huge pharmaceutical companies.” But her first love is mentoring kids.

Bryant founded Black Girls Code in 2011. The nonprofit, which is aimed at girls between 7 and 17 years old, teaches programming skills to kids who might not otherwise have the opportunity.

Kimberly says Black Girls Code evolved from her own experiences of feeling isolated. While she was studying computer programming, few other girls of color were her peers. At her website,  she says Black Girls Code wants to lead more African American girls to STEM careers. That’s her vision of the future of engineering: to train 1 million girls so they can compete for the growing number of STEM careers.

Michal Segalov: Google, Mind the Gap

Encouraging girls to focus on math and computer science in high school.

Michal Segalov wants to get more girls involved with the right classes in high school so they can enter a STEM program at the college level. She started her career with Google in 2007, says Business Insider, working at the Tel Aviv offices. She now works at the Googleplex in Mountain View, CA.

Segalov is a software engineer, leading other engineers on the Google Play team. They develop apps, games, Play Store features and many other projects.

Michal co-founded Mind the Gap with Daniele Raijman. The program helps get teen girls involved with the right math and computer science classes in high school as well as in college.

Women are just as capable at STEM careers as men. The problem has been a lack of encouragement and more than a few barriers to education and employment. Fortunately, the tide is turning for the better. With more women engineers taking an active role in mentoring, volunteer work, and directing girls to the right education and scholarship opportunities, women will soon have a much larger role in all STEM fields.

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