Every day, women in chemical, electrical, civil and mechanical engineering are pushing the boundaries of the discipline and elevating it to new heights. We’re here to celebrate some of the most powerful and influential leaders among them.
We’d love to sing the praises of every woman in engineering, but we’d be here all day, so we’ve narrowed it down to a handful of pioneers, inventors, and innovators who are experts and torchbearers in their respective fields. Their accomplishments are even more impressive when you consider that women in engineering are, on average, outnumbered five to one by men. If you’re interested in evening the odds, you may have more in common with these powerful women than you realize.
Semiconductor Pioneer Lisa Su, Ph.D.
To say Lisa Su, Ph.D., has had a noteworthy career would be an understatement. Her career began with a breakthrough in the use of copper interconnects in computer chips, which led to a 20% increase in chip speeds. From there, her star only brightened, and she’s credited with Advanced Micro Devices’ meteoric rise since taking on the role of president and CEO in 2014. Her awards and accolades are many, but 2021 was arguably her standout year. Dr. Su was appointed to the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology and ended the year by becoming the first woman to receive the prestigious Robert N. Noyce Medal. For Dr. Su, a Taiwanese immigrant, engineering offered a way to change the trajectory of her life and the world around her.
Robotics Innovator Helen Greiner
iRobot is known for its fleet of robot vacuums, but when Helen Greiner co-founded the company in 1990, its focus was on military products. As chairman and president of iRobot, Greiner oversaw the development of robots designed for space exploration, mine clearance and search and rescue. iRobot PackBots were even deployed in response to the Fukushima nuclear disaster and the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center. After founding CyPhy Works in 2008, she went on to become an advisor on robotics, autonomous systems and artificial intelligence for the U.S. Army. Greiner is now putting her support behind the Tertill Corporation’s flagship weeding robot and seems poised to once again make autonomous robots a staple in the home.
Shout-Out: Yaguo Wang, Ph.D.
We can’t talk about powerful women in engineering without mentioning Yaguo Wang, Ph.D., associate professor with The University of Texas at Austin’s Walker Department of Mechanical Engineering. Dr. Wang’s research focuses, in part, on phonon dynamics in complex nanostructures and addresses the fundamental heat transport problems encountered in a variety of engineering disciplines, including nanoelectronics. Along with her research group at Q-STEM Lab, she hopes that her work will advance the development of clean energy.
When she’s not conducting groundbreaking research, Dr. Wang can be found teaching the next generation of industry leaders in our Executive MS in Mechanical Engineering program.
Renowned Astronaut Mae Jemison, M.D.
Mae Jemison, M.D., is best known for being a mission specialist on the space shuttle Endeavor’s September 1992 voyage and the first African American woman to travel to space. However, her greatest contributions to society may have come after her time at NASA. An outspoken advocate for diversity in the STEM fields, Jemison is the founder of the Jemison Group, a consulting firm focused on the integration of socio-cultural issues into the design of engineering and science projects, and the Dorothy Jemison Foundation for Excellence, a non-profit organization devoted to fostering individual excellence in students around the world. As leader of the 100 Year Starship organization, her sights are now set on helping humanity achieve interstellar travel — an appropriate mission for an engineer who grew up on “Star Trek.”
Inclusivity Advocate Dawn Bonfield, MBE
Although not as well-traveled as Mae Jemison, Dawn Bonfield, MBE, does share her enthusiasm for an even playing field. Her company, Towards Vision, promotes inclusive engineering by helping organizations implement best practices to achieve diversity of thought. International Women in Engineering Day (June 23) and Magnificent Women, a website celebrating the women in engineering over the past 100 years, are also her brainchildren. With a background in materials engineering, Bonfield has overcome many of the challenges women in engineering face, which may be why her focus is on elevating her colleagues. As Deputy Chair of the World Federation of Engineering Organization’s Women in Engineering Committee, she’s helping to lead a new generation of women into this innovative field.
Take Up the Torch at UT Austin
Women are vastly underrepresented in many scientific fields, especially those — like engineering — that value disruptive tech skills. Around the world, women account for just 20% of the engineering workforce. There are even fewer women in engineering in the U.S., where in 2019, women accounted for 48% of all workers but only 15% of engineers. The irony is that the same scientific fields driving disruptive innovation, forcing workforces around the world to reskill and upskill, are experiencing a skills shortage. Diversity and inclusion offer a solution to this problem, and as more women rise through the engineering ranks, more companies will realize what can be accomplished when a unique perspective is paired with a robust set of skills.
Fortunately, it appears times are changing. While the number of women in engineering has historically been low, new generations of women are entering this dynamic and essential field, and we’re proud to say that women are joining the faculty and student body of Texas Engineering at increasing rates. Read more about a few of the women who teach as part of the Texas Engineering Executive Education programs.
Leaders Aren’t Born
Leadership skills are not innate but acquired through experience, according to AMD President and CEO Lisa Su. “I really do believe that you can be trained to be a good leader,” said Dr. Su. “A lot of leadership isn’t all that intuitive, but over time you develop an intuition for things to look for. Experience helps.”
UT Austin offers a 100% online Master of Science in Mechanical Engineering program that’ll provide you with the knowledge and experience needed to become an industry leader. As a graduate student, you’ll explore critical engineering topics and engage with experiential learning opportunities designed to empower you to solve engineering-related problems, all via an online format tailored for your needs. Becoming an engineering leader is a challenging endeavor, especially for underrepresented groups, but it’s a rewarding career path unlike any other.
Ready to follow in the footsteps of the most powerful women in engineering? Apply to UT Austin’s 100% online Master of Science in Mechanical Engineering program.