THE INSTITUTEIf you were asked to imagine a top-level engineer, what kind of person would you picture? A woman might not be first person who comes to mind. The tide is turning, however. Slowly, representation at high levels of engineering companies is becoming more diverse. Many of the engineers making big technological innovations and scientific breakthroughs are women.
Diana Trujillo, NASA
Raised and schooled in Colombia, Trujillo has always loved space exploration. After earning a bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering at the University of Maryland, in College Park, she is living out her childhood dream of working for NASA and contributing to the exploration of Mars. Her role allows her to design, build, test, and troubleshoot intricate machinery and investigative processes to collect data from the Red Planet.
Erica Baker, Patreon
She volunteers for organizations committed to encouraging and empowering low-income and minority students to pursue a STEM education, including Black Girls Code, Code.org, Girl Develop It, and Hack the Hood, according to Business Insider.
Baker believes in the power of a diverse workforce. “The advantages of greater diversity in the workplace can not only increase opportunity for all but influence an organization’s performance,” she says.
Ethnically diverse companies are 35 percent more likely to outperform their competition, according to a report from Ohio University. She is providing those with less access and privilege opportunities for success by helping organizations that have a diverse workforce succeed.
She is a role model for other female engineers and works to help make their dreams a reality.
Reates Curry, Ford Motor Co.
Curry is a technical expert for Ford’s research and innovation center, and her list of accomplishments is impressive. She holds a doctorate in biomedical engineering with an emphasis in human-machine/computer interaction from Rutgers University in New Brunswick, N.J. Her research papers have been published in dozens of journals, and she has won two Henry Ford Technology Awards.
She is developing automated-driving technology as part of Ford’s VIRtual Test Track EXperiment laboratory.
Meredith Westafer, Tesla
Westafer works as a senior industrial engineer for Tesla, a hot spot of technological innovation. Her focus is on designing and building Tesla’s massive Gigafactory, a facility in Sparks, Nev., that produces lithium-ion batteries for the car manufacturer’s vehicles, according to Business Insider.
The factory, a work in progress, is currently producing large numbers of batteries for Tesla’s electric cars. When the Gigafactory is completed, it will have the largest footprint in the world and will be powered entirely by renewable energy.
Worldwide, the number of vehicles on the road is expected to triple by 2035, according to a report from the New Jersey Institute of Technology. With conventional vehicles currently producing 73 percent of urban air pollutants, developing alternative energy sources for vehicles is critical.
The four innovators are just a few examples of women who are changing the engineering landscape. Many others are also breaking the glass ceiling and rising to the top of their organization.
As support and encouragement for girls and women to pursue a STEM career increases, the number of women contributing to technology and science is certain to rise.
Valarie Romero is a STEM researcher, academic, and consultant. She covers how technology can be leveraged to improve social equity within the education sector. She mentors preuniversity girls interested in STEM subjects and careers, and she hopes to establish a nonprofit that focuses on increasing the number of women in technology.