Women Engineers Inch Up the Management Ladder

Seven percent of engineering managers are women, but things are looking up

3 min read

Betty Shanahan remembers often being the only woman in a meeting room. Someone would curse and then immediately look at her and say, ”Sorry, Betty.” ”They were doing it as a nice gesture,” says Shanahan, now the executive director of the Society of Women Engineers, in Chicago. ”But the subtle message is ’Oh, I can’t swear because Betty’s here.’ ” It’s a trivial example, she admits, but add up enough incidents like this one and it says you don’t belong.

For women, leadership roles in engineering can be isolating. The U.S. numbers are typical—and daunting. Female undergraduate engineering majors are outnumbered by men four to one. When they join the workplace, the ratio gets only more dismal: 9:1. Move up the ladder into management and it’s 14:1. Yes, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2006 just 7 percent of engineering managers were women. And although ever more women are becoming engineers, it will take years for them to rise through the ranks.

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Asad Madni and the Life-Saving Sensor

His pivot from defense helped a tiny tuning-fork prevent SUV rollovers and plane crashes

11 min read
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Asad Madni and the Life-Saving Sensor

In 1992, Asad M. Madni sat at the helm of BEI Sensors and Controls, overseeing a product line that included a variety of sensor and inertial-navigation devices, but its customers were less varied—mainly, the aerospace and defense electronics industries.

And he had a problem.

The Cold War had ended, crashing the U.S. defense industry. And business wasn’t going to come back anytime soon. BEI needed to identify and capture new customers—and quickly.

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