Engineering remains a male-dominated industry, with women making up just 15% of working professional engineers as of 2019, but that is not the whole story of the industry. Despite men disproportionately filling roles, women have made great strides in industries from telecommunications to biomedical engineering to software engineering and more. Here are ten modern inventors and engineers whose work you should know, and may have seen in the world already.
- Adah Almutairi
Almutairi speaks on a panel in 2013 (By عبدالله الحربي - جريده الرياض, Public Domain)
Named one of Forbes' top ten most influential female engineers in the world, Adah Almutairi has contributed to polymer science and nanotechnology, among other fields, and holds ten patents for her work since 2014. She has introduced several polymeric materials integral to drug delivery, including the first near infrared-degradable polymer, which enables precise, remotely controlled delivery. She is a 2016 US National Academy of Sciences Kavli Fellow and currently serves on the faculty of UC San Diego's Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences.
- Katie Weimer
Katie Weimer, VP of Regenerative Medicine at 3D Systems (https://www.linkedin.com/in/katie-weimer/)
Katie Weimer's work is revolutionizing healthcare, combining powerful digital workflows with the ability to create templates, guides, instruments, and implants via 3D printing. She currently leads healthcare operations for 3D Systems, where she developed their Virtual Surgical Planning capabilities. With a career in the 3D printing industry that spans over a decade, Weimer has made strides in anatomical modeling, medical imaging, design and direct metal printing services, and more and is dedicated to continuing to revolutionize what is possible in healthcare.
- Evelyn Wang
Ford Professor of Engineering Evelyn Wang in her lab at MIT (source: HTTP://email@example.com)
The Director of the Device Research Laboratory at MIT and head of their mechanical engineering department, Evelyn Wang, is an internationally recognized leader in phase change heat transfer on nanostructure surfaces. In fact, her work on solar cells that convert heat into focused beams of light was named a top ten breakthrough technology in 2017 by MIT Technology Review. She has also developed a device to extract water from the air in arid environments, which was selected by Scientific American and the World Economic Forum as one of 2017's most promising emerging technologies.
- Kimberly Bryant
Black Girls Code at SXSW 2016 (Photo by Ståle Grut)
Kimberly Bryant is maybe best known as the founder of the nonprofit Black Girls Code, but she is also an accomplished electrical engineer who has worked with companies such as Genentech, Novartis Vaccines, Diagnostics, and Merck. She was inspired to found Black Girls Code by her daughter and the difficulties she had finding a suitable course in the Bay area when she expressed interest in learning computer programming. Since founding the company, Bryant has become a leader in inclusion initiatives in technology, earning recognition from Smithsonian Magazine, the White House, and more. She recently served as the keynote speaker at the 2021 SXSW EDU.
- Melonee Wise
Melonee Wise poses with her creation, the autonomous robot Fetch (Credit: Fetch Robotics)
A life-long builder who grew up making things from Lego kits, Melonee Wise is one of the cofounders and the CEO of Fetch Robotics, which designs autonomous mobile robotics solutions for the logistics industry. She is also the recipient of honors such as MIT Technology Review's TR35 award for technology innovators under the age of 35 and being named to Business Insider's "The 15 Most Important People in Robotics" list. Under her leadership, Fetch Robotics has also won the MODEX Innovation Award and has been named one of the 50 most innovative robotics companies in the world.
- Wiratni Budhijanto
Associate Professor of Chemical Engineering Wiratni Budhijanto (Credit: Gadjah Mada University)
Dr. Wiratni Budhijanto, a chemical engineer and professor at Gadjah Mada University in Indonesia, is one of the inventors of a new wastewater filter that could be a game-changer for developing nations. Created in partnership with Dr. Largus Angenent at Cornell University, the new treatment method turns wastewater into useable water by accelerating the growth of anaerobic bacteria that help to filter it. It is 10-times more efficient than previous approaches, requires far less land than retention-pond systems, and releases no greenhouse gases. Budhijanto sees science as a common language to all that should benefit all and seeks to make her work accessible beyond academia.
- Reshma Shetty
Reshma Shetty, Cofounder, Gingko Bioworks (Credit: Gingko Bioworks)
In 2008, Reshma Shetty cofounded Ginkgo Bioworks with a clear goal: design and build organisms. In its first decade, the company became the first synthetic biology company to achieve "unicorn" status—that is, a private company valued at over $1 billion. Shetty has had quite an influence on the synthetic biology community, including performing a major role in the first International Genetic Engineering Machine (iGEM) Competition. Shetty and Gingko serve clients seeking to build organisms for uses in fields ranging from health and agriculture to cosmetics and materials—and in the next five years, she hopes to grow Gingko into the best bioengineering company in the world.
- Marian Croak
Marian Croak, VP Access Strategy & Emerging Markets, Google (Credit: New America via Flickr)
Marian Croak began her career at AT&T, what was then Bell Laboratories, in 1982. She spent 32 years there before leaving for a role as a VP of research and development at Google—a role that garnered her over 200 patents, mainly in her work advancing voice-over-Internet protocol (VoIP) technologies. In the early days of the internet, Croak realized how revolutionary it would be and how inefficient it was to run a traditional phone network alongside a new digital network when it could be possible to convert sound into a digital signal. Her work is what enables services like Skype and Zoom, as well as the technology behind "text to donate" platforms.
- Lynn Conway
Lynn Conway in 2006 (Credit: Photo by Charles Rogers)
Soon after Lynn Conway was recruited by IBM in 1964, she was selected to join the architecture team designing an advanced supercomputer. She worked with researchers such as John Cocke, Brian Randell, and others on the Advanced Computing Systems (ACS) project, which produced the first machines with superscalar design. While there, she invented multiple-issue out-of-order dynamic instruction scheduling, and she has gone on to contribute much to the field, including the invention of dimensionless, scalable design rules that greatly simplified chip design and a new form of internet-based infrastructure for rapid prototyping and short-run fabrication of chip designs. She retired from active teaching and research in 1998 as professor emerita at the University of Michigan. Near her retirement, she also became active as a transgender rights activist and was named one of the "Stonewall 40 Trans Heroes" in 2009, the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall riots.
- Roberta Williams
Roberta Williams at a celebration of On-Line Systems' first anniversary, 1981. (Credit: On-Line Systems)
Roberta Williams designed what is credited as the first graphic adventure game in 1980 with her first game Mystery House, which achieved modest commercial success. She went on to found Sierra On-Line with her husband Ken Williams, where she played a vital role in the creation and maintenance of the King's Quest series. She has been named one of the best of most influential creators in the game industry by numerous publications, even receiving the title "Queen of adventure games" and receiving the Industry Icon Award from The Game Awards and the Pioneer Award at the 20th Game Developers Choice Awards. Still active in the industry, she announced her return to game development in 2021 with plans for a game called The Secret.
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