Engineer and Business Executive
Mary Barra is chairman and CEO of General Motors. She is the first female CEO in the auto industry. Barra was elected to the National Academy of Engineering in February 2018. She is a wonderful example of what women can achieve within manufacturing. During an interview with NBC Today, when asked what she hopes young girls and women get from watching her career, Barra stated, “That they can do or be anything they want, but they need to work hard.”
Physicist and Chemist
Katharine Blodgett (1898 - 1979) was an American physicist and chemist known for her invention of non-reflective glass. Blodgett was the first female scientist to be hired by General Electric and the first woman to be awarded a Ph.D. in physics from the University of Cambridge. She was issued eight U.S. patents during her career and was selected to the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2007.
Chemist and Business Executive
Linda McGill-Boasmond is the owner and president of Cedar Concepts, a manufacturer of chemicals for the personal care, home, agriculture, and aerospace industries. Boasmond is the first and only African American woman in the United States to own and operate chemical manufacturing plants. In a conversation with the Latino Policy Forum, Boasmond states, “Business by default is designed to be a collaborative effort…that includes the black and brown community.”
Yvonne Brill (1924 - 2013) was a rocket and jet propulsion engineer and responsible for inventing the fuel-efficient rocket thruster that keeps satellites in orbit today. During her career she was involved in a broad range of national space programs in the United States, including NASA and the International Maritime Satellite Organization. In 2010 she was also inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame and President Barack Obama presented her with the National Medal of Technology and Innovation.
Industrial Engineer and Educator
Lillian Gilbreth (1878 - 1972) was an industrial engineer and educator who was an early pioneer in applying psychology to time-and-motion studies. She has often been referred to as "a genius in the art of living." She became the first American engineer ever to create a synthesis of psychology and scientific management. Gilbreth developed important inventions such as the foot-pedal trash can, shelves inside refrigerator doors, and an electric food mixer. In 1995, she was inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame.
Kate Gleason (1865 - 1933) was an engineer and businesswoman. Kate found great success with her family machine tool company. She is an example of what hard work and determination looks like and a wonderful role model for young women. She was the first female to become a member of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. In 2011, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers' Foundation established the Kate Gleason Award recognizing the contribution of distinguished female leaders in the engineering profession.
Margaret Knight (1838 - 1914) was an inventor who has been called the “woman Edison,” and "the most famous 19th-century woman inventor”. Over the course of her career she successfully filed 20+ patents. She is most known for the flat-bottomed paper bag. Several of Knight’s inventions have been manufactured in mass quantity and are used to this day. Many of these inventions served as a blueprint for further developed into something more advanced. Her hard work and dedication to solving everyday problems is why Knight is considered a hero and role model.
Stephanie Kwolek (1923 - 2014) was a chemist who is most known for discovering the first of a family of synthetic fibers of exceptional strength and stiffness, which in turn lead to the invention of Kevlar. This product has been used in countless products across industries, used for everything from bike tires to bulletproof vests. For this work, Kwolek was induction into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 1994, awarded the DuPont company's Lavoisier Medal for outstanding technical achievement in 1995, and received the National Medal of Technology in 1999.
Hedy Lamarr (1914 - 2000) was an Austrian-born American actress, film producer, and inventor. She was known by many for her appearances on the big screen, but her greatest contribution to society goes beyond Hollywood. She helped Howard Hughes improve aircraft aerodynamics and her discovery of frequency hopping was key during World War II as it helped with the communication system that could keep the enemy from interfering with allied forces torpedoes. These early innovations were the precursor to Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and GPS, which impacts the smart manufacturing sector to this day.
Rosie the Riveter
Manufacturing has always been the backbone of American economic growth. During wartimes, the burden of manufacturing of all industries fell heavily on women. Rosie the Riveter was the star of a campaign in the 1940’s focused on recruiting female workers for defense industries during World War II. Since then, Rosie the Riveter has stood as a symbol for women in the workforce and for women's independence. The image of Rosie was based off the real-life factory worker, Naomi Parker Fraley. Women have always been and will always be a key role in the advancement of manufacturing.
Engineer and Business Executive
Gwynne Shotwell is currently the President and COO of SpaceX. She is responsible for day-to-day operations and company growth. In an interview with Forbes, when asked about advice for women and minorities in the workforce Shotwell stated, “Do great work. I believe you get recognized when you do great work. Don’t focus on the fringe bits or the negative, figure out what you’re there to do and do a great job.” Shotwell was included in Time magazine's 100 Most Influential People of 2020.
Diana Trujillo is an aerospace engineer at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory. She currently leads the engineering team responsible for the robotic arm of the Perseverance rover. Trujillo hosted the first-ever Spanish-language NASA transmission of a planetary landing. She is a perfect example of how hard work and determination pay off. In an interview with NASA 360, Trujillo explained how science and engineering changed her life explaining, “I used to clean houses and today I’m trying to find out if there is life on another planet…it’s more about what is your enthusiasm, your passion, and if you are determined to do what you want to do in your life, you will find a way.”