Women’s role in the society has changed over time, from the kitchen to a field that seems to have been designed only for men: engineering. We’re living in a fast-changing world where engineering isn’t what it was 20-30 years ago. Everything develops and changes very fast, and women can manage changes faster and easier than men. But how is it to be a woman in a men’s world? Definitely not easy. Despite the fact that women have gained a lot of rights over time, the world we live in is still full of mysogynists. That is why they have to work remarkably harder to demonstrate the idea that engineering, a masculine job, is slowly fading. Women feel less valued and less worthy in this male-dominated sector, but it is exactly this feeling of exclusion that makes them more active, persistent, even willing to sacrifice entirely their social life to prove that they are making valuable contributions to this sector. And they are!
There is not a standard portrait of women who have chosen to work in this field, but curiosity and open-mindedness are some of the characteristics that make them succeed in this field. Additionally, they are familiar with multitasking, thus they do not crash whenever their schedule is full. They also like helping people, in general, and engineering is a field that has helped and will help improving people’s lives.
The stories of the women you are going to discover in this article can serve as an inspiration for the young generation who seems to have lost its points of reference.
25. Elisa Leonida Zamfirescu (1887 – 1973)
She was the world’s first female engineer. Although she had to face a lot of difficulties caused by the prejudices of those times, she followed her dream with perseverance until it became true. She was rejected by the National School of Bridges and Roads in Bucharest, for the only reason that she was a woman, but she was accepted at the Royal Technical Academy in Berlin. She graduated the Politechnical school in Berlin in 1912, thus becoming the first woman to be a diplomate engineer in Europe. She consumed the headlines of that period with her graduation and achievements, working as an assistant at the Romanian Geological Institute.
24. Erica Baker – Google
Erica Baker is a senior engineer working for Slack. She started by doing domain registrations for University of Alaska Statewide System and then joined Google in 2006. She has been working for Slack since 2015 and serves as a tech mentor for Black Girls Code. She became famous all over the world with her post titled “The Other Side of Diversity”, in November 2014, in which she revealed how difficult it is for black women to rise up in Silicon Valley. Thus she became a well-known advocate for diversity and inclusion in the tech industry.
23. Avni Shah – Google
Avni Shah joined Google in 2003 and began her career by working on Toolbar and Search. Today she is Director of Product Management of Chrome at Google, which has more than 750 million active users and 400 million mobile users all over the world. She was one of the few women to step on stage and to give a presentation at Google’s Developer conference. This is especially important as Google is trying to close the gap between men and women in tech. She introduced the working of Chrome with the newest version of Adroid L.
22. Merline Saintil – Yahoo
As she and her family immigrated from Haiti to the United States, she had to work hard to thrive. She still remembers her beginnings, when she had to grow up with limited resources, but it didn’t define her. She realized that greatness can come from periods of suffering. And it did!
Saintil earned a Summa CUm laude B.S. in computer science from Florida A&M University, then she started writing software and managing systems at Adobe, PayPal and Sun Microsystems.
Business Insider has recognized her as one of the few female executives in the technology world, as Head of Operations for the executive vice-president and chief technology officer at Intuit.
21. Susan Wojcicki – YouTube
She is a YouTube star, not due to the number of posts and channels opened, but because she is the brain behind it. Before being the CEO of YouTube she was the Senior Vice-President of Advertising & Commerce at Google. She has become well-known for her ability to manage both her work and her professional life in a very successful way. She fights for a strict separation between work and personal life. She and her husband, a Google executive, have got 5 children and when she was asked how she can find the balance between work and family, she admitted it is hard, but anyone can manage it with a bit of imagination and creativity.
A lot of people have become famous due to YouTube posts and channels, and it makes her sad that many of them don’t even realize that YouTube is a company with people running it, with an actual CEO.
20. Marissa Mayer – Yahoo
She started as a pre-medical student at Stratford University and then she changed her major to Symbolic Systems.
Marissa completed her M.S. in Computer Science, specialization Artificial Intelligence and, for her contribution in the field of Search, she was awarded an honoris causa doctorate degree by Illinois Institute of Technology in 2009.
She is currently the President & CEO of Yahoo. Yahoo is a company that has changed the world; 2016 turned out to be a very bad year, as Marissa found out that a large number of their user database files had been stolen. She worked with the team to disclose the incidents to users, regulators and government agencies.
At the beginning of this year she announced her resignation from the company’s board of directors after the completion of its merge with Verizon. She has also announced that she would not receive an equity bonus for 2017 or a cash bonus for the prior year, because of the security incidents. Mayer said in a statement “I have expressed my desire that my bonus be redistributed to our company’s hardworking employees.”
19. Sheryl Sandberg – Facebook
She is the COO of Facebook and the founder of Leanin.org. She had worked 7 years at Google before being recruited by Facebook to oversee their Business Operations. She admits that the move from Google to Facebook was scary, as it implied much more work, even at nights, which was not easy, but she had the opportunity to test her ability to mold hours around the needs of her family. She began working at Facebook with a team of 4 people and arrived to a team of 4,000. It was for the first time in her life when she was really managing a large group of people. And she did great work, as Facebook has quickly developed under her leadership.
She is reported to be among the richest women in the world, with over US$1 billion, from her stock holdings in Facebook and other companies.
18. Mauri Whalen – Intel
She has started her career as a quality assurance software engineer at Intel and she has been working within the same company for almost two-decades. Wow! What a commitment! It is quite rare for a person to work for so long for the same company. Intel is aware that employees like Mauri are rare, therefore it awarded her twice, the last time in 2014.
Currently, she is in charge of the team working on open source software development, focusing primarily on Linux communications and software for virtualization and data centers.
17. Gwynne Shotwell – SpaceX
She is the President and Chief Operating Officer of SpaceX, a US company that designs, manufactures and launches rockets to space. Gwynne is responsible for day-to-day operations and for managing all customer and strategic relations to support company growth. NASA has recently awarded the company a $1.6 billion contract so as to carry supplies to the International Space Station. She admits not having been fascinated by space as a child, not even by Star Trek. But she grabbed the opportunity of working in the field as soon as she met Elon Musk, one of the most famous entrepreneurs of his generation. She was hired in 2002 and she took on all aspects of customer relationships.
One of the most precious pieces of advice she’s got for the new generation is to never say never and to stay opened to new opportunities; they shouldn’t be afraid to try new, sometimes unknown things.
16. Erica Lockheimer – LinkedIn
Erica Lockheimer is currently the director of growth engineering at LinkedIn. And she did a great job in this position, as the networking website member sign-up doubled and the total number of members tripled. All this only after one year under her leadership!
Her team’s mission is to build tech that encourages more people to join this social media. As it is very difficult to encourage young girls to learn to code, she plays a role model for other women interested in beginning and building a career in engineering and technology.
15. Lisa Earnhardt – Intersect ENT
Not only being one of the most impressive female engineers in the world, she has also proven to be quite the leader. She has extensive leadership experience in the medical device industry. Lisa started working for the Boston Scientific’s Cardiac Surgery division, where she led a staff of more than 450 people. In 2008, she left it to join Intersect ENT, a company dedicated to improving the quality of life for patients with ear, nose and throat conditions. Under her leadership the small company went public. San Francisco Business Times has named Lisa Earnhardt one of the Bay Area’s Most Influential Women in Business.
14. Amanda Stiles – SpaceX
She is the living proof that rocket science isn’t just for men. Amanda started her career at NASA’s Ames Research Center, testing software for a certain lunar aircraft, but she admits that SpaceX has become her current home. Amanda works as a training and simulation engineer. She was also involved in Google Lunar X Prize, where Google is offering $30 million in prizes to people who build robots to send them to moon.
13. Aicha Evans – Intel
Aicha Evans heads Intel’s mobile chip unit. She has been working for the company for more than 10 years, being responsible for wireless engineering for products such as modems, WiFi, Bluetooth. According to the company’s employees, Aicha is a vital part of the emerging wireless technology. After ungrounded rumors of her leaving the company, it turned out that the company has promoted her, from corporate vice-president to senior vice-president. She stated that “there will be changes in the designs of networks, devices and infrastructure, and Intel is preparing for the future through modems, development kits and 5G trials.”
12. Jeannette Wing – Microsoft
She is quite new in the world of engineering. President’s Professor of Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon University, until 2013, Jeannette is currently the Corporate Vice President of Microsoft Research. She is recognized as one of the originators of the concept of “computational thinking”. She published her point of view on this concept to advocate that everyone, regardless of discipline, occupation or profession, can benefit of understanding concepts in computer science. As head of Microsoft Research Labs, her focus is on humans and machines working together in partnerships, on doing higher impact projects, in terms of both scientific and company impact. She uses the saying “Think Bolder, Aim Higher” to encourage people to reach for the moon.
11. Ann Kelleher – Intel
In 1993, Ann Kelleher became the first woman ever to receive a Ph.D. in microelectronics at University College Cork. Almost 20 years later she became Intel’s first female vice-president, being responsible for Intel’s Technology and Manufacturing Group. Despite living in New Mexico she travels a lot between various Intel manufacturing plants.
She spends a lot of her time planning for the future, for the future needs of her team, looking at things from an efficiency perspective.
10. Tamar Bercovici – Box, California
She is an Israel-born engineering manager for Box, California, a startup that provides secure, free online data storage. Her piece of advice for the women who want to become engineers and join startups is “Don’t wait to be invited!” Show some interest in a field and doors will open in front of your eyes sooner than imagines. Coming from a country where there is no fear of failure, she got the courage to work somewhere dynamic, “where you end up doing anything and everything you are capable of,” she wrote in a post. Her efforts turned up to be fructuous, awarding her first patent to a technology that helps clouding computing systems update data.
9. Marianna Tessel – Docker
She is senior vice president of engineering at Docker, a tiny startup that has turned into a huge industry phenomenon within a few months, also due to her help. With a technical educational background, and having been supported by her family of engineers, she followed the space and was surprised to see how a technology could revolutionize the space in such a way. Docker’s technology is not just useful, it is also loved by its users, being used across various industries.
She is the proud owner of several technology patents, in how to connect VoiceXML to telephony but also a set of patents related to new innovations in the medical field, more exactly to sleep apnea.
Although she was not very aware of the challenges women face in technology, she has learned her lesson while working in a field where the gap between men and women is huge. She advices women to be pragmatic and to always trust themselves, to never doubt their abilities and to keep moving forward.
8. Elena Zannoni – Oracle
No wonder she has become Director of Linux engineering at Oracle, given her attitude towards working in a field dominated by men. She states that one important thing in life is not to doubt yourself, as there are a lot of other people that will undermine your confidence. This is the mentality she uses to encourage and support her Linux Tools team at Oracle, team which focuses on toolchain and tracing on Linux. She always takes the floor in Linux conferences and at various Linux Foundation events.
7. Holly Liu – Kabam
She is a cofounder of the mobile gaming company Kabam who started from the premise that you should never give up what you are doing, no matter how hard it might seem, as long as you believe in it and you are ready for bunches of Nos. “Go big or go home!” was the motto used by Holly, who has achieved success with the overnight sensation game Kingdoms of Camelot, that took six years to built. But it was worth every effort! She also admits that she was lucky, because this game was launched in 2005-2006, as she felt the timing was right. Facebook as well as other social medias were at their very beginnings and the market was avid to absorb everything that was new.
6. Anisha Singh – Mydala
Anisha Singh is an Indian digital entrepreneur. She is the cofounder and the CEO of Mydala, India’s largest mobile coupon provider. As any other beginning, it was not easy at all, especially because people in India lack vision, and even her friends told Anisha that she has made the biggest mistake of her life to invest all her savings in a business that is doomed to failure. But, as the Indian ecosystem is becoming more and more conductive for new ideas to take root and flourish, it has expanded very quickly all over the country, with 30 million registered users and operating across 109 cities in India.
5. Lynda Weinman – Lynda.com
A pioneer of online education, sometimes called a “mother of the Internet”, she cofounded Lynda.com, one of the first online learning platforms. Everything started in the late 1980s, while she was a teacher at numerous colleges in Los Angeles, and was thinking of a way to make it easier for her students not to carry their Art portfolios. The penny dropped when she discovered the web. She taught herself all about web design and realized there was no good book on the subject. Therefore, she has also written a book that ended up really becoming the first book on web design. With few competitors at that time, and with no YouTube channels, her business has expanded quite quickly. It was acquired by LinkedIn for $1.5 billion. She is listed by Forbes as one of America’s richest self-made women in 2016.
4. Arlene Harris – GreatCall
Known as the “First Lady of Wireless”, she is a serial entrepreneur, advisor, investor and inventor. Although her mane might not sound familiar, her more than 35 years of innovation in wireless technology has helped million of cell phone users from all over the world. Arlene is co-founder and chair of the board of GreatCall. She has built several other companies over the years, and pioneered early cellular industry standards such as the method for roaming services. She also holds several wireless communication-related patents. She is also the first woman inducted into the Wireless Hall of Fame.
3. Yoky Matsuoka – Alphabet Inc.
Growing up in Japan, Yoky Matsuoka has dreamed of becoming a famous tennis-player, but ended up by wondering how her body moved to help her play and once she got injured, she was surprised by the way her body recovered and relearned everything. Unfortunately for her, and fortunately for humanity injuries ended her tennis dreams, and made her become, years later, a leader in the emerging field of neurobotics, creating technology that can help disabled people. Yoky is now Silicon Valley’s most in-demand robotics professor who is back to Google, being re-hired at Alphabet, to be the new CTO at its Nest Labs smart home division.
2. Nadine Harik – Pinterest
She is an engineer on Pinterest’s Android team. Previously, she was in charge of the Pinterest’s mobile web team. Nadine has started her career at Google, as a senior software engineer building products such as Google Apps and YouTube Monetization. Nadine, as well as her two other colleagues, are called the women behind Pinterest, as they re-wrote and redesigned Pinterest’s mobile site. Her greatest source of inspiration is her son who goes through life without prejudices, unlike us adults.
1. Jayshree Ullal – Arista Networks
Jayshree Ullal is not another Indian name on a list, but she is the dynamic force behind Cisco’s LAN switching business. She is a leading executive in the technology industry, with a career in Silicon Valley of more than 30 years. In 2008, she was appointed president and CEO of Arista Networks, where she has been recognized by the Forbes Magazine as one of the top five most influential people in the networking industry. She was also awarded EY Entrepreneur of the year. In 2015, Forbes Magazine named her in its Top 50 Most Successful Self-Made Women.
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