International Women in Engineering DayJune 23, 2021
June 23 is International Women in Engineering Day. Spearheaded by the Women’s Engineering Society (WES), the day celebrates the work of female and female-identifying engineers and encourages diversity in the industry. The day of celebration began in the United Kingdom in 2014 as a national campaign, growing to the international level in 2017. As part of the day, WES names the top 50 women in engineering for a specific theme. Last year’s honored engineers of all types for their contributions to sustainability. This year’s theme is engineering heroes.
To highlight this important day, we are celebrating a number of women who have made contributions to engineering over the past 100 years through today.
Alice H. Parker
If you’ve ever sat in your house feeling nice and warm in the middle of winter without worrying about having a pile of coal or wood on hand, you have Alice H. Parker to thank. Parker, an African-American inventor, is most known for patenting a system of central heating utilizing natural gas in 1919.
“The concept of central heating was around before Parker was born, but her design was unique because it used natural gas as its fuel instead of coal or wood that had been previously used,” shares Erika Weber for BlackPast.org.
Though she made such a major contribution to engineering, little is known of her life. Weber shares it’s believed Parker was educated in part at a high school connected to Howard University, obtaining a certificate of honors. It is remarkable that Parker obtained a patent at a time when not only women, but particularly African-American women, had limited opportunities.
Edith Clarke is known for a history of “firsts.” She was the first woman to receive a degree in electrical engineering degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1919. She was also the first woman to present a paper before the American Institute of Electrical Engineers (AIEE), which later became IEEE.
In 1947, after working at General Electric for 26 years, Clarke became the first female electrical engineering professor in the country, working at The University of Texas in Austin. Lastly, she was the first woman who was elected to be a fellow of AIEE.
Clarke’s career focused in the area of power transmission, and she wrote many important papers on the topic. She received two patents related to power transmission and wrote a textbook that was used by engineering schools and colleges.
Read more about Clarke on the Edison Tech Center website.
Dr. Ellen Ochoa was the first Hispanic woman to go to space, flying aboard the Shuttle Discovery in 1993. She subsequently returned to space three times, logging nearly 1,000 hours in orbit. Ochoa has a bachelor’s degree in physics and a master's degree and doctorate in electrical engineering.
With NASA since 1988, Ochoa has held several positions, including research engineer, astronaut, Deputy Center Director, Director of Flight Crew Operations, and Director of Johnson Space Center (JSC). According to NASA, she was the first Hispanic director of JSC, and the second woman to hold the post.
“Ochoa has been recognized with NASA's highest award, the Distinguished Service Medal, and the Presidential Distinguished Rank Award for senior executives in the federal government,” writes NASA. “She has received many other awards and is especially honored to have six schools named for her.”
Construction is a male-dominated industry, though that trend is slowly starting to change, particularly in the ranks of construction management. Amy Bunzsel, Executive Vice President, Architecture, Engineering and Construction Design Solutions for Autodesk, is one example of how women are changing the face of construction.
Bunszel holds a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from Cornell University and a master’s degree in electrical engineering from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. She started her own software design company, Linius Technologies, in 1996 before moving to Autodesk.
According to Autodesk, Bunszel “manages product strategy and execution for Autodesk’s 3D design portfolio including the Autodesk Architecture, Engineering and Construction Collection, AutoCAD family, Autodesk Revit, and more.”
She is credited with transforming Autodesk’s best-selling AutoCAD product “to a modern multi-platform offering that serves as the backbone of the company’s subscription business,” states the Autodesk website.
Capitol Tech supports all female and female-identifying engineers as they continue to make the world a better place through their contributions to all forms of engineering. Learn more about the variety of engineering-related degrees that Capitol Tech offers or email firstname.lastname@example.org.