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WoW Blog (Woman of the Week)

Each week this blog will feature a prominent woman who made significant contributions to engineering or science. If you have any women you'd like us to feature please let us know and we'll do our best to include them.

Do you know of a great woman in engineering that should be recognized? Let us know! Submit a few paragraphs about that person and we'll add her to the blog. Please provide a citation for the material that you submit so that we can verify it. Please note - it has to be original material. We cannot publish copywritten material or bulk text taken from books or other sites (including Wikipedia).

Women Redefining Leadership in STEM and IT

Posted May 10, 2014 12:00 AM by Chelsey H

As of 2014, there is still a lack of female representation in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Women hold just about 32 percent of IT-related positions in the federal workforce, account for just 14.6 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs, and comprise 10 percent of information security professionals.

The documentary, titled "Tenacity: Women Redefining Leadership", below dives into the root cause for this disparity through the eyes of women in STEM fields. The film looks at how the field has changed since they started and the obstacles that remain in today's work environment.

There is hope: the federal IT space has a proven track record of women in leadership roles. There are an increasingly growing number of female chief information officers in the federal government and in industry leadership positions. These women are doing big things and making a difference.

Below is the full 15-minute documentary, plus extended interviews with each of the women who appear in the film.

In order of appearance:

Ellen McCarthy, chief operating officer, National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency

Alec Ross, former senior adviser for innovation to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton

Stephanie Hill, vice president and general manager, Lockheed Martin Information Systems and Global Solutions - Civil

Maria Horton, former CIO, National Naval Medical Center, and CEO of EmeSec

Marisa Raether, senior principal consultant, Intuitive.IT

3 comments; last comment on 05/11/2014
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Women Who Inspire in Space and Science

Posted November 19, 2013 10:57 AM by CR4 Guest Author

The world of engineering, technology and science is often associated with men, but if you look around this trend is starting to turn on its head. If you put on the television or listen to the news you will see and hear that there are inspiring women dominating these fields, and recently the space NASA program reported they hired more women to come on board the program. Jobs are evolving, technology is enhancing and more women are being encouraged to get involved in science, space and engineering.

The universal success from television programmes such as The Big Bang Theory, and Countdown with a young mathematical genius Rachel Riley means just one thing: being smart is cool for women. The 'nerds' as we are often referred to as are the heroes of today. More and more women are being attracted to successful careers in science and engineering because of the female nerds that are leading the way and may it long continue. Space in itself may be the final frontier, but women are the ones spearheading the exploration.

Adventurous Female Explorers

Did you know that the first woman in space was the adventurous factory worker Valentina Tereshkova? She was actually chosen out of 400 applicants to become a Soviet cosmonaut, launching the Vostok 6 Mission in 1963. She was the fifth Russian to go into space and was entrusted to attempt the first docking manoeuvre with another spaceship. Incredibly forward-thinking for the time!

What is inspiring is not only was this the first female into space but the Prime Minister Khrushchev spoke of his fatherly pride for her - she was a propagandists' dream and nicknamed the Greta Garbo of space, much was made of her gender and looks, something that her male colleagues never encountered. Nevertheless, she paved the way at such an early stage for women in space. Sadly, it was another twenty years before the next woman entered space, and it was another Russian called Svetlana Savitskaya, who was also the first woman to complete a spacewalk in 1984. image source

Then you have Sally Ride, who was the first American woman in space, aged 32. The Physics graduate from Stanford University answered an advert from NASA and joined the team in 1978. Just five years later she had been integral to communications in two shuttle flights and developed a robotic arm for the shuttle. In 1983, she was then chosen for a space flight. During a press conference, much like Tereshkova twenty years previously, the focus was on her gender. The reaction was perhaps even more vehement than her Soviet counterpart met. Ride had to field incredible questions such as, "Will the flight affect your reproductive organs?" and "Do you weep if things go wrong on the job?" However, since then there have been 45 female US astronauts and their organs and weeping are all normal.

In It To Win It

You may not be aware but sometimes a competition through a radio advertisement can get you to Space. Yes, the first British woman in space was chemist Helen Sharman from Sheffield, who visited the Mir Space Station in 1991 when she beat 13,000 other contestants to win her place in space. Whist Sharman was orbiting space, she was involved in the agricultural and medical testing which was a fascinating adventure for her.

At just 27 years old, she was the fifth youngest person in space (out of the 528 people who have been in space). As Helen states in the video below it was something she never expected and did not attend to follow on as an astronaut in her career path but one moment changed everything and so can a moment for you if you grasp that opportunity.

Now, as space shifts into the tourism industry there is a whole new exploration dimension. It is worth mentioning that the first woman space tourist was Iranian-American entrepreneur Anousheh Ansari in 2006. Space is fast becoming a female friendly industry, with four women serving together simultaneously on the International Space Station in 2010.

Social Media Following

If space, science and engineering are areas that pique your interest, you should now follow the newest and the best astronauts' careers and experiences via Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Google+. Social networks are a really good way to keep up with the latest trends and developments of individuals exploring so do get using these social streams.

Karen Nyberg is the one to follow at the moment (@AstroKarenN). She is currently in space and posts breathtaking pictures of and views from the International Space Station. She is the embodiment of an ambitious career mom. Juggling life aboard the Space Station, her family life back home and being on camera all week, she is a hero. image source

The ones to watch in the future are NASA's new crop; announced recently and include equal female-to-male ratio. The successful women in the latest AstroClass are Christina Hammock, Anne McClain, Jessica Meir and Nicole Mann (all aged 34-35). They are highly qualified and from a number of different backgrounds including the military and science.

As you can see the stumbling blocks have been overcome and the future of women in space is bright and varied.

Editor's Note: Jenny Ann Beswick is a graduate of engineering who has worked in various fields of engineering work. Her experience within the industry started through a scientific role through her telegraph jobs in engineering and since then her work has branched off and led her to project manage construction sites and develop strategies.

9 comments; last comment on 11/20/2013
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Top 10 Women Engineers and Scientists

Posted October 18, 2013 12:00 AM by CR4 Guest Author

Many women have made great contributions to science and engineering. Check out the list of the 10 below and read their biographies. Then, let us know: who deserves top honors?

  1. Grace Marie Hopper
  2. Marie Curie
  3. Maria Telkes
  4. Virginia Apgar
  5. Dr. Sylvia Earle
  6. Pamela Low
  7. Sophie Germain
  8. Rosalind Elsie Franklin
  9. Harriet Quimby
  10. Ellen Swallow Richards
8 comments; last comment on 11/20/2013
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Sandra Hall Magnus: AIAA Leader and Former Astronaut

Posted January 10, 2013 12:00 AM by SavvyExacta

Sandra Hall Magnus is a former NASA astronaut who spent 134 days in orbit and was part of the crew of the final mission of the Space Shuttle.

Sandra was born in Illinois on October 30, 1964. A career as an astronaut was an interest from the beginning and so she pursued engineering, earning several degrees including a PhD in materials science and engineering. Early in her career she designed sought experience, first designing stealth aircraft for McDonnell Douglas in the 1980s and becoming an astronaut candidate in 1996. Missions she was involved with included:

  • Installation of the S1 truss section on the International Space Station (ISS)
  • Survival training in an uninhabited area in the case of an emergency landing
  • Commander of the NEEMO 11 mission testing lunar gravity and remote-controlled robots
  • Flight Engineer on the ISS Expedition 18, logging 133 days in orbit
  • Training to fly a rescue mission for a shuttle flight

She cited NASA training as the best preparation for life aboard the ISS. During her time on the ISS she used her love of cooking to help experiment with the limited food choices: Discovery News. The NASA website gives Sandra's perspective of a typical day on the ISS.

Sandra left NASA and became executive director of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) in October 2012. She hopes to play a role in inspiring and recruiting the next generation of scientists, engineers, and technologists.

Resources: AIAA; Wikipedia: Sandra Magnus (image); Womanetics

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Margaret Hutchinson Rousseau – Supported Production of Penicillin, Chemicals During WWII

Posted December 27, 2012 12:00 AM by SavvyExacta

Margaret Hutchinson Rousseau was a chemical engineer who, during WWII, designed the processes for producing high-octane gasoline and penicillin.

Margaret was born in Texas in 1911. She earned a bachelor's degree from Rice University in 1932. By 1937 she became the first American woman to receive a Ph.D. in chemical engineering from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

Her first career was at E.B. Badger where she worked on the design of production plants. She also met her future husband with whom she would have one child. Some of her early design work focused on the synthetic rubber that was needed for the war.

Penicillin was first mass produced in the U.S. in the early 1940s. In 1942 there was enough penicillin available in the country to treat just 10 patients. Scientists combined the discovery of the best penicillin being found on a moldy cantaloupe with fermentation research. Margaret developed the process of deep-tank fermentation which enabled large-scale production of penicillin.

Later, Margaret worked on improved equipment and methods for refining oil and the development of high-octane aviation fuel. She also improved distillation column design and plants for the production of chemicals like ethylene glycol (anti-freeze) and glacial acetic acid.

Margaret received awards from the Society of Women Engineers and AlChE. She died on January 11, 2000.

Resources: Celebrating 125 Years of Women at MIT; Chemical Engineers in Action - Innovators in Biomedicine; News Medical - Penicillin Biosynthesis; Convey Inc - In Defense; Wikipedia - Margaret Hutchinson Rousseau; image

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