From pioneers in engineering sub-disciplines like computer science and electrical engineering to the newest generation of revolutionary thinkers in areas like nano-medicine and nuclear power, these 35 female engineers showcase the brilliant minds driving today’s leading edge innovations, developing tomorrow’s life-saving discoveries, and generally taking us to thrilling new heights of scientific understanding.
Women have made important gains in engineering professions over the last several decades. According to Census reporting, just 3% of engineering professionals were women in 1970. By 2019, that number had quintupled to 15%, a significant gain but one that suggests a field still dramatically tilted toward opportunities for men.
This makes the groundbreaking achievements of the women on our list all the more remarkable. From pioneers in engineering sub-disciplines like computer science and electrical engineering to the newest generation of revolutionary thinkers in areas like nano-medicine and nuclear powers, these 35 influential women engineers showcase the brilliant minds driving today’s leading edge innovations, developing tomorrow’s life-saving discoveries, and generally taking us to thrilling new heights of scientific understanding.
While the Census figures show how far we’ve come, the data also show that there is still a great deal of work to be done in advancing equal representation in engineering. To this end, let the women on this list be an inspiration to the next generation of analysts, innovators, and influencers.
If you’re a woman who’s interested in becoming an engineer, check out our Student’s Guide to Engineering for an in-depth look at some of the most in-demand careers for engineers.
Rose Amal is the Scientia Professor and ARC Laureate Fellow and director of the Particles and Catalysis Research Group in the School of Chemical Engineering at the University of New South Wales. She earned a bachelor of engineering degree in chemical engineering and a Ph.D in chemical engineering from the University of New South Wales. Her research has focused on the design and development of nanomaterials and systems for chemical and solar energy conversion.
She has provided important leadership in her field, particularly in photocatalysis. She has served as the inaugural director for the Centre for Energy Research and Policy Analysis, the Chair of the ARC-ERA Research Evaluation Committee in the Engineering and Environmental Sciences Cluster, and the director of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Functional Nanomaterials. In her leadership roles, she provided critical guidance and direction in the development of technologies to better use renewable energy sources and remove water and air pollution.
Areas of Specialization: Chemical Engineering, Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics, Biochemistry, Chemical Biology, Organic Chemistry
Frances Arnold is the Linus Pauling Professor of Chemical Engineering, Bioengineering, and Biochemistry for the California Institute of Technology. She earned a B.S. in mechanical and aerospace engineering from Princeton University and an M.S. and Ph.D in chemical engineering from the University of California, Berkeley. She earned a Nobel Prize in Chemistry for her discovery of methods of using directed evolution to facilitate enzyme development.
Some of the enzymes she has been able to develop with directed evolution are enzymes to produce environmentally friendly pharmaceuticals and renewable fuels. Other enzymes have evolved to provoke cyclopropanation and nitrene transfer reactions.
In addition to the Nobel Prize, she has also received the honor of being the first woman to be chosen for the National Academy of Medicine, the National Academy of Engineering, and the National Academy of Sciences. She won the Millenium Technology Prize in 2016 and the Raymond and Beverly Sackler Prize in Convergence Research in 2017.
Areas of Specialization: Materials Engineering, Diversity/Inclusion in STEM
Dawn Bonfield currently holds the titles of Royal Academy of Engineering Visiting Professor of Inclusive Engineering at Aston University, as well as Director of Engineering Equality Diversity and Inclusion at Aston University. Bonfield is also a past president and chief executive of the Women’s Engineering Society.
With a background in materials engineering, Bonfield has previously worked at companies including British Aerospace, the Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining, and the Atomic Energy Research Establishment (AERE), and has been plenty influential on those grounds alone. However, Dawn is widely known in engineering and beyond as an advocate of diversity and inclusion in STEM fields, where her greatest degree of influence lies.
A prominent woman in a field mostly filled with men, Bonfield has worked to open STEM careers to all. As the founder and director of Towards Vision, Bonfield has pushed for initiatives to balance the professional population in STEM with the global population. Toward this the organization, and Bonfield herself, disseminate research on the inclusion gap in STEM, as well as resources on how to fix it, including tools, events, and training workshops. Additionally, Bonfield manages the Magnificent Women project, celebrating the history of women in engineering, and is the UK representative on the World Federation of Engineering Organisations Women in Engineering Committee.
Ann Dowling is a Deputy Vice-Chancellor and professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Cambridge. She studied at the University of Cambridge where she earned a Ph.D degree.
When she was nominated to be a Fellow of the Royal Society, they noted her expertise regarding combustion systems and jet engine instabilities that generate reheat buzz. She has provided research-informed, data-driven leadership for the oil company, BP, as well as in her role as president of the Royal Academy of Engineering. Her knowledge of aeroacoustics was the product of her dissertation research, which was conducted on the Concorde supersonic airliner’s sound problems.
Dowling has also studied the impacts of low-emission combustion and lower levels of highway noise, vibrations, and acoustic. She is a researcher for the Silent Aircraft Initiative, which aims to reduce airplane noise to levels undetectable outside of the airfields.
She was selected as a Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 2002, Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 2007, and to the Order of Merit in 2016.
Lynn Gladden is the Shell Professor of Chemical Engineering for the University of Cambridge, as well as executive chair at the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council. She earned a B.S. in chemical physics from the University of Bristol and a Ph.D in physical chemistry from the University of Cambridge. She went on to conduct postgraduate studies in physics at the University of Oxford.
She is an internationally recognized expert in magnetic resonance imaging techniques and investigating the chemical processes triggered by physical and chemical phenomena, and how those processes impact the results.
Gladden has served as the head of the Department of Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology and Pro-Vice-Chancellor for the University of Cambridge.
She remains a chartered chemist and chartered engineer and was named as one of the Top 50 Influential Women in Engineering in 2016. She sits on the judging panel for the Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering.
Liskov (née Barbara Huberman) is a computer scientist at MIT, where she is Ford Professor of Engineering in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and Institute Professor in the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab (CSAIL), where she leads the Programming Methodology Group. One of the first women in the US to earn a PhD in computer science, Liskov was born and raised in Los Angeles, California, the eldest of four siblings. In 2008, she won the Turing Award for her invention of the Liskov substitution principle, one of only three women to win that award so far (the other two are Fran Allen and Shafi Goldwasser).
Huberman (as she was then known) earned her bachelor’s degree in mathematics from UC-Berkeley in 1961. She wanted to do graduate work in mathematics at Princeton, but at the time the university did not accept women as graduate students. While she was accepted at Berkeley, Huberman decided to accept an offer from Mitre Corporation instead. Located in Bedford, Massachusetts, one of Boston’s northern suburbs, Mitre is a not-for-profit organization that acts as a liaison between federal funding agencies and cutting-edge scientific research in the private sector.
Veloso is Herbert A. Simon University Professor in the School of Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon University. She has a master’s degree in electrical engineering from Lisbon, Portugal, at the prestigious Instituto Superior Técnico. She received her Ph.D. in computer science at Carnegie Mellon University. Veloso also holds the title of Head of AI Research at J.P. Morgan Bank.
Veloso’s research has focused on robotics, a key aspect of artificial intelligence. She has developed systems to enable intelligent autonomous actions by robots, winning the “RoboCup” robot soccer match competition more than once. Her research spans many important aspects of robotics, including navigation, perception, and action. No surprise that Veloso has been in high-demand at CMU, graduating 32 Ph.D. students during her tenure there.
Veloso was made a fellow of the AAAI (“triple AI”) in 2003. She is also an ACM Fellow, and won a National Science Foundation CAREER Award in 1995.