Highly Influential Women in Engineering Today

Highly Influential Women in Engineering Today

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.

35 Highly Influential Women in Engineering 2000–2020

  1. #1

    Adah Almutairi

    Overall Influence
    1976 - Present (47 years)
    Adah Almutairi is a Saudi American scientist and professor at University of California, San Diego . Her work focuses on nanomedicine, nanotechnology, chemistry and polymer science. Forbes has described her as one top ten most influential female engineers in the world.
  2. #2

    Rose Amal

    Overall Influence
    1965 - Present (58 years)

    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.

  3. #3

    Anousheh Ansari

    Overall Influence
    1966 - Present (57 years)
    Anousheh Ansari is an Iranian American engineer and co-founder and chairwoman of Prodea Systems. Her previous business accomplishments include serving as co-founder and CEO of Telecom Technologies, Inc. . The Ansari family is also the title sponsor of the Ansari X Prize. On September 18, 2006, a few days after her 40th birthday, she became the first Iranian in space. Ansari was the fourth overall self-funded space tourist, and the first self-funded woman to fly to the International Space Station. Her memoir, My Dream of Stars, co-written with Homer Hickam, was published by Palgrave Macmillan ...
  4. #4

    Kristi Anseth

    Overall Influence
    1968 - Present (55 years)
    Kristi S. Anseth is the Tisone Distinguished Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering, an Associate Professor of Surgery, and a Howard Hughes Medical Investigator at the University of Colorado at Boulder. Her main research interests are the design of synthetic biomaterials using hydrogels, tissue engineering, and regenerative medicine.
  5. #5

    Frances Arnold

    Overall Influence
    1956 - Present (67 years)

    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.

  6. #6

    Wanda Austin

    Overall Influence
    1954 - Present (69 years)
    Wanda M. Austin is a former president and CEO of The Aerospace Corporation. She was both the first woman, and the first African-American, to hold this position. Austin also served as interim president for the University of Southern California, following the resignation of C. L. Max Nikias. She was both the first woman, and the first African-American, to hold this position.
  7. #7

    Ruzena Bajcsy

    Overall Influence
    1933 - Present (90 years)
    Ruzena Bajcsy is an American engineer and computer scientist who specializes in robotics. She is professor of electrical engineering and computer science at the University of California, Berkeley, where she is also director emerita of CITRIS .
  8. #8

    Gilda Barabino

    Overall Influence
    1956 - Present (67 years)
    Gilda A. Barabino is the president of the Olin College of Engineering, where she is also a Professor of Biomedical and Chemical Engineering. Previously, she served as the Dean of The Grove School of Engineering at the City College of New York, and as a professor in the Departments of Biomedical Engineering and Chemical Engineering and the CUNY School of Medicine. On March 4, 2021, she became the President-Elect of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
  9. #9

    Dawn Bonfield

    Overall Influence

    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.

  10. #10

    Ursula Burns

    Overall Influence
    1958 - Present (65 years)
    Ursula M. Burns is an American businesswoman. Burns is mostly known for being the CEO of Xerox from 2009 to 2016, the first black woman to be a CEO of a Fortune 500 company, and the first woman to succeed another as head of a Fortune 500 company. She additionally was Xerox’s chairman from 2010 to 2017.
  11. #11

    M. Elizabeth Cannon

    Overall Influence
    Margaret Elizabeth Cannon is a Canadian engineer specializing in geomatics engineering and president Emerita of the University of Calgary. From 2010 to 2018, she served as the university’s eighth president and vice-chancellor, the first alumna to hold that position.
  12. #12

    Marita Cheng

    Overall Influence
    1989 - Present (34 years)
    Marita Cheng is the founder of Robogals. She was named the 2012 Young Australian of the Year. She is the founder and current CEO of Aubot, a start-up robotics company. She co-founded Aipoly, an app to assist blind people to recognise objects using their mobile phones. She was named as one of the World’s Top 50 women in Technology by Forbes in 2018 and was recognized on the Forbes 30 Under 30 list in 2016. On 9 June 2019, Cheng was appointed a member of the Order of Australia for significant service to science and technology, particularly to robotics.
  13. #13

    Leslie Dewan

    Overall Influence
    1984 - Present (39 years)
    Leslie Dewan is an American nuclear engineer. She was the co-founder and chief executive officer of Transatomic Power. Dewan was a member of the board of MIT and was named a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum.
  14. #14

    Ann Dowling

    Overall Influence
    1952 - Present (71 years)

    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.

  15. #15

    Mica Endsley

    Overall Influence
    1961 - Present (62 years)
    Mica Endsley is an engineer and a former Chief Scientist of the United States Air Force. The position of the Chief Scientist was created over 60 years ago to provide independent scientific advice to the Secretary of the Air Force and the Chief of Staff of the Air Force, as well as to its senior leadership. In this role, she worked with the top scientists and engineers within the Air Force as well as in academia, industry, and the other armed services to ensure that the Air Force’s research and development efforts remain relevant and effective. Additionally, as the Chief Scientist she responded...
  16. #16

    Lynn Gladden

    Overall Influence
    1961 - Present (62 years)

    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.

  17. #17

    Diane Greene

    Overall Influence
    1955 - Present (68 years)
    Diane B. Greene is an American technology entrepreneur and executive. Greene started her career as a naval architect before transitioning to the tech industry, where she was a founder and CEO of VMware from 1998 until 2008. She was a board director of Google and CEO of Google Cloud from 2015 until 2019. She was also the co-founder and CEO of two startups, Bebop and VXtreme, which were acquired by Google and Microsoft, for $380 million and $75 million.
  18. #18

    Helen Greiner

    Overall Influence
    1967 - Present (56 years)
    Helen Greiner is a co-founder of iRobot and former CEO of CyPhy Work, Inc., a start-up company specializing in small multi-rotor drones for the consumer, commercial and military markets. Ms Greiner is currently the CEO of Tertill Corporation.
  19. #19

    Mae Jemison

    Overall Influence
    1956 - Present (67 years)
    Mae Carol Jemison is an American engineer, physician, and former NASA astronaut. She became the first African-American woman to travel into space when she served as a mission specialist aboard the Space Shuttle Endeavour in 1992. Jemison joined NASA’s astronaut corps in 1987 and was selected to serve for the STS-47 mission, during which the Endeavour orbited the Earth for nearly eight days on September 12–20, 1992.
  20. #20

    Dina Katabi

    Overall Influence
    1970 - Present (53 years)
    Dina Katabi is the Andrew and Erna Viterbi Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at MIT and the director of the MIT Wireless Center. Academic biography Katabi received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Damascus in 1995 and M.S and Ph.D. in Computer Science from MIT in 1998 and 2003 respectively. In 2003, Katabi joined MIT, where she holds the title of Professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. She is the co-director of the MIT Center for Wireless Networks and Mobile Computing and a principal investigator at MIT’s Computer Science a...
  21. #21

    Lydia Kavraki

    Overall Influence
    1967 - Present (56 years)
    Lydia E. Kavraki is a Greek-American computer scientist, the Noah Harding Professor of Computer Science, a professor of bioengineering, electrical and computer engineering, and mechanical engineering at Rice University. She is also the director of the Ken Kennedy Institute at Rice University. She is known for her work on robotics/AI and bioinformatics/computational biology and in particular for the probabilistic roadmap method for robot motion planning and biomolecular configuration analysis.
  22. #22

    Barbara Liskov

    Overall Influence
    1939 - Present (84 years)

    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.

  23. #23

    Sandra Magnus

    Overall Influence
    1964 - Present (59 years)
    Sandra Hall Magnus is an American engineer and a former NASA astronaut. She returned to Earth with the crew of STS-119 Discovery on March 28, 2009, after having spent 134 days in orbit. She was assigned to the crew of STS-135, the final mission of the Space Shuttle. She is also a licensed amateur radio operator with the call sign KE5FYE. From 2012 until 2018 Magnus was the executive director of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics.
  24. #24

    Radhika Nagpal

    Overall Influence
    Radhika Nagpal is an Indian-American computer scientist and researcher in the fields of self-organising computer systems, biologically-inspired robotics, and biological multi-agent systems. She is the Augustine Professor in Engineering in the Departments of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering and Computer Science at Princeton University. Formerly, she was the Fred Kavli Professor of Computer Science at Harvard University and the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. In 2017, Nagpal co-founded a robotics company under the name of Root Robotics. This educational company works to c...
  25. #25

    Dava Newman

    Overall Influence
    1964 - Present (59 years)
    Dava J. Newman is the director of the MIT Media Lab and a former deputy administrator of NASA. Newman earned her PhD in aerospace biomedical engineering, and Master of Science degrees in aerospace engineering and technology and policy all from MIT, and her Bachelor of Science degree in aerospace engineering from the University of Notre Dame. Newman is the Apollo Program Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics and Engineering Systems at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a member of the faculty at the Harvard–MIT Program in Health Sciences and Technology. She is also a MacVicar Fa...
  26. #26

    Barbara Oakley

    Overall Influence
    1955 - Present (68 years)
    Barbara Ann Oakley is an American professor of engineering at Oakland University and McMaster University whose online courses on learning are some of the most popular MOOC classes in the world. She is involved in multiple areas of research, ranging from STEM education, to learning practices.
  27. #27

    Arati Prabhakar

    Overall Influence
    1959 - Present (64 years)
    Arati Prabhakar is an American engineer serving as the 12th director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and Science Advisor to the President since October 3, 2022. She was the former head of DARPA, the United States Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, a position she held from July 30, 2012 to January 20, 2017. She is a founder and the CEO of Actuate, a nonprofit organization.
  28. #28

    Daniela L. Rus

    Overall Influence
    1963 - Present (60 years)
    Daniela L. Rus is a roboticist and computer scientist, Director of the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory , and the Andrew and Erna Viterbi Professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
  29. #29

    Lisa Su

    Overall Influence
    1969 - Present (54 years)
    Lisa Su is an American business executive and electrical engineer, who is the president, chief executive officer and chair of AMD. Early in her career, Su worked at Texas Instruments, IBM, and Freescale Semiconductor in engineering and management positions. She is known for her work developing silicon-on-insulator semiconductor manufacturing technologies and more efficient semiconductor chips during her time as vice president of IBM’s Semiconductor Research and Development Center.
  30. #30

    Tessy Thomas

    Overall Influence
    1963 - Present (60 years)
    Tessy Thomas is an Indian scientist and Director General of Aeronautical Systems and the former Project Director for Agni-IV missile in Defence Research and Development Organisation. She is the first ever woman scientist to head a missile project in India.
  31. #31

    Manuela M. Veloso

    Overall Influence
    1957 - Present (66 years)

    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.

    Academic Website

  32. #32

    Padmasree Warrior

    Overall Influence
    1961 - Present (62 years)
    Padmasree Warrior is an Indian-American businesswoman and technology executive. She is known for her leadership roles in technology firms like Cisco where she served as the CTO for seven years, and at Motorola where she was the CTO for five years. She also served as the CEO of Nio USA, an electric car maker. Currently, she is the founder and CEO of Fable, a curated reading platform focused on mental wellness. She also serves on the board of directors of Microsoft and Spotify.
  33. #33

    Jennifer Widom

    Overall Influence
    Jennifer Widom is an American computer scientist known for her work in database systems and data management. She is notable for foundational contributions to semi-structured data management and data stream management systems. Since 2017, Widom is the dean of the School of Engineering and professor of computer science at Stanford University. Her honors include the Fletcher Jones Professor of Computer Science and multiple lifetime achievement awards from the Association for Computing Machinery.
  34. #34

    Stephanie Wilson

    Overall Influence
    1966 - Present (57 years)
    Stephanie Diana Wilson is an American engineer and a NASA astronaut. She flew to space onboard three Space Shuttle missions, and is the second African American woman to go into space, after Mae Jemison. her 42 days in space are the second most of any female African American astronaut, having been surpassed by Jessica Watkins in 2022.
  35. #35

    Jackie Yi-Ru Ying

    Overall Influence
    1966 - Present (57 years)
    Jackie Yi-Ru Ying is an American nanotechnology scientist based in Singapore. She is the founding executive director of the Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology . Early life and career Ying was born in Taipei in 1966. She moved to Singapore with her family in 1973 as a child where she was a student at Rulang Primary School and Raffles Girls’ School. She then went to New York City, earning a B.Eng. degree by graduating summa cum laude from Cooper Union in 1987. She then attended Princeton University, receiving her MA in 1988 and her PhD in 1991, both in chemical engineering. She spen...

Ranked by Influence

  1. Barbara Liskov
  2. Ruzena Bajcsy
  3. Dina Katabi
  4. Diana Greene
  5. Jennifer Widom
  6. Barbara Oakley
  7. Mae C. Jemison
  8. Adah Almutairi
  9. Manuela M. Veloso
  10. Daniela L. Rus
  11. Ursula Burns
  12. Frances Arnold
  13. Lydia Kavraki
  14. Tessy Thomas
  15. Arati Prabhakar
  16. Jackie Yi-Ru Ying
  17. Sandra Magnus
  18. Radhika Nagpal
  19. Wanda Austin
  20. Stephanie Wilson
  21. Mica Endsley
  22. Dava Newman
  23. Anousheh Ansari
  24. M. Elizabeth Cannon
  25. Ann Dowling
  26. Lisa Su
  27. Lynn Gladden
  28. Kristi Anseth
  29. Marita Cheng
  30. Helen Greiner
  31. Leslie Dewan
  32. Rose Amal
  33. Padmasree Warrior
  34. Dawn Bonfield
  35. Gilda Barabino

Image Attributions