Our list of influential women in engineering is a testament to the wide variety of career options available in the industry. From astronauts to architects, this inspirational list features famous women engineers and architects who have been highly cited and searched online over the last 10 years.
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Top 10 Women in Engineering and Architecture From the Last 10 Years
Engineering is defined application of scientific principles for practical purposes including architecture, machinery, electricity, infrastructure, and much more. If that seems like a broad definition that’s because the field of engineering is bursting with too many possibilities to be contained in a single sentence. Students of engineering can go on to pursue diverse careers in areas such as biomedical research, industrial engineering, or even physics. Engineers truly have the world at their fingertips.
Looking to the future, engineering is expected to grow 4% by 2024, adding over 65,000 jobs to the market according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Women are poised to take on many of those new roles, as the percentage of women in engineering positions has increased dramatically in recent years. In 1970 women only held 3% of engineering roles, but that number has now jumped to 15%. While that percentage is still relatively small, the times are starting to change. In 2018 women earned over 40% of the bachelor’s degrees awarded in environmental engineering, biological/agricultural engineering, and biomedical engineering.
The Society of Women Engineers (SWE) is dedicated to giving women engineers a unique place and voice within the engineering industry. The organization has partnered with major corporations like 3M to make their goals into a reality. SWE is also committed to developing the next generation of female engineers, regularly hosting programs for high school girls interested in pursuing degrees and careers in engineering.
Women have increasingly taken on leadership roles within engineering, a sure sign of progress toward equality in the field. Dava Newman is the current Director of the MIT Media Lab and former Deputy Administrator of NASA. Diane Green served as the CEO of Google Cloud from 2015 until 2019. Jennifer Widom is the Dean of the Stanford School of Engineering. All of these women have succeeded in male-dominated fields and serve as prime examples for young women everywhere.
Influential Women in Engineering and Architecture From the Last 10 Years
1950 - 2016 (66 years)
Dame Zaha Mohammad Hadid was an Iraqi-British architect, artist and designer, recognised as a major figure in architecture of the late-20th and early-21st centuries. Born in Baghdad, Iraq, Hadid studied mathematics as an undergraduate and then enrolled at the Architectural Association School of Architecture in 1972. In search of an alternative system to traditional architectural drawing, and influenced by Suprematism and the Russian avant-garde, Hadid adopted painting as a design tool and abstraction as an investigative principle to “reinvestigate the aborted and untested experiments of Mode...
Cynthia Barnhart is an American civil engineer and academic. She previously served as the Chancellor of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the first woman to hold that position. Barnhart’s work focuses on transportation and operations research, specifically specializing in developing models, optimization methods and decision support systems for large-scale transportation problems. She also is a professor in MIT’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, and is an associate dean of the School of Engineering, serving a brief tenure as interim dean of engineering from 2010 to 2...
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.
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.
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.
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.
Goldwasser’s impressive career spans many areas in computer science, including computational complexity theory, cryptography, and number theory. She has been in high demand during her impressive career in computer science, serving as chief scientist and co-founder of thr Israeli company Duality Technologies using cryptographic methods for data security, and has served as an advisor to a number of successful ventures, including companies focusing on blockchain technology, which has become hugely popular in recent years. Goldwasser is also a member of the Theory of Computation group at the world-renowned Artificial Intelligence Laboratory at MIT. Her primary focus is on fundamental aspects of computer security, like cryptography, a topic that is of both theoretical interest in computer science and mathematics and has obvious practical applications to many industries like finance, banking, and data protection.
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.
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.
Denise Scott Brown is an American architect, planner, writer, educator, and principal of the firm Venturi, Scott Brown and Associates in Philadelphia. Scott Brown and her husband and partner, Robert Venturi, are regarded as among the most influential architects of the twentieth century, both through their architecture and planning, and theoretical writing and teaching.
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.
Catherine Grace “Cady” Coleman is an American chemist, an engineer, a former United States Air Force colonel, and a retired NASA astronaut. She is a veteran of two Space Shuttle missions, and departed the International Space Station on May 23, 2011, as a crew member of Expedition 27 after logging 159 days in space.
Kazuyo Sejima is a Japanese architect and director of her own firm, Kazuyo Sejima & Associates. In 1995, she co-founded the firm SANAA . In 2010, Sejima was the second woman to receive the Pritzker Prize, which was awarded jointly with Nishizawa.
Samantha Cristoforetti, OMRI is an Italian European Space Agency astronaut, former Italian Air Force pilot and engineer. She holds the record for the longest uninterrupted spaceflight by a European astronaut , and she held the record for the longest single space flight by a woman until this was broken by Peggy Whitson in June 2017, and later by Christina Koch. She is also the first Italian woman in space. She took command of ISS Expedition 68 on 28 September 2022.
Jeanne Gang is an American architect and the founder and leader of Studio Gang , an architecture and urban design practice with offices in Chicago, New York, and San Francisco. Gang was first widely recognized for the Aqua Tower, the tallest woman-designed building in the world at the time of its completion. Aqua has since been surpassed by the nearby St. Regis Chicago, also of her design. Surface has called Gang one of Chicago’s most prominent architects of her generation, and her projects have been widely awarded.
Sunita Lyn Williams is an American astronaut and United States Navy officer who formerly held the records for most spacewalks by a woman and most spacewalk time for a woman . Williams was assigned to the International Space Station as a member of Expedition 14 and Expedition 15. In 2012, she served as a flight engineer on Expedition 32 and then commander of Expedition 33.
Christina Hammock Koch is an American engineer and NASA astronaut of the class of 2013. She received Bachelor of Science degrees in electrical engineering and physics and a Master of Science in electrical engineering at North Carolina State University. She also did advanced study while working at the Goddard Space Flight Center. Just before becoming an astronaut, she served at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration as station chief for American Samoa.
Kayla Jane Barron is an American submarine warfare officer, engineer and NASA astronaut. Barron was selected in June 2017 as a member of the NASA Astronaut Group 22, and later qualified as an astronaut in 2020. Barron took part in her first spaceflight, SpaceX Crew-3, as part of the crew of Expedition 66/67, which launched to the International Space Station on November 10, 2021. Before joining NASA, Barron was a submarine warfare officer and Flag Aide to the Superintendent at the Naval Academy.
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.
Leila Araghian is an Iranian architect. She has a master’s degree in architecture from the University of British Columbia, where she won the UBC Architecture Alumni Henry Elder Prize. She previously studied architecture in Iran, at Shahid Beheshti University.
Areas of Specialization: Machine Learning, Artifical Intelligence, Computational Biology Koller is a professor of computer science at Stanford University. She received her bachelor’s degree from Hebrew University of Jerusalem in 1985, and her Ph.D. from Stanford in 1993. Her former students include notable computer scientists Ben Tasker, Suchi Saria, and Eran Segal.
Koller’s work focuses on probabilistic reasoning, representation, and inference with graphical models like Bayes Nets. With Stanford colleague Andrew Ng, Koller launched the online learning platform Coursera in 2012, serving as co-CEO with Ng and later as the company’s president. Koller has also been active in using modern data science and statistics to improve areas of concern for us like health care. For instance, she has made important contributions to the development of techniques and software that help predict whether premature babies will have health problems. She has directed her focus on computer vision as well as computational biology toward the development of applications and systems that can help in decision making and diagnosis in medical and other industries.
Francine Marie Jeanne Houben is a Dutch architect. She graduated with cum laude honours from the Delft University of Technology. She is the founding partner and creative director of Mecanoo architecten, based in Delft, The Netherlands.
Dara Huang is an American architect. In 2013, she founded the architecture and design firm Design Haus Liberty. She is the co-founder of Vivahouse, which converts disused commercial properties into co-living spaces.
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.
Limor Fried is an American electrical engineer and owner of the electronics hobbyist company Adafruit Industries. She is influential in the open-source hardware community, having participated in the first Open Source Hardware Summit and the drafting of the Open Source Hardware definition, and is known by her moniker ladyada, an homage to Lady Ada Lovelace.