The Contributions and Stories of Women Engineers

Women engineers lead interesting and contributive lives. They may not be famous, but they’ve made an impact as engineers and as individuals, and more people should know of and be inspired by their individual stories.

With environmental concerns and the climate crisis top of mind, in this issue of SWE we turn our attention to two related areas — agriculture and food waste — and explore the ways that women are contributing to improved processes and both small- and large-scale solutions.

Current agricultural practices are said to account for one-third of greenhouse gas emissions, a problem compounded by a surge in the world’s population and substantial increases in the demand for food. By 2050, for example, the United Nations estimates that food production will need to increase by 70%. Our cover story, “Agriculture Turns to AI,” highlights women who are spearheading the use of technology to guide precision farming and regenerative practices, keys to sustainably meet current and future food needs.

Creating yet another conundrum, the United Nations estimates that one-third of all crops and food processed are thrown away each year. In the United States alone, 80 billion pounds of food enters landfills annually. Against this backdrop, our companion article, “Food Waste: A $2.8 Trillion Loss or Golden Opportunity?,” examines current efforts to either eliminate or upcycle waste. SWE interviewed women who are paving the way to new methods, research, and applications, who are also leading calls for additional research to develop creative, science-based solutions.

Turning our attention to the engineering pipeline, our feature “Mapping Gender Balance in STEM Internationally” discusses the global research conducted through Gender Scan, a biennial survey that provides facts and figures on gender balance in STEM from education to employment. Here, we focused on one component of the survey: the results comparing the experiences of women engineering students in North America with counterparts in Europe. The study addressed barriers to STEM studies, key influencers, and access to technology.

The importance of individual stories

Each spring, we announce a new class of Women Engineers You Should Know. Given the overwhelming number of nominees, this year we increased the class size from 10 to 15. With so many fascinating stories to choose from, illustrating different educational and career paths, diverse personal backgrounds, and unique contributions to the profession and community, it was quite challenging to select the final 15.

Our premise is simple: Women engineers lead interesting and contributive lives. They may not be famous, but they’ve made an impact as engineers and as individuals, and more people should know of and be inspired by their individual stories. Through this program, we recognize women engineers who might otherwise go unnoticed.

To get the word out, the SWE editorial board’s annual call for nominations begins in the late fall (the link to the nomination form will be announced with the next cycle) and closes at the end of January. A subteam from the editorial board evaluates the nominations — a process that takes considerable time and energy. Impressed by the depth and breadth of all the nominees’ experiences and contributions, we are both proud to announce the women selected for this year’s group, and gratified by the number of responses, proving that women engineers are doing wonderful things.

Anne Perusek
Director of Editorial & Publications
(she, her, hers)

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