Women engineers lead contributive, interesting, and fulfilling lives, giving to their profession and communities.
By Marsha Lynn Bragg, SWE Contributor
Women engineers continue to make important life-changing contributions to society. Many are subject matter experts who hold positions that reflect the breadth and depth of their work: data scientists, environmental engineers, entrepreneurs, engineering executives, senior technical fellows, research scientists, standards engineers.
They have learned how to navigate and thrive in a majority male terrain by embracing the challenge, driving their innovations, knowing their worth, and honing their skills. They also advocate and coach students and young women in preparation for positions in conventional and new technologies, in addition to having rich personal lives and family responsibilities. These women are multidimensional; they are engineers as well as daughters, sisters, friends, and, in many cases, wives and mothers.
To celebrate the contributions of women engineers, SWE Magazine posed a question to its membership: “Who are the women engineers we should know?” SWE sought to add names to its ongoing series begun in 2015, focusing on women engineers who may not be household names, yet are influencing their disciplines, workplaces, and beyond.
As with previous installments, paring to a final list was daunting, given the depth and breadth of the candidates. Our selections are not meant to be definitive.
Ana Paula Appel, Ph.D.
São Paulo, Brazil | IBM Client Engineering
Ana Paula Appel, Ph.D., serves as a senior data scientist and innovator for IBM Client Engineering, Brazil. In this role, she has helped health care agencies and banks develop novel solutions using data, cloud, and machine learning to improve business efficiency, performance, and growth. She has 24 patents granted by IBM in chatbot, artificial intelligence, graphs, and machine learning.
Dr. Appel finds data fascinating and enjoys the research aspect of her work, often referred to as data mining. Previously, she worked at IBM Research and was the first woman within IBM and in Brazil to earn a data scientist certification, plus levels two and three certification. The professional credential endorses IBM data scientists and gives them access to a larger community of scientists, who review work as part of the evaluation process. She holds a B.S. in computer science from Federal University of São Carlos, Brazil, and an M.S. and Ph.D. in computer science from the University of São Paulo at São Carlos, Brazil.
Before joining IBM Research, Dr. Appel worked in academia teaching data mining, database, and computer programming. She has maintained her connection to academia to study new models, conduct research, and publish.
Dr. Appel is a leader in the Latin American data science community, inspiring and mentoring women in Brazil who are interested in data science. In 2021, she served as a Women in Data Science (WiDS) ambassador from Stanford and collaborated on the WiDS workshop at The Web Conference, an annual, international event on the future directions of the World Wide Web, from 2017 to 2019.
Sreyoshi Bhaduri, Ph.D.
Alexandria, Virginia | Amazon
Sreyoshi Bhaduri, Ph.D., is a scientist at Amazon. As part of the People and Technology (PxT) team, her research helps drive data-informed decision-making to better employee journeys from onboarding to exit. Dr. Bhaduri recognizes the biases that researchers may bring to their codes and algorithms. She advocates for diverse teams and ethical mixed-methods augmented with artificial intelligence to uncover insights at scale about the workforce of today, while designing the future.
She is committed to advancing inclusion in engineering. In classrooms in India and the U.S., and while visiting Europe as a Global Perspectives Program Fellow, Dr. Bhaduri observed and was troubled by prevailing stereotypes (i.e., who enters and persists in engineering and what makes a good engineer) as well as the lack of gender and cultural diversity in engineering programs. These experiences led her to pursue a doctorate in engineering education.
During the onset of the global pandemic, her work leading Global People Research at McGraw Hill helped inform how to best support employees through the public health crisis. Her research findings, titled “Voice, Choice, and Care,” highlighted global employee needs and, supported by empathetic leaders at the organization, led to re-strategizing virtual mentorship connections, as well as offering flexible work hours and paid time off.
Dr. Bhaduri maintains close ties with academia, publishes widely, serves as a senator for the Society of Women Engineers, and volunteers as advisor to Sisters in STEM. On social media, she encourages the use of the hashtag #ThisIsWhatAnEngineerLooksLike to dispel stereotypes and highlight life experiences of women and nonbinary individuals in the engineering profession.
Michele DeCroix, Ph.D.
Los Alamos, New Mexico | Los Alamos National Laboratory
Michele DeCroix, Ph.D., has 30-plus years of experience in all aspects of engineering research and development through her work at Rocketdyne, Rockwell International and the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL). She recently joined Nevada National Security’s Global Security Directorate as an R&D leader. Dr. DeCroix holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in mechanical engineering from Bradley University and a doctorate in mechanical engineering from North Carolina State University.
Her research specialty is fluid dynamics in both experimental and computational studies conducted in academic, industrial, and national laboratory settings. Dr. DeCroix has been an R&D engineer in the Department of Energy and a federal program manager in the Department of Homeland Security and has collaborated with other national laboratories on programs critical to national security.
She has developed innovative programs to help women engineers advance their careers and heads the LANL Athena Engineering Scholars Program. Highly qualified women engineers are recruited and trained to be future leaders who will offer technical solutions to the LANL’s national security challenges. Athena provides financial assistance to help participants attain advanced degrees and professional development in engineering.
Dr. DeCroix also piloted the Atalanta Internship Program in 2021 open to regional middle and high school girls from mostly economically challenged communities. It is designed to introduce them to different careers in engineering and connect them to a network of LANL women engineers. These educational and professional development programs are considered the most pioneering women-in-engineering promotional activities in the Department of Energy’s 17 national laboratories.
Raleigh, North Carolina | Underwriters Laboratories
What do you do once you decide to study engineering but are unsure of the best career path? You might do what Denice Durrant did: study and learn it all. She holds a B.S. in textile engineering and materials science and engineering and an M.S. in materials sciences and engineering and chemical engineering from North Carolina State University. But she’s not done learning. Durrant is completing a doctorate from The George Washington University with the goal of applying systems engineering, machine learning, and statistical analysis in her work.
Durrant currently serves as standards engineering program manager with the Underwriters Laboratories Standards and Engagement organization. This nonprofit organization develops and publishes consensus standards that guide the safety, performance, and sustainability of new products and evolving technologies and services, delivering solutions that range from household appliances to smoke alarms, from batteries and building materials to cybersecurity and autonomous vehicles.
Her background in textiles, materials, and chemicals has allowed Durrant to take a multidisciplinary approach to engineering and safety science.
She is building a new technical arm within the Underwriters Laboratories Standards and Engagement organization that emphasizes the integration of science, research, and data into standards. Her approach is being implemented across the organization and is the first time these concepts are being translated into standards at the onset of development.
Durrant remembers well the sparse number of women, especially Black women, in her engineering classes and often gives talks and participates in K-12 and college outreach and recruitment programs to share the various career paths an engineering degree can provide. She volunteers in the Society of Women Engineers and the National Society of Black Engineers to raise awareness about STEM opportunities.
Liesl Folks, Ph.D.
Tucson, Arizona | The University of Arizona
Liesl Folks, Ph.D., is an internationally recognized expert in magnetic materials and devices, nanoscale metrology, and spin-electronic devices. A 2021 National Academy of Inventors Fellow, she holds 14 U.S. patents and has authored more than 60 peer-reviewed papers. She recently chaired the committee of the congressionally mandated Triennial Review of the National Nanotechnology Initiative.
Dr. Folks serves as senior vice president and provost for The University of Arizona. As the chief academic officer, she oversees all academic programs and units exclusive of the health sciences. This includes 16 colleges and 24 schools. She also is a professor in the department of electrical and computer engineering.
Previously, Dr. Folks was dean of the University at Buffalo School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, where she was known as a champion for women and underrepresented students in science and engineering degree programs. During her tenure, Dr. Folks created the Women in Science and Engineering program to attract and retain more women in STEM and was a principal investigator of The NAVIGATE Project, a case study program funded by the National Science Foundation to equip women with the skills to overcome barriers to their advancement in STEM disciplines.
Dr. Folks spent 16 years in research and development at IBM, Hitachi, and Western Digital before transitioning to academia. She earned an MBA from the Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management at Cornell University after completing both a Ph.D. and BSc. in physics at The University of Western Australia.
Queens, New York | Building Electrification Institute
New York City environmental engineer Cristina Garcia is doing her part to make engineering both appealing and accessible, particularly for the Latinx (a gender-neutral term Garcia prefers) community and people of color, who are often unaware of the multifarious careers and pathways the industry provides.
Garcia found her niche after watching “An Inconvenient Truth,” a documentary that explored the effects of global warming. She earned B.E. and M.S. degrees, both in earth systems science and environmental engineering, from The City College of New York.
Internships and an assistant engineer position with a construction company led her to the New York Mayor’s Office of Sustainability to serve as a policy advisor. Recognizing few New Yorkers of color held climate-related engineering positions, Garcia established an internship targeting students from the city’s public university system. About 30 interns per semester received placements in sustainable engineering, building development, and energy auditing.
Garcia, deputy director at the Building Electrification Institute, helps cities develop inclusive labor and workforce strategies to enable an equitable transition away from fossil fuels. To expose more Latinx students and young professionals to green careers, and to connect the few Latinx professionals in the space, she founded Latinxs in Sustainability, a group within Latino Verde.
Her endeavors have not gone unnoticed. Grist 50 named her to its 2021 Fixers, which cites emerging leaders who are creating climate change solutions in their communities. Garcia was also recognized by City & State’s New York City 40 Under 40 List as a rising star in city politics.
Morenci, Arizona | Sunflower Environmental Compliance Group LLC
Joyann P. Hernandez followed her passion for the environment based on her experience growing up in an area impacted by heavy industrial pollution and the negative effects this had on the health of community members. She earned a B.S. in engineering from Roger Williams University in Bristol, Rhode Island, and an MSc. in environmental sustainability from The University of Edinburgh in Scotland. She has held environmental engineering positions with Intel, Freeport-McMoRan, and Raytheon, sharpening her skills and expertise in environmental compliance and sustainability programs.
Aside from studies and work, Hernandez volunteered with many organizations, including the Tucson Children’s Museum, Casa de Maria Workers House, the American Cancer Society, and FIRST® LEGO® League events, among others. As a professional member of the Society of Women Engineers, Hernandez developed STEM kits for students in Phoenix and Tucson, organized STEM outreach events, and partnered with the Casa de los Niños crisis shelter to expose children to the wonders of science.
Seeking to make an immediate environmental impact, Hernandez established her own company. In 2020, during the global pandemic, she launched Sunflower Environmental Compliance Group LLC. Hernandez wants to reduce industrial pollution and is helping Fortune 500 companies create well-rounded compliance and interactive training programs. Ultimately, she aims to provide a safer, cleaner environment for future generations by committing to reduce companies’ impacts and giving back to children in need through monetary and physical donations. In addition, Hernandez is an instructor for Arizona State University’s Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering Polytechnic School for Professional Development, developing new seminar offerings and waterfalling her knowledge in environmental health and safety seminars.
Janice L. Karty, Ph.D.
St. Louis | The Boeing Company
Janice Karty, Ph.D., is an electrophysics engineer and scientist with The Boeing Company, an expert in the theory, analysis, and application of electromagnetics and signature control technology. She is also a senior technical fellow in Boeing’s Defense, Space & Security, representing high achievement for technical leadership. Dr. Karty is the first woman named to the position from the company’s St. Louis campus.
After receiving a B.S. from Washington University in St. Louis, Dr. Karty began her career in computational electromagnetics codes and analytic simulations at Rice University, where she earned master’s and doctorate degrees. She joined Boeing in 1985 and quickly progressed to technical lead and primary engineer of advanced prototype research projects such as unmanned aerial refueling aircraft for the U.S. Navy with seamless carrier deck integration to extend combat range of deployed fighters. Her achievements in the field of applying computational electromagnetics to commercial and military aircraft have contributed significantly to advancing engineering in electromagnetic effects.
In recent years, Dr. Karty shifted her focus to lightning strike protection for composite aircraft. She ensures the aircraft is protected from harm or damage. Her technical contributions have been pivotal in enhancing primary aircraft programs.
Meredith Kupinski, Ph.D.
Tucson, Arizona | The University of Arizona
Assistant Professor of Optical Sciences Meredith Kupinski, Ph.D., of The University of Arizona (UA) Wyant College of Optical Sciences, is regularly sought out for coaching by women STEM students and has made diversity and inclusion a core value of her research lab.
Dr. Kupinski has worked in many applications of scientific imaging, including the detection and characterization of abnormalities in medical imaging, estimating parameters to model the Earth’s atmosphere in remote sensing, and defect detection or materials classification in polarimetry. Dr. Kupinski’s current and prior work has focused on formulating tractable task-performance optimizations to design imaging systems, perform post-processing detection/classification tasks, and maximize parameter estimation accuracy.
She began her educational journey with a degree in photography from the San Francisco Art Institute and later earned a B.S. in imaging and photographic technologies from the Rochester Institute of Technology. She furthered her studies in optical sciences, earning an M.S. and a Ph.D. from UA. Thereafter, Dr. Kupinski joined UA as a graduate research associate in radiology and began to delve into applying advanced statistical methods to imaging problems.
Her varied projects include a National Science Foundation-funded Research Experiences for Teachers initiative that offers science teachers from Native American communities a summer sabbatical at UA. Dr. Kupinski is committed to expanding opportunities for Native American students to explore science and engineering fields. Identifying ways to leverage academic resources and support for underrepresented students are among her highest priorities.
San Francisco | Sunrun, TrueBlue
Sonita Lontoh is a public company board director, strategic advisor, and former Fortune 100 senior executive whose work focuses on the intersection of innovation, digital transformation, and environmental, social, and governance issues. She has developed expertise in the applications of new disruptive technologies such as industrial Internet of Things, 3D printing, digital manufacturing, AI and ML to create a new ecosystem that is more agile, resilient, and sustainable.
She currently serves as an independent board director of Sunrun, the largest U.S. consumer solar-and-battery-as-a-service company seeking solutions to combat climate change, and of TrueBlue, a global mission-driven provider of specialized workforce solutions for a range of industries. For these companies, Lontoh serves on the audit, compensation, nominating and governance, and innovation and technology committees. Previously, Lontoh served as a senior executive at HP, Siemens, Trilliant, and Pacific Gas and Electric Co.
Lontoh holds a B.S. in industrial engineering and operations research from the University of California, Berkeley; an MBA from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University; and a Master of Engineering in supply chain and logistics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
Throughout her more than 20-year career in technology, Lontoh has been a strong advocate for women and underrepresented communities in STEM through her involvement in the Society of Women Engineers, the U.S. State Department’s TechWomen, IEEE Women in Engineering, and IEEE Rising Stars.
She was invited as a speaker during President Barack Obama’s Global Entrepreneurship Summit. Lontoh was also recognized by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for her pioneering work with TechWomen, a government initiative to encourage more woman worldwide to pursue STEM careers. She is an inductee in the U.S. Asian Hall of Fame and the Women in Manufacturing Hall of Fame, and is a notable MIT alumna.
Innocentia Mahlangu, Pr.Eng.
Johannesburg | Hatch
Innocentia Mahlangu, Pr.Eng., founded SHEngineers to address the underrepresentation of women engineers. SHEngineers is a virtual mentorship network that connects experienced women engineers with young professionals and students at all levels of their engineering journeys. She mentors young women, publishes career-related articles, and engages in public speaking.
SHEngineers is an expression of Mahlangu’s commitment to improving gender diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in engineering. She advocates DEI with the South African Institution of Civil Engineering, serves on the executive board, and chairs the education and training committee. Mahlangu holds a B.S. and M.S. in civil engineering from the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg.
Mahlangu leverages her training and education at Hatch in her role as a social project manager and senior civil engineer in mining metals and infrastructure. She believes engineering and infrastructure can bolster social change and economic development. Hatch is a global employee-owned technology consulting firm specializing in metals, energy, infrastructure, digital, and investment markets.
Early in her career, Mahlangu handled feasibility studies for railway infrastructure projects before stepping up as one of a few South African women construction managers to oversee a multimillion-rand (South African currency) railway development. For her success, she received a Global Award of Recognition for construction excellence from Hatch Africa.
A celebrated thought leader in project management and DEI, Mahlangu is one of 200 Young South Africans named by Mail & Guardian in 2021 and a 2021 Project Management Institute Future 50 honoree for “tackling tough infrastructure projects with an eye toward social and economic change.”
Cairo, Egypt | IBM
Karen Medhat is a technical problem-solver. More precisely, she serves as an IBM solution architect, one who evaluates an organization’s business needs and determines how IT can position software, hardware, or infrastructure to help an organization thrive.
In her role as a solutions architect, Medhat managed the IBM Digital Nation Africa project (DNA), created to provide students, professionals, communities, and entrepreneurs with the knowledge and tools to innovate, design, and develop their own digital solutions or to prepare for jobs.
As the youngest IBM certified thought leader, she has used her IT skills to educate and help others develop theirs. Medhat has authored various courses for cloud and web apps development, which IBM makes available for free to teach IT professionals across MEA. Medhat serves on the IBM Academy of Technology, a select team of technical leaders whose members provide innovation and technical advice across all business units and across the globe.
She co-creates courses for the Internet of Things (IoT), cloud, and blockchain for the IBM Skills Academy, a cloud-based learning environment for students, faculty, and IT professionals worldwide that awards IBM certificates to those who pass the course’s exams. She reviews international journals and conferences in the fields of AI, security, and wireless networks.
Medhat holds BSc. and MSc. degrees with honors in computer engineering from the Faculty of Engineering, Cairo University. Her master’s thesis focused on security in wireless sensor networks using artificial intelligence, based on which she published a patent with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
Lisa B. Mowery, P.E.
Los Angeles | City of Los Angeles Sanitation and Environment
Civil engineer Lisa B. Mowery, P.E., is chief financial officer (CFO) for the City of Los Angeles Sanitation and Environment (LASAN), which provides solid resources, stormwater, and wastewater services to more than 4 million people. In this role, she manages LASAN’s financial programs that total more than $1.1 billion in annual revenues.
Mowery has been involved in issuing more than $4 billion in bonds for the city’s wastewater program. She specializes in rate setting and led an effort that resulted in the adoption of sustainable wastewater fees for a 10-year period to support the city’s wastewater system. The system comprises four water reclamation plants; 6,700 miles of sewers; and 44 pumping stations.
She also oversees LASAN’s administration programs and all human resources services covering 3,500-plus employees. Prior to becoming CFO, Mowery served as a project manager and environmental compliance specialist. She managed several public works infrastructure projects and devised solutions for complex environmental challenges.
Mowery holds a B.S. in civil engineering from Purdue University and is a registered civil engineer in California. Known as an inspiring mentor and speaker, Mowery created a professional and social networking group for women engineers and public servants called the Public Employees Registered Female Engineer Conversation and Tea Society, or “PERFECTS.” The group encourages and espouses the achievements of women in engineering professions.
Asha Parekh, Ph.D.
London, Ontario | Front Line Medical Technologies Inc.
Asha Parekh, Ph.D., is resolute about helping people and saving lives so much so that she co-founded a medical technology company, Front Line Medical Technologies Inc., in 2017. Based in London, Ontario, Front Line developed the COBRA-OS™, a novel aortic occlusion device that has an extremely low profile for temporary hemorrhage control and resuscitation. COBRA-OS (Control of Bleeding, Resuscitation, Arterial Occlusion System) is the first 4 French REBOA (resuscitative endovascular balloon occlusion of the aorta) device and the smallest of its kind on the market.
Health Canada and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the COBRA-OS for use in trauma and emergency situations until the patient can get definitive care. Dr. Parekh and her team are working to make this life-saving device accessible worldwide and to help grow the applicable markets for it, such as for the military, for women experiencing postpartum hemorrhage, and for non-traumatic cardiac arrest.
Dr. Parekh studied biomedical engineering at Western University in London, Ontario. She earned a Ph.D., followed by postdoctoral fellowships at Western University and the London Health Sciences Centre, which was just the beginning of several patents, publications, grants, and funding opportunities to come. The fellowships entailed engineering new medical devices for unmet medical needs, research in movement disorders, medical device assessment and enhancement, and patient assessment. Through these experiences to innovate, Dr. Parekh decided she wanted to do more meaningful work, and entrepreneurship offered a way to accomplish her goals. Her passion for medical device innovation continues to grow, and she is excited to help make a global impact with Front Line. She is also active in Women in Engineering and entrepreneurial communities and engages with various groups to discuss her views and experiences in these spaces.
Anindita (Anne) Partington
Ann Arbor, Michigan | University of Michigan MTRAC Innovation Hub for Advanced Transportation
Anne Partington is an innovative technology commercialization and DEI leader shaping the future of mobility. Partington is highly technical and strategic, while at the same time creating inclusive environments. She presents these qualities as the commercialization program director for the Michigan Translational Research and Commercialization (MTRAC) Innovation Hub for Advanced Transportation. She champions promising research teams and projects from across the state to advance and commercialize university research for market adoption that will contribute to future mobility and transportation technology needs. She leads multidisciplinary teams that work across academia, industry, and other key partners.
An automotive industry specialist, Partington developed her skills and expertise at FCA (Stellantis, formerly Fiat Chrysler) and General Motors in product development, program management, and global purchasing, including managing a $3.5 billion global purchasing team.
An advocate for a diverse and inclusive workforce, Partington is a member of the 2020-2021 NEW (Nonprofit Enterprise at Work) Washtenaw County Champions for Change cohort that works collaboratively to create a just and thriving community. She is president of the Women in Mobility Detroit networking group for professional women in industries that support the movement of people, goods, services, and data. She serves on the Advisory Board of CADIA – Center for Automotive Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, the Automotive Women’s Alliance Foundation Board of Directors, which provides scholarships to women seeking to enter or advance their careers in the automotive industry, as well as on several university-related diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives.
Partington holds a B.S. in mechanical engineering from the University of Michigan and an M.S. in management of technology from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.