Fostering the Future: International Women in Engineering Day


23 June of each year marks “International Women in Engineering Day”, which spotlights the innovative and impactful contributions women worldwide have made to the field of engineering.

Originally launched in 2014 by the United Kingdom-based Women’s Engineering Society and officially endorsed by The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in 2016, International Women in Engineering Day— now in its 11th year— is an opportunity to celebrate the outstanding accomplishments of women engineers around the globe. It’s also a time to help inspire a new generation of women to explore, join, and advance the field of engineering.

A Tradition of Outstanding Achievement

History shows that women have blazed dynamic new trails in the engineering realm for centuries.

Consider 19th century British mathematician Ada Lovelace, who has been called “the world’s first computer programmer,” America’s Beulah Henry, who invented the bobbinless lockstitch sewing machine in 1940, and actress Hedy Lamarr, who invented a remote-controlled communications system used by the U.S military during World War II. In 1919, Alice Parker designed and patented an intricate gas-powered home heating system. In 1921, electrical engineer Edith Clarke’s creation of the Clarke calculator helped solve electric power transmission problems.

There have been plenty of notable women engineers in the decades since as well. In the eastern hemisphere, India’s Rajeshwari Chatterjee revolutionized the fields of microwave and antenna engineering during her time as Chair of the Department of Communication Engineering at the Indian Institute of Sciences in Bangalore in the 1950s. And in 2020, Dr. Samia Subrina, a professor at the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology, was recognized for her significant contributions to the use of nanomaterials in the development of nanoscale electronic devices.

Closing the Gender Gap

While these women and other pioneers likely overcame many hurdles to achieve success in the historically male-dominated engineering industry, statistics confirm that women can still face obstacles in the field.

A recent Microsoft study found that without STEM mentors or role models or exposure to engaging and relatable STEM curriculums, girls can lose interest in STEM fields (or confidence in their ability to succeed in them) by age 15. The fallout of this reality can be felt in professional circles. While women now represent 52% of the college-educated workforce in the U.S., they account for just 15.6% of the nation’s engineering workforce, according to a recent study by Yale Scientific.

Furthermore, women who do pursue a career in engineering may be subject to gender disparities in salary and recognition. Statistics from the United Nations reveal that women researchers in STEM fields typically receive smaller research grants than their male colleagues. Additionally, the Society of Women Engineers’ Fast Facts 2023 study found that women engineers earn only 80-95% of what their male counterparts make across the broad range of engineering fields.

On a positive note, a Pew Research study revealed that gender pay gaps in engineering are slowly shrinking while representation by women in the engineering fields continues to grow. In the European Union, for example, the number of female scientists and engineers in the workforce rose by 370,000, or 6%, between 2020 and 2021. Nearly 7 million women now working in those fields represent 41% of the region’s total employment in science and engineering.

The bottom line? There’s much to celebrate when it comes to women in engineering, and no better time than the present to nurture our next generation of women engineers.

Engage in Continuing Education and Support Women in Engineering

Women play a leading role in many of the continuing education course opportunities offered by IEEE.

Following are three such course programs covering the fields of artificial intelligence (AI), technical and business English skills, and automotive cyber security. All three course programs contain content written by at least one female instructor.

AI Standards: Roadmap for Ethical and Responsible Digital Environments

With ethical transparency becoming increasingly critical to an organization’s success, this five-course program offers a comprehensive approach to creating ethical and responsible digital ecosystems. From addressing rigorous ethical standards related to Honesty & Impartiality, Protection & Security, and Safe Disclosure & Privacy, to incorporating practical considerations of environment, constraints, emergencies, context, and ability, this online training covers a great deal of important and relevant ground.

Among the lead instructors is Eleanor ‘Nell’ Watson, world renowned machine intelligence researcher and expert on emerging technologies such as machine vision and AI ethics. As IEEE Ethics Maestro, Chair of the IEEE Ethics Certification Program for Autonomous and Intelligent Systems (ECPAIS) Transparency Experts Focus Group, and Vice Chair of the P7001 Transparency of Autonomous Systems Committee on AI Ethics & Safety, Watson is engineering mechanisms into AI to help safeguard algorithmic trust. She holds the position of Executive Consultant on philosophical matters for Apple, as well as the President of EURAIO, the European Responsible Artificial Intelligence Office. She has served as Senior Scientific Advisor to The Future Society, and Senior Fellow to The Atlantic Council. In addition, she holds fellowships with the British Computing Society and Royal Statistical Society, among others, as well as being listed as an Icon by the Royal Academy of Engineering. Through her public speaking, Watson has inspired audiences to work towards a brighter future at venues such as The World Bank, The United Nations General Assembly, and The Royal Society.

Learn more about the course program>>

IEEE English for Technical Professionals

Improve your English skills through this online 14-course program, which benefits both professional engineers and technical professionals whose first language may not be English, as well as native speakers. This course program is an opportunity for anyone who would like to strengthen their English language skills through practical activities for reading, writing, and speaking. The course program offers training that is essential to daily success in communicating in all kinds of engineering fields.

Instructors include Traci Nathans-Kelly, Ph.D. and Susan Matson, M.S.

Dr. Nathans-Kelly currently serves as the Director of the Engineering Communications Program at Cornell University after joining the program in 2012 as faculty. Working with practicing professional engineers, technical experts, scientists, and related field experts for over 20 years, she’s dedicated to helping engineers strengthen their communication skills to become impactful contributors in their organizations. Some of the many organizations for which Dr. Nathans-Kelly has trained practicing engineers include AT&T, FedEx, GE, Google, IBM, Intel, John Deere, Lockheed Martin, Medtronic, Mercury Marine, Motorola, NASA, the US Department of Defense, and numerous others.

Fellow instructor Susan Matson, a graduate of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, MD, U.S. and American University in Washington, D.C., served as a Teaching Fellow for the U.S. Department of State in Eastern Europe as well as National Director of Curriculum for a multi-site Intensive English Program in the U.S. She’s instructed practicing professionals as well as university-bound non-native speakers of English in multiple settings. She currently evaluates virtual teaching sessions by English as a Second Language (ESL) teachers using remote technology.

Learn more about the course program>>

Automotive Cyber Security: Protecting the Vehicular Network

The continued growth of the market for intelligent and autonomous vehicles requires an evolving understanding of the safety and security of this connected technology. This five-course program covers automotive cyber security solutions and requirements for both intelligent vehicles as well as the infrastructure of intelligent transportation systems.

A contributing course instructor is Irish Singh, Ph.D., former Assistant Professor/Director of ReBlockchain Group at ECIS, Woosong University, South Korea and current faculty member at the Oregon Institute of Technology in Klamath Falls, Oregon, U.S. Dr. Singh holds an M.Tech. degree in Computer Science and Engineering from Birla Institute of Technology Mesra in Ranchi, India as well as a B.Tech. in Computer Science and Engineering from State (UP) Technical University in Lucknow, India. She has authored numerous peer-reviewed articles on such topics as cyber security, blockchain, adaptive security for cloud computing, applied data science, and cyber-physical systems. Her specialties include requirements engineering, cloud computing, self-adaptive security, blockchain technology, the Internet of Things, and embedded systems.

Learn more about the course program>>


About International Women in Engineering Day (INWED). Women’s Engineering Society.

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Arul, Jill. (23 June 2021). Meet The Women Changing the Face of Engineering. Asian Scientist.

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Fry, Richard, Kennedy, Brian, and Funk, Cary. (1 April 2021). STEM Jobs See Uneven Progress in Increasing Gender, Racial and Ethnic Diversity. Pew Research Center.

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