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Celebrating International Women in Engineering

Jacqueline Black, Director of Strategic Alliances, US Jobs, Consumer Technology Association

2019 marks the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Women’s Engineering Society (WES) – the UK-based group behind International Women in Engineering Day that is celebrated in June annually. WES has a fascinating history dating back to World War I. With men on the front lines of battle, women were needed to step into the roles left vacant. In fact, more than one million women joined the British workforce between 1914 and 1918, including in engineering roles. But when the troops returned home, most women were forced out of their positions. WES was then founded in 1919 to “support and inspire women in engineering and technical professions.”

A hundred years later, women represent only 13% of engineers in the U.S. workforce. While this statistic reflects a layered and complex problem, one way businesses can help increase the prevalence of women in engineering and other STEM roles is by promoting the field of study to students through partnerships in their communities.

Qualcomm’s Thinkabit Lab collaborates with school districts, universities and other institutions to bring STEM engagement programs to their communities. The program allows students to explore engineering and STEM-related careers through free classes and summer camps.

Intel She Will Connect is connecting middle school girls with technology and hands-on STEM experiences. Through this program, Intel recently announced $1.25 million in grants to 11 projects that will help advance this mission through community partnerships across the country.

These programs are crucial to introduce young women to STEM early, and to keep them interested through high school and postsecondary education. According to the Consumer Technology Association’s (CTA) 2018 Future of Work Survey, nearly half of respondents say that engineering skills are in high demand at their company. Programs established by Qualcomm and Intel can help move the needle to increase women’s participation in the engineering workforce.

In honor of International Women in Engineering Day, let’s look at three highly accomplished engineers from tech companies who are paving the way for the next generation of engineers:

Ginni Rometty, Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer, IBM

Ginni Rometty started at IBM as a systems engineer in 1980, rising through the company to become their first woman CEO in 2012. Rometty is the driving force behind IBM’s leadership in AI and cloud computing and works to “ensure that new technologies are developed and deployed in a way that is ethical and enduring.”

Rometty and IBM demonstrate leadership building the future engineering pipeline through Pathways in Technology Early College High Schools (P-TECH). P-TECH schools span from ninth grade to two years after high school, enabling students to graduate with a high school diploma and an industry-recognized associates degree in engineering or other STEM fields.

Rometty has a BS in computer science and electrical engineering from Northwestern University.

Karen Casella, Director of Engineering, Netflix

At Netflix, Karen Casella and her team develop and write code that enhances the user experience for nearly 150 million subscribers worldwide. Her team spearheaded the download feature for Netflix programming which launched in 2016.

Casella has also put her engineering skills to work leading the creation of a mentoring app in association with the Tegan and Sara Foundation. The app helps "young queer women find mentors in their career area of interest."

Casella has a BS in Mechanical Engineering from Worcester Polytechnic Institute and has extensive experience in software engineering.

Caitlin Kalinowski, Head of Hardware, Oculus

Caitlin Kalinowski was a product designer on the team behind the first consumer virtual reality (VR) device, the Oculus Rift. Now, as director of hardware for all Oculus VR products, Kalinowski leads a team of diverse women engineers responsible for mechanical architecture and product design. 

Kalinowski currently sits on the board of Wogrammer, an organization dedicated to inspiring women to pursue STEM careers and breaking stereotypes by showcasing women in real engineering roles, “telling their stories, and celebrating their accomplishments.”

Kalinowski has a BS in Mechanical Engineering from Stanford.

Find out more about how CTA’s 21st Century Workforce Council is helping to create a high-skilled workforce.