Meet the world’s most influential female engineers


MIT engineering professor Dr Barbara Liskov has been ranked first in a new release identifying the world’s most influential female engineers. The list comes from Academic Influence, the college ranking system that uses artificial intelligence to search massive databases and measure the impact of individuals’ work in various fields.

Leveraging machine learning technology developed with funding from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, Academic Influence searches open source data from two sources – Wikipedia and CrossRef – for articles, chapters, books, and citations at people from all over the world.

Collectively, these databases contain billions of continuously updated data points on the accomplishments of millions of individuals. But the method is more than just a popularity contest with the individuals who get the most public mentions. It focuses on the intersection mentions of names and mentions of disciplines so that individuals are only credited with “hits” when their names also intersect with mentions of professional fields in which they excel. When combined, these intersectional mentions constitute a person’s influence score. (More details on the ranking methodology can be found here.)

On June 23, International Day of Women in Engineering 2021, an annual recognition hosted by the Women’s Engineering Society, Academic Influence announced its compilation of the 35 Most Impactful Women in Engineering. Here is some basic information about them.

the top 10 women on the list, in order, were:

Barbara Liskov, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Ruzena Bajcsy, University of California, Berkeley

Dina Katabi, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Diane Greene, American entrepreneur

Jennifer Widom, Stanford University

Barbara Oakley, University of Oakland

Mae C. Jemison, physician, former astronaut and the first black woman to travel to space

Adah Almutairi, University of California, Davis

Manuela M. Veloso, Carnegie Mellon University

Daniela L. Rus, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Of the 35, nearly three-quarters (26) of women were employed in America, whether in academic institutions, companies or as entrepreneurs. Among universities, MIT tops the list with four of the women holding positions there (Dina Katabi, Barbara Liskov, Dava Newman and Daniela Rus).

Two of the women – Barbara Oakley and Jennifer Widom – were pioneers in the development of Massive Open Online Courses, or MOOCs, the breakthrough in online education that has given millions of students affordable access to a wide range of higher education content.

Influencers represent the full range of engineering sub-disciplines, including computer science, mechanical engineering, materials science, electrical engineering, chemical engineering, and biomedical specialties.

Several were CEOs of large tech companies, like Ursula Burns, the former CEO of Xerox; Anousheh Ansari, who currently runs Prodea Systems, before being co-founder and CEO of Telecom Technologies; Diane Greene, who was CEO of Google Cloud and founder of several technology companies; and Lisa Su, President and CEO of Advanced Micro Devices.

They include very prestigious award winners such as Frances Arnold of Cal Tech (Nobel Prize in Chemistry), Barbara Liskov (Turing Prize) and Dina Katabi (named MacArthur Fellow and winner of the ACM Prize in Computer Science). Many have been elected members of the more elite national academies such as the National Academy of Engineering, the National Academy of Sciences, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

A number of influencers have led academic institutions, led leading nonprofits, or led federal agencies. For example, Gilda Barabino is president of the Olin College of Engineering, where she is also a professor of biomedical and chemical engineering. Elizabeth Cannon is the past president of the University of Calgary.

Wanda Austin was CEO of The Aerospace Corporation. Arati Prabhakar headed two major government agencies – DARPA, the United States Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, and NIST, the National Institute of Standards and Technology. Appointed by President Barack Obama, Dava Newman was NASA’s deputy administrator.

While many of the people on the list have helped pave the way for women to enter and thrive in engineering and other STEM fields, one in particular deserves special mention for her work in this field. This is Dawn Bonfield, from Aston University in Birmingham, England. Bonfield is the founder and director of Towards Vision, a company that works for greater diversity and inclusion in engineering. She was also president of the Women’s Engineering Society.

Commenting on the new list, Jed Macosko, president of Academic Influence and professor of physics at the University of Wake Forest, said, “Engineering has a reputation for being a predominantly male profession. We want to set the record straight and let more people know that women engineers are not only growing in number, but are also moving the field forward in new and creative ways. They bring innovative thinking and bold solutions that improve their profession, and more people need to know who they are and understand why they are at the forefront of the new era of engineering. “


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