Who can carry on Jim Williams’ and Bob Pease’s work?
Steve Taranovich - June 12, 2012
Another Jim or Bob? Why not a Heather or a Bonnie? Let’s take a good look at some women in engineering who are capable of filling the void that these two icons left.
There are so many fantastic women engineers in electronics; I will only be giving you the following three examples of women whom I think could fill any technical shoes in our business---there are many more!
One of the problems involved in trying to get more women interested in engineering is overcoming the stereotype that this is a man’s job. We need to take steps as a society to dispel these myths and encourage young women to at least consider this noble profession. There are various ways to do this.
Take, for example, the IEEE Women in Engineering (WIE) which is the largest international professional organization dedicated to promoting women engineers and scientists.
The mission of IEEE WIE is to facilitate the recruitment and retention of women in technical disciplines globally.
IEEE WIE envisions a vibrant community of IEEE women and men collectively using their diverse talents to innovate for the benefit of humanity.
I spoke to Heather L. Robertson, Technology Director, Avnet Electronics Marketing, who has spent 13 years with Avnet and before that---20 years in custom IC design. Robertson is my first example as a candidate for the Williams/Pease-type roles.
She told me that she had recently attended TI FAE training and there were 3/100 women attendees there.
Robertson says that we are now at the point in our society where websites and social media are making the engineering career more visible to women.
The exact moment Robertson became an engineer was in the 8th grade when she viewed a vocational clip about the various engineering careers available.
Engineers “solve everyday problems”; we want to help people, comments Robertson. Women need to hear this message in online conferences, on Twitter and Facebook ads. These will all help spread the word about what we do in engineering, why we became engineers and promote this to women.
The next woman EE candidate, I know personally very well, since I worked with her at Burr-Brown and TI for many years. You’ve all read “Baker’s Best” column/blog and her many excellent technical articles---Bonnie Baker with Texas Instruments.
Bonnie is a prolific technical writer; the following is a sampling of her achievements.
During her career, Baker has written over 370 technical magazine articles, app notes, seminar sessions, data sheets, and a few patents. She also created “A Baker’s Dozen: Real Analog Solutions for the Digital Designer” book and co-authored two books with Bob Pease (“Circuit Design: Know it All” and “Analog Circuits: World Class Designs”).
Do you think that qualifies her? I do!
Finally, we have Theodora Saunders, a manager in the System Engineering branch at Sikorsky aircraft. Saunders belongs to the IEEE WIE and is a Life Member there.Saunders comments on why she became an engineer, “I liked math, and most importantly I loved the intellectual challenge of solving problems. Growing up in a small town in Greece in the 60’s I had no role models of women in engineering to follow. My parents, especially my father, and my teachers encouraged me to study engineering. Becoming an engineer is a journey not a destination for me. I owe my professional growth to my mentors who challenged me to work hard, and be the best I could be. My involvement with IEEE and other professional societies has helped me to stay current in my profession while meeting some very extraordinary people from all over the world.”
As for what advice she would give to young girls interested in engineering:
- Go after the opportunities to take as many advanced math and science courses in junior high and in high school.
- If you have difficulties early on, do not give up. Talk to your teachers, and to your counselors to get the help you need.
- Seek opportunities to participate in math and science team competitions.
- Talk to your local professional engineering societies such as IEEE.
- Do not let anyone tell you that you cannot be an engineer.
- If you really want to be an engineer you must stay focused, and work hard to achieve your goals.
- Remember becoming an engineer is a journey full of challenges but also may rewards. The choice is yours and you can make it happen.
So there you have a very small, but well qualified, sampling of WIE that can and do fill the bill as electronics engineers, while also being mentors.
Please give us your ideas and comments on this very important subject.