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Role Models In Engineering And Technology

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1999 Annual Conference


Charlotte, North Carolina

Publication Date

June 20, 1999

Start Date

June 20, 1999

End Date

June 23, 1999



Page Count


Page Numbers

4.454.1 - 4.454.9

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Paper Authors

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Nancy Wilson Head

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Julie A. Phillips

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Session 3592

Role Models in Engineering and Technology

Julie A. Phillips, Nancy Wilson Head Purdue University


“The telephone. The light bulb. The automobile? Quick. Name the inventors. Of course you can. How about the flat-bottomed bag, bulletproof vest, and Scotchgard? The dishwasher, the fire escape, AZT? Of course you can’t. Why? Because they were invented by women,” says Anne McDonald9.

Women have been making strides in engineering and technology for many years. This is apparent by the above mentioned inventions. However, women in the fields of engineering and technology could not have made these strides without working through the challenges they faced. In the past women were not encouraged to admit to their inventive or mechanical talents. According to McDonald, “rather than admit to such unladylike leanings, it was not unusual for women in the 1800’s to claim to be under the influence of spirits when defending their inventions.” 9 For example, Amanda Theodosia Jones told the world that her idea for vacuum canning came from her brother’s ghost that was instructing her from the grave, and not from any personal cleverness9. The ironic part of all of this is that being mechanically talented was not accepted, but receiving instructions from a ghost was.

This paper focuses on women who are currently in the fields of engineering and technology, and discusses their successes and their challenges. While the challenges women face today do not relate to “ghosts”, they still create roadblocks that women must recognize and overcome.


When young women are considering career choices, they sometimes have the false impression that women cannot advance in careers in engineering and technology as successfully as men can. These impressions may result from the lack of information about women who have been successful and how they succeeded. Literary research documents that women in all fields still encounter many challenges on their way to success. This fact may be even more true in the male dominated fields of engineering and technology. However, many women have overcome these challenges, and these women can serve as role models who are willing to share their secrets of success with other women.

Wilson Head, N., & Phillips, J. A. (1999, June), Role Models In Engineering And Technology Paper presented at 1999 Annual Conference, Charlotte, North Carolina.

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