10 Women Who Broke New Ground in Engineering

Beatrice A. Hicks

Many women who broke new ground in engineering excelled in more than one field of engineering, and Beatrice Hicks (1919-1979) is among them. She started by getting her bachelor's degree in chemical engineering in 1939, but went on to join Western Electric, part of Bell Telephone, and helped develop new technologies for aerospace communications, as well as telephones.

Hicks also took courses in electrical engineering at Columbia University during this time and earned a master's degree in physics from Stevens Institute of Technology in 1949.

When her father died, Hicks took over the family business and engineered new technology for heating and cooling systems, which extended her experience into environmental engineering.

Although Hicks achieved a great deal in her lifetime and excelled in several fields of engineering, she recognized that her opportunities as a woman came in part due to the job openings created when men left to serve in World War II and in joining a family business where she could use her technology skills. Her commitment to opening up the field for other women led her to co-found the Society of Women Engineers in 1950, an organization with members across the U.S. and around the world today [source: IEEE].