Every March, Women’s History Month celebrates women in American history. In A/E/C, we recall pioneers like Louise Blanchard Bethune, the first female AIA member, and Ebby Halliday of Dallas called the “First Lady of Real Estate.” But did you know Hedy Lamarr had a historic role in engineering in addition to starring on the silver screen? Women remain grossly underrepresented in architecture and related fields. But NCARB, the entity responsible for architectural licensure, reported in 2020 that “although women remain underrepresented in the profession, the gap continues to close.” Thanks to more awareness of equity in the workplace, an emphasis on mentoring, and increasingly exposing STEM fields to girls at younger ages, the statistics are inching up. As an all-female team of working moms, PRISM routinely recognizes the role women can play in having successful careers in A/E/C and maintaining a happily balanced home life. Keeping the memory of these trailblazing women alive is one small way we recognize Women’s History Month!
- Emily Roebling oversaw the completion of the Brooklyn Bridge after her husband, Chief Engineer Washington Roebling, died midway through construction. She was the first person to walk across the bridge, completed in 1883, and it bears a plaque honoring her and her husband.
- In 1898, Julia Morgan became the first woman admitted to the École de Beaux-Arts in Paris, and then returned to California and became the first licensed female architect in the state. She went on to design the Hearst Castle.
- Hedy Lamarr was posthumously inducted into the National Inventor’s Hall of Fame in 2014; she was the co-inventor of a device that helped facilitate the development of GPS, Bluetooth, and Wi-Fi technology.
- Janet Guthrie was not only the first woman to qualify for and compete in the Indy 500 and Daytona 500, but she was also an aerospace engineer who learned to fly as a teenager! Her research and development work was used in NASA’s Project Apollo work.
- Lillian Gilbreth was the first female member of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. She was an engineer at General Electric and worked on kitchen/household appliance design. She worked full-time and was a MOTHER OF 12 CHILDREN!