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BEATRICE HICKS #WSW by Molly Hornbuckle, Marketing Communications Manager

'Women think that an engineer is a man in hip boots building a dam. They don't realize that 95 percent of engineering is done in a nice air-conditioned office.

Beatrice A. Hicks was a groundbreaker in the world of engineering. At a time when the field wasn’t “deemed appropriate” by society, she persisted and became the first woman engineer hired by Western Electric, and both the co-founder and first president of the Society of Women Engineers.

She was inspired to pursue engineering at a young age, telling her father that she, too, would become an engineer. Beatrice went on to earn degrees in chemical engineering, electrical engineering and physics, and even took over the family business - which further extended her engineering knowledge into environmental engineering.

In her time with Western Electric, Beatrice worked on long-distance telephone technology (a must in today’s world) and developed a crystal oscillator for aircraft communications. She also pioneered in the theoretical study, analysis, development and manufacturing of sensing devices, patented a molecular density scanner, and developed an industry model for quality control procedures.

One of the devices she developed was a gas density switch that would be used in the U.S. space program, including the Apollo moon landing missions.

While Beatrice achieved much during her lifetime and excelled in engineering, she recognized that many of the opportunities afforded to her came from the vacancies left by men during World War II. And she wanted to change that.

In 1950, she and other East Coast women began meeting to find ways to advance female engineers and increase female participation in engineering… bringing the Society of Women Engineers to fruition. As president, she toured the U.S. to champion the cause of female engineers through outreach and speaking events. The group has grown from 60 women to more than 16,000 women today.

- Molly Hornbuckle, Marketing Communications Manager

Is there a #WSW feature YOU want to see? Leave us a comment below!

Posted by Molly Hornbuckle at 4:30 PM
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