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Society of Women Engineers

Women Engineers You Should Know: Maria Klawe, Ph.D.

Women engineers make real change in the workplace and in our communities. We honor them in our SWE Magazine series “Women Engineers You Should Know.”

Published On: October 2017

This article is part of SWE Magazine’s Spring 2017 Issue. To view it on your mobile device, download the SWE Magazine app! Download it on the App Store or get it on Google Play.

MARIA KLAWE, PH.D.

Defying convention and expectations in more than one way, computer scientist Maria Klawe, Ph.D., is the first female president of Harvey Mudd College. She received both her Ph.D. and B.Sc. in mathematics from the University of Alberta, and established a successful career in academia long before she revealed another dimension of her being — that of an artist. After turning 40, Dr. Klawe decided it was time to bring her paintings out from hiding, noting that, “Engineering and science are creative disciplines. It shouldn’t be surprising that the creative energy, passion, and talent cross into other areas. I can’t imagine living without painting.”

A strong advocate for women in engineering and STEM professions, Dr. Klawe’s previous positions include dean of engineering and professor of computer science at Princeton University; dean of science at the University of British Columbia, as well as teaching and administrative positions there; and at IBM Research and the University of Toronto. She has made significant contributions to her field and toward increasing diversity in the profession.

Of the decision to conceal her artistic side, Dr. Klawe notes on the college website that: “As I became a professional mathematician and then a computer scientist, it became clear that also being an artist would diminish my credibility (already in question because of being female), so I kept my painting secret.”

Dr. Klawe’s paintings now appear on the Harvey Mudd College website, a level of visibility she believes helps to dispel myths about engineering and who can become an engineer.

Who Are the Women Engineers We Should Know?

women engineersQuite often, those who are behind the scenes and out of the limelight make real change in the workplace and in our communities. It is our intention to recognize such women and make their efforts better known in our SWE Magazine series “Women Engineers You Should Know.”

Casting a wide net, SWE Magazine staff and editorial board members seek contemporary women whose lives have embodied the Society’s mission to: “Stimulate women to achieve full potential in careers as engineers and leaders, expand the image of the engineering profession as a positive force for improving the quality of life, and demonstrate the value of diversity.”

Through a variety of means, including fielding suggestions and conducting archival research, we will examine the stories of many women who have made a difference in these critical areas. Determining a final list is a daunting challenge, and our selections are in no way meant to be definitive. While some names you may recognize, many are not recognizable to most people. From a variety of perspectives, in different environments and moments in time, these women represent “ordinary” when doing “extraordinary” things. In saluting them, we are saluting all the women, known and unknown, past and present, who have advanced our mission.

Nominate women engineers to know for our next article. The deadline for submission of names is December 15, 2017. Submit nominations here.

With each submission, please include the following.

  • Nominee info: name, why her, links supporting your nomination, areas of expertise, where is she located
  • Nominator info: name, email, how you know the nominee

Thanks for your help, and look for the Spring 2018 issue of SWE Magazine.

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