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.
Holding the distinction as the first woman dean of an engineering school in the United States, Eleanor Baum, Ph.D., F.SWE, attended high school in the 1950s and was actively discouraged from entering engineering. Told that no one would marry her if she became an engineer, and urged to become a math teacher instead, Dr. Baum ignored this advice — a conscious act of rebellion, she recalls. Rejected by one university because there were no women’s restrooms, she was accepted by the City College of New York and was the only female in her class. After graduating and working in the aerospace industry, she returned to school and discovered her love for teaching. Since receiving her Ph.D. from New York Polytechnic University in 1964, her career has remained in academia.
Among her “firsts” is appointment as dean of Pratt Institute’s School of Engineering in 1984, and in 1995, as the first female president of the American Society for Engineering Education. She was named dean of the Albert Nerken School of Engineering at Cooper Union in 1987, later becoming dean emeritus.
A strong advocate for women in the engineering profession, Dr. Baum is a SWE Fellow and received the Suzanne Jenniches Upward Mobility Award in 1990. She is also a fellow of ASEE, IEEE, and served as president of ABET, as well as on the National Science Foundation advisory board. Dr. Baum was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame in 2007.
And, despite all warnings to the contrary, Dr. Baum did marry. She and her husband, Paul, raised their children together, with the help of a nanny in the early years.
Who Are the Women Engineers We Should Know?
Quite 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.