Each February the US observes Black History Month, an opportunity to recognize the central role of Black individuals in US history, culture, and society. We wanted to highlight a few incredible women who have made significant contributions and advancements in all realms of science, engineering, and technology. We also encourage you to do your own research and learn more about someone who inspires you. To connect with a broader community of Black engineers, also check out our peer organization, the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE). Engineering societies are a fantastic was to connect with individuals from all different backgrounds and advance yourself academically, professionally, and personally (and you can be a member of as many as you desire!).
Malika Grayson, Ph.D.
Cornell University, Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering
Application Portfolio Manager, Northrop Grumman
Dr. Malika Grayson grew up on the island of Trinidad and Tobago and came to the US to pursue her undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering. Malika is the second Black woman to have graduated with her Ph.D. from the Cornell University mechanical engineering department with her research focusing on technology used to harvest wind energy. Malika has gone on to have a successful career in several roles at Northrop Grumman, a global aerospace and defense technology company. In addition to her prosperous engineering career, Malika is also the author of Hooded: A Black Girl’s Guide to the Ph.D. and the founder of STEMINIST Empowered LLC. Malika is passionate about supporting minority women interested in pursuing graduate education by sharing her story and providing resources, mentorship, and tips. Learn more about Malika and her outreach at her website.
Christine Darden, D.Sc
The George Washington University, D.Sc in Mechanical Engineering
Retired Aerospace Engineer, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)
Born in 1942, Christine Darden’s technical abilities were evident from an early age, and her parents always encouraged her to continue to aim higher with her educational aspirations. Christine attended Hampton University where she earned her undergraduate degree in mathematics. She went on to earn her M.S. in applied mathematics from Virginia State College and was hired as a data analyst at Langley Research Center, the same NASA site where the women of Hidden Figures worked. Christine was promoted to the role of aerospace engineer and eventually led the development of the sonic booms research program. She has contributed to over 50 publications and held numerous highly influential technical leadership positions within NASA, becoming the first black woman at the Langley Research Center to become part of the top rank in federal civil service. You can learn more about Christine Darden and watch an oral history interview here.
Vanderbilt University, B.S. in Electrical Engineering
Founder and CEO, Black Girls Code
When Kimberly Bryant began her engineering education in 1985, the programming languages available and computers used look very different than they do now. Kimberly recalls often feeling “culturally isolated” throughout school, as the vast majority of her peers were white men. When Kimberly’s own daughter expressed interest in computer science and Kimberly struggled to find a coding course that catered to her daughter’s interests and personality, she decided to take matters into her own hands. After over 25 years as a successful technical leader in the pharmaceutical industry, in 2011 Kimberly founded Black Girls Code, a non-profit devoted to providing young girls of color with the opportunity to learn more about programming and technology. Kimberly is passionate about ensuring that the next generation of coders is more diverse and inclusive than previous generations. She has received national recognition for her work and continues to inspire many through her social entrepreneurship. Find out more about Kimberly and Black Girls Code!
- America’s History of Enslavement and Racism
- A Day in the Life of Architectural Engineer Hailey B. Ihlow
- President’s Note: Keeping Diversity Top of Mind