Celebrating Women in Energy

From engineers and researchers to policymakers and entrepreneurs, these trailblazing women are at the center of a movements towards a more sustainable and inclusive energy future. Women bring diverse perspectives and ideas to the forefront. We want to celebrate women who are breaking barriers and transforming energy. Below are a few women who were innovators, leaders and who inspired the next generation of women to pursue their passion for energy.

Hazel O’Leary, born in 1937 in Newport News, Virginia, had a respected career as a lawyer, public servant and university administrator. She graduated from Fisk University in 1959 and earned a Juris Doctorate from Rutgers Law School in 1966. O’Leary served in various roles, including as an Assistant Attorney General and Assistant Prosecutor in New Jersey. She was appointed to the Federal Energy Administration under President Gerald Ford and later to the U.S. Department of Energy under President Jimmy Carter in 1977. O’Leary made history in 1933 as the first woman and African American to serve as the U.S. Secretary of Energy during the Clinton Administration. In her four-year tenure, she implemented a robust cleanup program, advocated for energy efficiency and renewable energy, and played a key role in ending nuclear testing in the United States. After her term as Energy Secretary, O’Leary became the 14th President of Fisk University.

Edith Clarke (1883-1959) was a pioneering figure in the field of electrical engineering. Born in Maryland, she graduated from Vassar College with honors in 1908, subsequently teaching mathematics before entering the civil engineering program at the University of Wisconsin in 1911. Clarke’s career took a significant turn when she joined AT&T as a “Computer Assistant,” eventually training and leading a group of human computers. She graduated from MIT with a MSc. Degree, becoming the first women to receive such degree from the department. Clarke patented a groundbreaking “graphical calculator” in 1921, revolutionizing power transmission solutions. In 1926 she became the first women to present a paper to the American Institute of Electrical Engineers. Throughout her career, Clarke authored influential paper on power distribution, secured two patents in electrical power transmission, and became the first female electrical engineering professor in the U.S. at the University of Texas, Austin, in 1947. She received a 1954 Lifetime Achievement Award from the Society of Women Engineers and retired in 1956.

Dr. Lei Cheng is a chemist and energy storage researcher for next-generation batteries at Argonne National laboratory and JCESR. She pioneered the application of high throughout computing to calculate properties of organic molecules and liquid electrolytes, contributing to the Electrolyte Genome database, facilitating the identification of molecules for advanced batteries. This database aids in identifying molecules suitable for advanced batteries like flow batteries. Her research focuses on groundbreaking discoveries in solvation phenomena in electrolytes, innovations in lithium air battery concepts, and advancements in high energy density lithium-sulfur batteries. Recognized for her leadership, Dr. Cheng received the Midwest Energy News’ 40 under 40 award in 2018 for her contributions to the clean energy economy in the united states. Dr. Cheng also continues to engage with the next generation of scientist to inspire and engage them.

Let’s acknowledge their contributions, celebrate one another, and pave the way for a more inclusive future.

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