Unstoppable: Tech Women Are Changing the Game

By Stacy Braukman | Published March 26, 2018

For much of its history, from laboratories to lecture halls, Georgia Tech was seen as a place where women were scarce and their contributions little known. How times have changed.

Why Choose Tech?

Georgia Tech is building a reputation for launching women’s careers, and the past decade has seen a steady increase in the number of women applicants and students here.

At Tech, women have access to the extraordinary opportunities that a Top 10 public university — and one that happens to be among the best technological research universities in the world — provides. From international research trips or mentoring girls in STEM, to working with exceptional faculty and gaining insights from accomplished alumni, women undergraduates are making the most of what Georgia Tech has to offer.

In particular, women who pursue engineering degrees here have access to infrastructure that can enhance their academic experience. Women in Engineering is dedicated to recruiting and retaining the best and brightest female students into engineering majors at Tech, and the Center for the Study of Women, Science, and Technology serves the same function for women students and faculty in STEM fields.

Women on the Rise

We're a long way past "the ratio." Since 2010, the share of women in the freshman class has grown from 33 percent to 43 percent, and overall enrollment of female students (both graduate and undergraduate) has grown to an all-time high of 9,077.

Chart: Total Enrollment of Women
Chart: Enrollment of Women Freshmen

Source: Leading Insight through Empowerment, lite.gatech.edu


No. 1 for Women in Engineering

Georgia Tech is also the top school for women in engineering: The College of Engineering awards more engineering degrees to women than any other university in the nation.

Chart: Women as a proportion of engineering students

Source: Leading Insight through Empowerment, lite.gatech.edu

Achieving and Inspiring

Here are stories from the recent past of some of the unstoppable Tech women whose efforts in the classroom, the boardroom, the lab, and the real world have led to scientific breakthroughs, technological advances, design innovations, and a whole host of noteworthy achievements. They are only a small sampling of the success stories that happen every day at Georgia Tech — on this campus and around the globe.


A group photo of eight members of the LIGO team, four of them women, at the Einstein statue

Proving Einstein Right

In 2015, a century after Albert Einstein predicted the existence of gravitational waves in his theory of relativity, an international team of researchers — including Georgia Tech faculty and students — observed a gravitational wave for the first time ever. Since then, there have been four additional detections and a Nobel Prize in Physics. Scientists from the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) had been searching for them for more than a decade.

Laura Cadonati, associate professor in the School of Physics, is the deputy spokesperson for the LIGO Scientific Collaboration, where she oversees a number of divisions, including data analysis and astrophysics.

Other Tech women researchers on the project are Professor Deirdre Shoemaker, postdoctoral researcher Karelle Siellez, graduate student Erika Cowan, and undergraduates Adia Cheng and Kate Napier.


Suzanne Shank at a lectern in a classroom

From Engineering to Wall Street

Suzanne Shank graduated from Georgia Tech in 1983 with a degree in civil engineering but ended up as one of the most powerful women on Wall Street. The journey isn't as unusual as it might seem. Growing up in Savannah, she learned from her parents the value of hard work and aiming high.

Shank earned an MBA from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. Her career in finance began at a small firm, but within a short time she was recruited to start a new municipal bond firm and act as CEO.

Today, still at the helm of that company, Shank is the only African-American woman CEO on Wall Street and one of the most powerful women in business. In 2017, she returned to campus to give a lecture in the Kenneth Hyatt Distinguished Alumni Leadership Speaker Series.


Stempower volunteers teaching several elementary school kids in a hands-on setting

STEM Is for Girls  

Stempower is a global nonprofit STEM mentorship program for 10- to 12-year-old girls. Georgia Tech undergraduate Kaitlin Rizk, an industrial and systems engineering major, is a co-founder and CEO.

This groundbreaking program has provided hundreds of girls with access to learning skills such as making circuits and coding. And it has provided women role models. The Tech undergraduate Stempower team is passionate about breaking down the barriers that keep women and girls from success, and about increasing female representation in STEM at Georgia Tech. 

Thanks to a partnership with the World Association of Girl Scouts and Girl Guides, Stempower now has chapters in Uganda and Kenya, and the group hopes to continue expanding. Closer to home, Rizk and her fellow co-founders are developing a model for students at other American universities to start their own Stempower chapters. 


Portrait of 10 robotics experts

Shrinking the Gender Gap

Since its inception, computer science has been a field dominated by men, though women have been inching toward greater representation in the 21st century. At Georgia Tech, almost a quarter of computer science students are women. And within the subfield of robotics they, along with women faculty members, are blazing new trails. 

At every level, from undergraduates to Ph.D. candidates to endowed professors, women in the Colleges of Computing and Engineering are designing, teaching, and utilizing robots in innovative ways — all of which seek to make a positive impact on the quality of life and improve the human condition.

Thanks to these pathbreaking researchers, robots are enhancing the arm and wrist mobility of stroke victims; improving autonomous vehicles; enabling children with autism to play video games; and playing a role in the search for life beyond Earth.

More remarkable women at Tech:

Portrait of Nylah Julmice with headphones

Nylah Julmice, an undergraduate in the College of Computing, learned to make music out of code.

Portrait of Dana Harari

Dana Harari, a Ph.D. candidate in the Scheller College of Business, is an expert on social behavior and the workplace.

Double portrait of Pearl Alexander and Julie Ancis

Pearl Alexander and Julie Ancis are the masterminds behind Leading Women @ Tech, which engages women leaders.

Portrait of Alenka Zajic

Alenka Zajic, an assistant professor in the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering, detects malware in devices.

Two women at Freshman Convocation wearing "Creating the Next" T-shirts

Come to Tech and Thrive

Georgia Tech is a great place for women, and it’s getting better every year. If you've been accepted, we want you here! Enroll today and see how far your Tech education can take you.