Florence Fogler, Edna Best and the Slide Rule Sisters: No one’s made a movie about these historical figures, but that doesn’t make their contributions to science any less significant.

I recently learned a great deal about these pioneers of power and aeronautical engineering while reporting a story about some of today’s movers and shakers in technology. A few tidbits:

  • Florence Fogler, who in 1923 was figuring out how to get more power out of coal, left the workforce for 16 years to raise kids. She returned 16 years later to finish out a lengthy and accomplished career at GE.
  • Edna Best was an MIT chemistry grad at GE. She later moved to Canada, where she became a feminist leader and social activist.
  • The Slide Rule Sisters were instrumental in major advances in supersonic jet engine design. At the time, they were making $8,000 to $10,000 a year, equivalent to about $66,000 to $82,000 today, according to a 1956 profile of them in the Cincinnati Post.  “It doesn’t hurt a gal’s femininity to ride to her man’s job in a baby blue convertible she’s paid for herself,” one of them quipped.

In 2017, it’s no longer breaking news to find women in technical roles, but they’re still in the minority. At GE, which today announced its commitment to bridging the gender gap, many women occupy positions that are helping shape the future of power, health care and digital technology. What I found so remarkable about these female leaders, beyond their unmistakable intellect, was their energy, optimism and initiative. No whining, no excuse-making — they’re just charging ahead, letting their work speak for them. I admire that spirit.

If you want to learn more about them, see my story on GE Reports:

The Slide Rule Sisters Would Be Proud: GE’s Female Engineers Talk About Changing The Gender Ratio In The Workplace