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20 Exceptional Women in Robotics and Automation listed by SME

by Marco van der Hoeven

SME has named Twenty women making their mark in robotics & automation. The international group of remarkable women on the list  represent a comprehensive cross section of technologies in robotics and automation. The list was developed by U.S.-based SME in consultation with several leaders across the robotics and automation industries. SME is a nonprofit association of professionals, educators and students committed to promoting and supporting the manufacturing industry.

The women on the list are:

  • Jade Le Maître, Emerging Technologies Leader CGI
  • Nuzha Yakoob, Head of Technology & Innovation Festo
  • Roberta Nelson Shea, Global Technical Compliance Officer Universal Robots
  • Gillan Hawkes, VP of Product & Analytics 6 River Systems
  • Tessa Lau, CEO Dusty Robotics
  • Melonee Wise, CEO Fetch Robotics
  • Lisa Masciantonio, Chief Workforce Officer Advanced Robotics for Manufacturing (ARM) Institute
  • Marie-Christine Caron, Senior Engineering Section Manager GE Aviation (Global Robotics and Automation R&D Center)
  • Fritzi Moneza, Senior Principal Manufacturing Engineer, Advanced Automation Northrop Grumman
  • Sue Keay, CEO Queensland AI Hub
  • Susanne Lauda, Director, Global Advanced Manufacturing Technology AGCO
  • Helen Greiner, CEO Tertill
  • Helena Samsioe, CEO and Founder GLOBHE (Global Health)
  • Amy Elliott, Research Scientist Oak Ridge National Laboratory
  • Rosa Ciprian, Senior Electrical Engineer Lead Alert Innovation
  • Elena Messina, Group Leader, Manipulation & Mobility Systems NIST
  • Christine Spiten, Co-founder Blueye Robotics
  • Nicole Renee Williams, Thermoplastic Composite Materials and Process Manager The Boeing Co.
  • Cynthia Breazeal, Professor and Associate Director MIT Media Lab
  • Leah Curry, President Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Indiana


According to Robert Willig, executive director and CEO of SME, the industry still has miles to go in balancing diversity in manufacturing. “Those with the knowledge, creativity and drive to raise the level of technology and innovation can achieve success,” he says. “This group of women has not only the vision to create new products – and in some cases even new product categories – they also have the technological background and the business acumen to bring them to market and a willingness to teach others the processes necessary to make the next generations successful in our industry.”

Male-dominated industry

Among others, the list highlights the work of Roberta Nelson Shea, who joined Universal Robots (UR) as the company’s Global Technical Compliance Officer (GTCO) in 2016. She has long blazed the trail for women in a traditionally male-dominated industry; Nelson Shea was the first woman to serve on the Board of Directors of Robotic Industries Association (RIA) where she also participates in mentoring diversity efforts to get women more involved and recognized.

“From an engineering and management standpoint, women were and continue to be in the minority in the robotics industry. Fortunately, we are starting to see this slowly changing,” she says. “Since joining UR, I see more female engineers in software development, coding and user interface than I saw before.”

Ugly stepchild

“I’m deeply honored to receive this recognition from SME. Robotics safety might be regarded as sort of the ugly stepchild in the industrial automation industry. It was not as sexy or jazzy as artificial intelligence, neural networks and other developing technologies within robotics,” she says. “UR changed this. When you have humans and robots working within the same space instead of separated– as was the case with traditional industrial robot applications – safety becomes much more complex and the nuances are very different. Safety now might mean that the robot slows or changes position compared to simply stopping. My overall mission is to demystify robotic safety and make sure the deployment barriers are broken down. I am an advocate of global harmonization of safety requirements to reduce costs of designs, manufacturing, and compliance.”


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