Video: 'Big Old Male Syndrome' No Impediment to Nancy Fitzroy

January 2014

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Prior to a successful technology career at General Electric and election in 1986 as the first female president of ASME, Nancy D. Fitzroy confronted personal doubts about the prospects for employment and career success in the male-dominated field of engineering. Despite a high aptitude for math in high school, Fitzroy was reluctant to take a career track in engineering because of the obstacles and prejudices she envisioned.

"It turns out there wasn't any place where a girl could study engineering," said Fitzroy in an oral history furnished to the ASME History and Heritage Committee in November 1998. So frustrated was Fitzroy with the college application process, that she considered gravitating to the field of chemistry because "there were plenty of woman chemist bottle washers, so I could at least work."

Nancy Fitzroy was not to wash bottles. She would study engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and graduate in 1949, before embarking on a 37-year career at GE, where she worked on research programs in gas turbines, space vehicles, and nuclear reactors. At ASME, Fitzroy was a leading influence in the creation of the Society's Board on Minorities and Women and crusader for engineering workforce diversity.

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