In the next year, the Society of Automotive Engineers Inc. will be much more active in trying to attract women and minorities to the male-dominated field of automotive engineering.
Rodica Baranescu, the first woman to be elected SAE president, has made that one of her priorities. She begins her one-year term March 9 during the SAE 2000 World Congress annual banquet in Detroit.
Baranescu, 60, also intends to diversify SAE leadership. In particular, she wants to entice young engineers to take on leadership roles in the global organization.
Baranescu has been chief engineer at International Truck & Engine Corp. in Chicago since 1980, the year she joined SAE. She was born in Romania and holds a doctorate in mechanical engineering from the Technical University of Bucharest. She taught there for 13 years before coming to the United States. She was chairman of the SAE Chicago section in 1994.
She will replace current SAE president Donald Ableson, 62.
'I'm the first woman president, and I'm very proud of it,' Baranescu said in an interview.
Of SAE's 80,000 members, only about 4.7 percent, or 3,800, are women.
'If you don't do something about it, and just wait and let it happen on its own, it will not happen very fast,' Baranescu said. 'We have to be proactive in this respect. It could be much better. We have made considerable progress, but I think we should be more proactive to stimulate more growth.'
Baranescu said she has seen the number of women engineers grow considerably within her own company during the past 20 years. Of the 331 degreed engineers in International's engine group, 13 percent, or 43, are female.
WOMEN IN SPOTLIGHT
Two SAE events will focus on women. Baranescu will moderate a panel of five current and past female executives from DaimlerChrysler, BMW North America, General Motors and Kautex Textron North America during a March 8 luncheon. The topic is 'New Business Systems for the Millennium.'
'These are role models, women who have made it in the industry,' Baranescu said.
On March 9, a luncheon panel will discuss 'The Role of Women in the Auto Industry.'
Baranescu said she will continue working on an existing SAE initiative - placing young, volunteer engineers in grade schools to talk with students and to help teachers develop projects so that students understand engineering better.
'We need to have more of these mentors in the classroom, and more women and minorities, so that kids see an example,' Baranescu said. 'If they like math and physics, they need to know it is all right to become an engineer, rather than say, a nurse or doctor.'
The mobility industry - land, sea, air and space - is short about 30,000 engineers in this country, she said.
'Somehow we have to convince children that they can do engineering and that there's great work and great rewards,' Baranescu said.
GOALS FOR SAE
Baranescu also wants the leadership of SAE to change to better mirror the interests and activities of the membership.
'More young people should be leaders of SAE,' she said. SAE needs more engineers in their 30s in leadership positions, she said.
Baranescu also plans to continue SAE efforts to expand globally, but not at the expense of good services, she said.
Another continuing goal is developing globally responsible standards and procedures.
'And where possible, develop harmonized standards worldwide,' Baranescu said.
But Baranescu said there is a great opportunity in developing harmonized standards for emerging technology.
'In many of those cases, we don't have standards, so there is an open, empty page,' she said.
Baranescu also wants SAE to become the provider of 'e-knowledge.'
SAE has been a disseminator of information to the automotive industry, she said. But it now is transitioning into a 'knowledge provider society' in which information is electronically stored, classified, codified and delivered in a way that meets specific customer needs, she said.
Members should get the information they need in a customized form, Baranescu said.