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Celebrating Women in Engineering: From an Early Interest to Chief Engineer


While women make up nearly half the workforce in the U.S., they only comprise approximately 27% of STEM workers1. With STEM occupations accounting for nearly 7% of our country’s jobs1, the industry is expected to grow by 11% over the next 10 years – that’s 3% higher than projected growth for other industries2. This means adding approximately 1,000,000 new positions – a movement that women are expected to play an increasing role in.

Maria Athanassiu

For QinetiQ US Principal Systems Engineer Maria Athanassiu, STEM pursuits have always played a large role in her academic and career pursuits.

My father was a mechanical engineer, and he always encouraged me to take classes and engage in extracurricular activities that furthered my natural interest in math and science,” Maria said.

Maria’s father worked for QinetiQ US legacy company Foster-Miller, and his role there not only sparked Maria’s interest in engineering, but also introduced her to the field of robotic science. She went on to pursue undergraduate and graduate degrees in electrical engineering and started with QinetiQ as an intern after her first year of college.

In my class of approximately 80 students, maybe five to six of those were women,” said Maria. “Coming to work for QinetiQ as a student I never felt any type of stigma around being a woman engineer, though. I had several intelligent, patient, and inventive role models here to guide me through the ropes of robotics programs. I thought, ‘I get to actually build robots – how cool is that?’”

Maria has been with QinetiQ for over ten years after her initial intern experience and has continued to grow in her career. She has worked across various programs in testing and operations, and currently serves as the Chief Engineer for a large vehicle robotics program. She is also pursuing an additional degree in systems engineering.

Engineering is just as much art as it is science,” Maria said. “I learn by doing, and QinetiQ has offered me multiple opportunities to not only pursue my interests, but to immerse myself in programs and projects.

If you are a woman looking to pursue a STEM career my advice is to be confident,” she added. “I have always wanted to have a career where I am able to help people and make their lives easier, better, and safer – robotics has allowed me to do that in an environment where I can be innovative and where my voice is heard.

Women represented only about a quarter of computer workers and 15% of those in engineering occupations1.

At QinetiQ, our smaller engineering teams mean that our personnel are exposed to a broad spectrum of engineering disciplines.

The work here keeps you engaged and interested,” said Maria. “QinetiQ is a great place to start and continue a career. There is an air of mentorship and guidance, and plenty of opportunities to learn and grow.

  1. Women Making Gains in STEM Occupations but Still Underrepresented
  2. 2021 STEM Job Growth Index