Given her recent trips to Europe, China, India and across the U.S., it's not hard to understand why outgoing Society of Automotive Engineers president Rodica A. Baranescu says globalization was one area of focus during her tenure. SAE's first female chief spent the better part of the past year canvassing the globe in an effort to increase the organization's worldwide network of mobility engineers.
In addition to cooperative efforts aimed at promoting SAE membership, another goal for Mrs. Baranescu was increasing diversity in the organization's leadership to better mirror the changing face of its member body.
While she admits that SAE is still “a male-dominated society” (she says there are only about 4,000 women members out of a total 80,000 constituents worldwide), Mrs. Baranescu says that number will undoubtedly continue to rise.
“We have a lot of very capable women in SAE who we try to encourage to explore leadership positions, and we do the same with other under-represented groups, such as minorities. We have been pretty successful this year in attracting more women to SAE, and certainly, having a woman president has been a stimulus for that,” she says. She calls a recent trip to India where she met with 80 female engineers to discuss career issues “very gratifying.”
Like previous presidents, Mrs. Baranescu continued to promote efforts in SAE's “A World in Motion” program — a curricula aimed at encouraging students grade four through eight to participate in hands-on engineering projects. Mrs. Baranescu says the program, in which almost 1.5 million students have participated since it began 10 years ago, is particularly meaningful to her.
“Growing up in post-war Romania, engineers were highly sought after because there was a need for reconstruction. I always liked math and science, even at an early age, and was encouraged by teachers to pursue these areas,” she says. With North America expected to have a significant shortage of engineering graduates in the coming decade, Mrs. Baranescu says the program helps kids stay excited about math and science so they won't abandon these subjects before college.
Now that her term is over, Mrs. Baranescu will continue to serve as immediate past president on SAE's Board of Directors for one year. She also returns to her role as chief engineer at International Truck & Engine Corp. (formerly Navistar), where she has worked since 1980.