There have always been concerns about the underrepresentation of women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). However, when the Chief Executive Officer at the National Society of Black Engineers, Janeen Uzzell, expressed the desire to offer engineering, her father found it surprising that her teacher sought to discourage her.
The tutor held the argument that studying engineering would stretch Janeen’s capabilities, and was of the view that she could not handle the risks that come with the profession. However, her father believed in her, and for Janeen, that was the only spark of motivation that mattered.
She was inspired to venture into engineering by her cousin, Lasander Uzzell, who was the first engineer the younger Janeen knew about; a reality that was understandable because there were only a few women who had equal participation in the male-dominated field at the time. Her cousin was confident Janeen’s strong academic strength in maths and science was an added advantage to becoming a great engineer.
She decided to work extra harder to make good grades to pave the way for her chances at studying engineering. Her efforts paid off when she secured a scholarship to study engineering in college. She did not underestimate the challenges she encountered during the course, and admitted it was difficult grasping the concepts and theories underpinning engineering and technology, according to robotics education.
With time, she developed a love for the course, and as predicted by her cousin, it opened career opportunities for her when the underrepresentation of women engineers was rife.
Her professional journey started when she was presented with an opportunity to work for General Electric (GE); after seeking counsel from her family, she decided to take the offer. Over the last two decades at GE, she has worked in various portfolios from healthcare technologies in some of the most challenging settings to the top management level as the head of the women in STEM.
She however decided to take on new roles when the chance presented itself, and took up a job at Wikipedia, hoping to expand the frontiers of equity in technology. Janeen used her position as the Chief Operating Officer for the Wikipedia Foundation to drive growth and help launch the Wikimedia Knowledge Equity Fund to address racial inequality in free knowledge. $4.5 million was aimed at providing grants to external organizations to bridge racial inequality in reaction to the public uproar for racial justice in 2020.
Janeen currently runs her own establishment as the Chief Executive Officer at the National Society of Black Engineers, the largest Black STEM community impacting society and industry. She holds a bachelor of science in mechanical engineering from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University.
She also enrolled in Fairleigh Dickinson University where she offered an MBA in International Business. She is currently using her affinity for social justice and leadership to bridge inequality in the tech world and create better opportunities for others.