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First Female IEEE President Gives to Inspire Young Women

Martha Sloan 2

Martha Sloan was elected an IEEE Fellow in 1971 and attained Life Fellow status in 2011, and as a trailblazer in the engineering world, she was the only woman among 600 engineering graduates at Stanford University. While at Stanford she graduated Phi Beta Kappa in 1961 and would go on to earn her master’s degree in electrical engineering and Ph.D. Later, she would become the first female faculty member in the electrical engineering department at Michigan Technological University.

Martha also blazed trails at IEEE. She was appointed to the Board of Governors of the IEEE Computer Society in the late 1970s. She ran as a petition candidate for president of the society and won the election becoming the 1984-1985 IEEE Computer Society President. A decade later, she was a petition candidate once again – but for the role of president of IEEE. She won that election, becoming the first female president of IEEE in 1993.

Among Martha’s other contributions she has been committed to generously supporting the IEEE History Center throughout the years. Martha credits the IEEE History Center with her desire to go back to school during retirement and earn her master’s degree in history. She hopes by sharing her story, and through her donations, she can inspire the next generation of female trailblazers.

The women in Martha’s life gave her a blueprint for her success, helping her realize women could achieve major accomplishments in traditionally male fields. She credits her great-aunt Lucia Goodwin, a high school mathematics teacher, for demonstrating the power of excellent teaching and driving her to achieve high performance. Her grandmother, Celia Goodwin, modeled female leadership in the 1920s and 1930s as the director of the Red Cross in Montana, and then as assistant secretary-treasurer of Copley Press in Illinois.

Martha remembers a particular IEEE inspiration, Irene Carswell Peden, “who was a graduate student in electrical engineering at Stanford when I was an undergraduate. She became the first woman on the IEEE executive committee, paving the way for others like me.” 

Learn more about Martha and her trailblazing activities for women and the profession by reading her oral history on the Engineering & Technology History wiki – ethw.org.

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