Nan Mattai - Rockwell Collins
Senior Vice President, Engineering & Technology
Nan Mattai is senior vice president, Engineering & Technology for Rockwell Collins. In this role, she serves as the chief engineer, responsible for guiding the global engineering workforce, the direction and development of future technology solutions and technology investment decisions. She was appointed to the position in November 2004 and is a corporate officer of the company. Prior to this, she served as Vice President, Engineering for the defense business segment.
Mattai holds a Master of Science degree from the University of Windsor, Canada and has completed all coursework for a doctorate in physics.
By Nan Mattai, Senior Vice President for Engineering and Technology, Rockwell Collins
Engineering and science are at the heart of our global economic expansion, offering a clear way toward future growth, creating new technologies to address 21st century grand challenges and promising generations of young people rewarding careers.
But as a senior executive of a global aerospace and defense company, I am all too aware that I travel in a rarified crowd: a woman—particularly a woman in an executive leadership role—in the field of science and engineering.
The National Science Foundation indicates that little more than 25 percent of mathematical and computer scientists are women in the United States. For engineering, that percentage drops to under 12 percent. While people once explained this disparity through innate biological differences, today young women are earning high school math and science credits at the same rate as young men and are earning slightly higher grades in these classes, suggesting that the raw abilities are equally shared. That doesn’t mean there aren’t differences in how genders learn and work. Several studies suggest women prefer to work in collaborative teams, rather than in highly competitive environments. So, we need to get the message out that women are creative, we work well in teams, we are collaborative and articulate … all key skills for success in engineering.
And that’s my role, as well. From my earliest days in university, I knew I had to work harder, prove myself more often and hope that my accomplishments would be recognized. Today, as part of the mantle I’ve assumed as a women leader in engineering, I know that I have a responsibility to change the world for young women and underserved populations. I do this by sharing my experiences, serving as a role model and mentor and seeking to dispel the myths and biases that still pervade our culture. I view it as my charge to educate our young women that the career path of science and engineering can be personally and financially rewarding and show them that their perspectives, insights and experiences can greatly enrich the exploration for solutions and impact our society.
I am fortunate that my company is committed to the advancement of STEM and so, with this support, we have focused our outreach efforts in four areas:
- First, engage early. Research shows most young women choose STEM fields by age 11, and younger people are natural scientists, curious to gain a greater understanding of the world around them.
- Second, promote team-based, hands-on education to engage and deepen young women’s understanding and experiences with STEM concepts early.
- Third, foster creativity and imagination in a welcoming environment, encouraging an inquisitive, problem-solving mindset that will be necessary in their career.
- Finally, develop partnerships between education and industry that expose female students to the breadth of opportunities available, introduce them to woman role models and provide a system of support and encouragement throughout their education.
It’s up to this generation of women engineers to usher in the next, sharing our stories, our knowledge and our achievements. Through that dialogue—and our modeling of fulfilling careers—we can show the young women of today that they can change the world through science, technology, math and engineering.