Country’s Largest National Security Lab Gets First-Ever Woman Director

4797035306_84fa3db10a_z (1)Sandia National Laboratories, one of three of the national security labs run under the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration, recently made a groundbreaking staff change. Earlier this summer, the lab announced that Jill M. Hruby would take over the role of president and director of the facility, effective July 17. She’s the first woman to hold the position in the lab’s 70-year history. She was previously vice president of the New Mexico-based organization.

Hruby had words of encouragement for other women in science and engineering fields: “You’re next.” But she spoke honestly about the difficulties women in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields can face in their careers, saying, “There are so many other talented women at other laboratories and I hope they join me. Look, it’s not always easy. But be true to what you want to do. It takes a lot of directness.”

As president and director, Hruby holds an incredible amount of responsibility. The lab is currently modernizing the country’s nuclear deterrence policy, and will soon begin its yearly assessment of the nuclear stockpile.

Hruby praised her laboratory for helping her become successful, pointing out that “science and engineering is a field that is not dominated by women, only about 20 percent of us are women. It’s an environment that has to be created. At Sandia we created that a long time ago.” Considering that women are severely underrepresented in the engineering and science workforce, Hruby’s accomplishment shows both the potential opportunity for young women and girls hoping to purse STEM careers, as well as how far the nation still has to go in creating equality in STEM.

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Photo courtesy of Sandia Labs via Creative Commons 2.0. 


Emma Niles is a recent graduate of the University of California, Santa Cruz and an editorial intern at Ms. Follow Emma on Twitter @emmalorinda.