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Women in Mobility Spotlight: Simona Onori 

Posted: March 30, 2023

For Simona Onori, all roads lead to STEM. 

Growing up in Rome, she attended a high school focused on preparing students for a career in humanities. She was confident that she wanted to be an archeologist from the time she was eight years old.  

“My fascination for the advanced engineering accomplishments of ancient Greeks and Romans dominated my interests much more than the love for poems, tragedies, and the dead languages,” said Onori. “It was then, that I knew I was destined to pursue the engineering field.” 

The pivot in her studies led her to some unfamiliar territory. As a university student she was the only female in all her graduate classes and some of her undergraduate classes as well.  

As Onori has evolved, so has the landscape of collegiate engineering programs. Today, Onori is an assistant professor of energy science and engineering at Stanford University, and throughout her career, she has seen the number of women in the engineering field continue to evolve. 

“In the classes I teach today, 25 to 60 percent of the students are females – depending on the year and the type of class,” said Onori. “Things are indeed improving in terms of having more diversity in our fields, and I see we are on a positive trajectory.” 

While representation of women is growing in engineering and other STEM fields, Onori believes the real question is not how to get more women in STEM, but rather, how to make sure that those women remain in this field. Reports have indicated that 57% of female engineers drop out of STEM careers before age 45 for a variety of reasons, ranging from unequal pay to societal expectations. Onori wants to challenge the circumstances that are hindering retaining female talent in the field—and that means creating opportunities for women to thrive. 

Onori has seized those types of opportunities for herself. In addition to her work at Stanford, Onori is the Editor-in-Chief for the SAE International Journal of Electrified Vehicles. She provides innovative thought leadership through her research in sustainable transportation and clean energy with a focus on hybrid and electric propulsions systems and their components, emission mitigation devices, and grid-storage systems. 

As Onori has experienced successes and overcome challenges, she passes on this advice to young women and girls interested in the STEM field.  

“Work hard and do not give up. There will be times and occasions where you will feel like you don’t belong. Get past that moment, roll up your sleeves and work harder,” said Onori. “As I progressed in my career and started covering more managerial roles, one mistake I was and sometimes still am guilty of is wishful thinking. This is a rather difficult trap to avoid, and I am getting better at it, but I wish someone had given me this advice in the past.”