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Women in Mobility Spotlight: Mary Lee Gambone, Ph.D.

Posted: March 16, 2023

For Mary Lee Gambone, Ph.D., engineering runs in the family.

“My father was an engineer and when I was around 10 years old, he told me, ‘You’re good at math and science. You should be an engineer. You will always have a job.’ After that, it seemed like the thing I was supposed to do,” she said. “I loved science and problem solving. I loved chemistry and the mechanics side of physics. Materials Engineering combined those things together and fit me well.”

That passion carried Mary Lee through her career to her position today as Global Head of Materials at Rolls Royce—but it wasn’t a simple path.

When she first started out, Mary Lee found an engineering community that was not as welcoming to women. She experienced microaggressions based on gender, and it wasn’t until she was about 15 years into her career before she found a woman mentor in her field. The current push toward inclusion is encouraging, she says, but she is mindful of the environment that the proceeding generation of women engineers face.

“I think a great deal about the early and mid-career women in my organization. I try to be for them what I did not have – an example, a mentor, a sounding board. I believe things are better today, but I still feel there is a long way to go in some areas,” she said.

To help those in the earlier stages of their career, Mary Lee—who currently serves on the SAE International Board of Directors as a Member-At-Large—advocates for forging relationships with women across industry. Having a mentor like Sue Watkins, former Program Chief Engineer at Rolls-Royce, was an influential part of Mary Lee growing into the professional she is today, and she’d like to see the same happen for the women engineers standing in what once were her shoes.

Those growth opportunities include not only finding mentors in industry, but the professional development resources needed to reach the next level of one’s career.

“I think some of the most valuable benefits I have gotten from external engagement during my career include access to training and experiential development outside of my company and job. I grew my professional networks and learned to communicate and lead,” Mary Lee said. “SAE has such a broad portfolio of information that provide flexible training and professional development opportunities that are a great way to support women.”