Rhonda Green, a project manger at Zebra Technologies in Holtsville,...

Rhonda Green, a project manger at Zebra Technologies in Holtsville, has been elected chair of the 1,500-member Long Island section of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. Credit: Rick Kopstein

Rhonda Green was a part-time student and a full-time secretary at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh when she noticed a trade magazine by a professional association of engineers.

The publication caught her attention. She also noticed something else: All the engineers in her office at the university were white. And they were all male.

It was the 1990s, and looking at that office, and her job prospects in a field with relatively few Black people and women, Green could have thought she never had a chance. Except, she saw hurdles in it all, not barriers.

“I just knew there were a bunch of smart, intelligent, brilliant people” in the office, she said. “ … I just knew it was something I would aspire to want to be a part of.”

Three decades later, Green, 56, a project manager of engineers for Holtsville-based Zebra Technologies, has been elected chair of the 1,500-member Long Island section of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, also known by the acronym IEEE, and publisher of the magazine she had noticed back in Pittsburgh.

The Yaphank resident is the first Black woman to hold the post since the group’s founding in 1947. Only two other women have held the position.

“It’s amazing. It’s remarkable," said Green, noting the timing of her new role coming amid Black History Month.

"I still can’t believe it in some ways,” she said. “But I am happy it’s me.”

As are her colleagues at Zebra Technologies, where she oversees the work of the engineers focused on innovations for the workplace, and others involved with the IEEE. Green has been at the company since 2000.

“She has a very contagious passion for pursuing innovation and for collaborating with people,” said Tom Bianculli, the company's chief technology officer.

“We’re really, really happy to see her in this position,” said Ed Palacio, a former chair of the Long Island section and now head of the national IEEE, which has 150,000 members.

Green said she relates to the characters in the film “Hidden Figures,” about three obstacle-shattering Black women who went on to work in various science and technical positions for NASA in the early days of the space program.

It's easy to see why.

Like the lead characters in the 2016 film, Green was driven to succeed as a project manager in a field that decades later continues to lag in the number of persons of color and women in the ranks.

“It’s something that you have got to know that you are destined to do because it’s not easy always going to every meeting and every event being the only one that looks like you,” she said.

Women account for about one-third of workers in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics in the United States, even though they make up half the population, according to statistics from the National Center for Science and Engineering. Blacks make up just 9% of employees in those fields.

A native of Pittsburgh, Green worked her way through Carnegie-Mellon, the widely respected university specializing in science and technology located a few miles east of the city's downtown.

She graduated in 2000 with a bachelor of science degree in industrial management and quickly landed a job at what was then Symbol Technologies. While there, she earned a master's degree in management of technology from NYU's Tandon School of Engineering.

It was not always an easy transition from student to working in the field of engineering.

“You come into the room and you are the only female, that’s clearly noticeable,” she said. “But then it’s doubly for being the only Black person. … 'maybe she works for the hotel’ or ‘maybe she’s part of the staff here.’ ”

One time, Green said, the spouse of an engineer tried to stop her from entering an IEEE meeting — initially not believing she was supposed to be part of it.

“She kind of wanted to block me from going in,” said Green, who added that someone inside the room recognized her and told her to come in.

She is intent on boosting the number of women and persons of color pursuing engineering careers. Of her five siblings, none went into engineering, she said.

Green visits Long Island high schools and community organizations to talk about her professional journey, and in the process, she hopes, motivate girls to pursue careers and young people overall.

“I just hope it inspires not just Black girls or Black boys or people of color," Green said, adding that she wants "people to dream big and think about what you are going to do when your dream does come true."

Rhonda Green was a part-time student and a full-time secretary at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh when she noticed a trade magazine by a professional association of engineers.

The publication caught her attention. She also noticed something else: All the engineers in her office at the university were white. And they were all male.

It was the 1990s, and looking at that office, and her job prospects in a field with relatively few Black people and women, Green could have thought she never had a chance. Except, she saw hurdles in it all, not barriers.

“I just knew there were a bunch of smart, intelligent, brilliant people” in the office, she said. “ … I just knew it was something I would aspire to want to be a part of.”

WHAT TO KNOW

  • Rhonda Green is the chair of the 1,500-member Long Island section of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, the first Black woman and just one of three women to hold the post since the group’s founding in 1947. 
  • Green is a project manager of engineers for Holtsville-based Zebra Technologies, where she oversees the work of the engineers focused on innovations for the workplace.
  • A native of Pittsburgh, Green worked her way through Carnegie-Mellon, the widely respected university specializing in science and technology located a few miles east of the city's downtown.

Three decades later, Green, 56, a project manager of engineers for Holtsville-based Zebra Technologies, has been elected chair of the 1,500-member Long Island section of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, also known by the acronym IEEE, and publisher of the magazine she had noticed back in Pittsburgh.

The Yaphank resident is the first Black woman to hold the post since the group’s founding in 1947. Only two other women have held the position.

“It’s amazing. It’s remarkable," said Green, noting the timing of her new role coming amid Black History Month.

"I still can’t believe it in some ways,” she said. “But I am happy it’s me.”

As are her colleagues at Zebra Technologies, where she oversees the work of the engineers focused on innovations for the workplace, and others involved with the IEEE. Green has been at the company since 2000.

“She has a very contagious passion for pursuing innovation and for collaborating with people,” said Tom Bianculli, the company's chief technology officer.

“We’re really, really happy to see her in this position,” said Ed Palacio, a former chair of the Long Island section and now head of the national IEEE, which has 150,000 members.

Shattering obstacles

Green said she relates to the characters in the film “Hidden Figures,” about three obstacle-shattering Black women who went on to work in various science and technical positions for NASA in the early days of the space program.

It's easy to see why.

Like the lead characters in the 2016 film, Green was driven to succeed as a project manager in a field that decades later continues to lag in the number of persons of color and women in the ranks.

“It’s something that you have got to know that you are destined to do because it’s not easy always going to every meeting and every event being the only one that looks like you,” she said.

Women account for about one-third of workers in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics in the United States, even though they make up half the population, according to statistics from the National Center for Science and Engineering. Blacks make up just 9% of employees in those fields.

A native of Pittsburgh, Green worked her way through Carnegie-Mellon, the widely respected university specializing in science and technology located a few miles east of the city's downtown.

She graduated in 2000 with a bachelor of science degree in industrial management and quickly landed a job at what was then Symbol Technologies. While there, she earned a master's degree in management of technology from NYU's Tandon School of Engineering.

Challenges and achievements

It was not always an easy transition from student to working in the field of engineering.

“You come into the room and you are the only female, that’s clearly noticeable,” she said. “But then it’s doubly for being the only Black person. … 'maybe she works for the hotel’ or ‘maybe she’s part of the staff here.’ ”

One time, Green said, the spouse of an engineer tried to stop her from entering an IEEE meeting — initially not believing she was supposed to be part of it.

“She kind of wanted to block me from going in,” said Green, who added that someone inside the room recognized her and told her to come in.

She is intent on boosting the number of women and persons of color pursuing engineering careers. Of her five siblings, none went into engineering, she said.

Green visits Long Island high schools and community organizations to talk about her professional journey, and in the process, she hopes, motivate girls to pursue careers and young people overall.

“I just hope it inspires not just Black girls or Black boys or people of color," Green said, adding that she wants "people to dream big and think about what you are going to do when your dream does come true."

A Newsday analysis shows the number of referees and umpires has declined 25.2% in Nassau and 18.1% in Suffolk since 2011-12. Officials and administrators say the main reason is spectator behavior. NewsdayTV's Carissa Kellman reports. Credit: Newsday Staff

'Why am I giving up my Friday night to listen to this?' A Newsday analysis shows the number of referees and umpires has declined 25.2% in Nassau and 18.1% in Suffolk since 2011-12. Officials and administrators say the main reason is spectator behavior. NewsdayTV's Carissa Kellman reports.

A Newsday analysis shows the number of referees and umpires has declined 25.2% in Nassau and 18.1% in Suffolk since 2011-12. Officials and administrators say the main reason is spectator behavior. NewsdayTV's Carissa Kellman reports. Credit: Newsday Staff

'Why am I giving up my Friday night to listen to this?' A Newsday analysis shows the number of referees and umpires has declined 25.2% in Nassau and 18.1% in Suffolk since 2011-12. Officials and administrators say the main reason is spectator behavior. NewsdayTV's Carissa Kellman reports.

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