Two black alumna at their graduation

Then & Now: Being Black and female in aerospace engineering

The first Black alumna of Michigan Aero (’77) talks with a ’15 graduate about what has and hasn’t changed about being a Black woman in the field.

How has the experience of being a Black woman in aerospace engineering changed over more than 40 years? Two alumnae discussed their experiences over Zoom with warmth, humor and authenticity.

In 1977, Barbara Richardson was the first Black woman to graduate from the aerospace engineering undergraduate program at the University of Michigan. In spite of the decades separating them, many of her experiences resonate with Jasmine LeFlore, who graduated in 2015.

They covered Richardson’s early life in the segregated south, their journeys through the aerospace program, the mentors and friends who helped them to succeed, their professional lives and navigating workplace conflicts as engineers. Themes include isolation, racism and sexism, giving back to the community, and being able to be themselves.

They closed with their hopes for the next generation, for the Black girls following in LeFlore’s footsteps as LeFlore followed in Richardson’s.


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Michigan Aerospace Engineering

Communications Team