NOAA 2001-R272
Contact: John Leslie


Recognizing the achievements of minority women who distinguished themselves in the fields of technology, math and the sciences was one of the items on the agenda at a "Women of Color Government and Defense Technology Conference" luncheon last week. For three women at the National Weather Service, an agency of the Commerce Department's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, it meant recognition for their excellence and contributions in fields not traditionally associated with women.

Brenda Taylor, a key player behind the weather service's continuing technological evolvement, Ruth Aiken, a veteran weather forecaster, and Angela Downing, an aviation weather meteorologist, received the "All-Star in Government and Technology Award" during a ceremony on July 20.

"We are proud of Brenda, Ruth and Angela for earning this distinction," said retired General Jack Kelly, director of the weather service. "The National Weather Service is grateful for their numerous contributions and hopes that their successes will encourage others to follow in their footsteps in the fields of technology, math and the sciences."

Technology Trailblazer
When Brenda Taylor graduated from Kansas State University in 1978, with a degree in computer science engineering, it was rare to find women – especially women of color – working in technology. Taylor's interest in technology helped her land jobs at the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Farm Service Agency and National Information Technology Center where she organized department databases on the IBM mainframe, and installed and maintained all the system software server computers. Taylor earned several honors, including the USDA Farm Service Agency Deputy Director of Management's Appreciation Award.

Taylor helped direct the NITC's National Security Program before entering the USDA's Graduate School Women's Executive Leadership Program in Washington, DC. There, she handled information management issues at the Office of Management and Budget and the Directorate of Security at the U.S. House of Representatives. When the leadership program ended, Taylor received the "Outstanding Graduate" award, the first-ever given by the USDA Graduate School for the Women's Executive Leadership Program.

Taylor is now an information technology strategic planning officer at the weather service headquarters in Silver Spring, Md., where she helps manage the development of the weather service's technology plans to ensure they address the agency's critical objectives. She also tracks IT investments and identifies technology programs that would continue to support the agency's goal to provide improved weather forecasts and warnings.

A `70s Pioneer
Aiken's road to becoming a senior meteorologist at the weather service forecast office in Raleigh, N.C., began in 1975, a year after she graduated summa cum laude from Claflin University in Orangeburg, S.C. She remembers 1975 as a time when "women were beginning to change the image of the weather service."

Since her forecasting debut, Aiken has helped advance the state of weather forecasting, and tries to inspire others to follow her. She is a frequent speaker at local elementary and high schools, promoting meteorology and the advancement of women in the sciences and mathematics.

Keeping the Airways Safe
Downing, a veteran meteorologist, is an aviation resource meteorologist at the Miami Air Route Traffic Control Center. She forecasts hazardous weather that could impact the safety of aircraft flying within 500,000 square miles of the Miami Center.

She began her forecasting career 22 years ago after graduating cum laude with a math degree from Stillman College in Tuscaloosa, Ala. Downing entered the NOAA Graduate Scientist program to study meteorology, and soon began training at the weather service forecast office in Charleston, W. Va. She learned to forecast aviation weather conditions, thunderstorms, tornadoes, and snow storms. But forecasting aviation weather became her passion.

Throughout her career, Downing has spent time at the Federal Aviation Administration's Air Traffic Control System Command Center in Herndon, Va., the weather service forecast office in Atlanta, and the weather service's National Centers for Environmental Prediction, where she developed high-level global aviation forecast graphics.

NOAA's National Weather Service is the primary source of weather data, forecasts and warnings for the United States and its territories. The weather service operates the most advanced weather and flood warning and forecast system in the world, helping to protect lives and property and enhance the national economy. To learn more about the weater service, please visit