Kate Gleason began working in her father's machine tool plant at a very early age. In 1888, she became the first woman to enroll in Cornell University's Engineering program. She left school before the end of her first year to take a more active part in her father's business. Later, she also studied part-time at the Mechanics Institute.
From 1890-1913 she served as Secretary-Treasurer to the Gleason Works. Her role as a sales representative allowed her frequent travel throughout the United States and Europe. Upon leaving the Gleason Works in 1913, she acquired a bankrupt machine and tool company. She returned it to profitability and became active with several business ventures in the village of East Rochester, New York.
She was the only woman member of the American Concrete Institute. In 1914, she became the first woman elected to the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. In 1916, she became the first woman member of the Rochester Engineering Society.
There was a woman's dormitory on RIT's downtown campus location which was dedicated in 1947 in Ms. Gleason's honor.