15 Women Pioneers in Tech who Inspire Us to #PressforProgress
Tomorrow is International Women’s Day, when we honor the social, political, economic, and cultural achievements of women around the world. According to the World Economic Forum's 2017 Global Gender Gap Report, gender parity is still over 200 years away, and on the heels of revelations like the infamous Google memo, Uber’s internal sexual harassment investigation, and the plight of female tech entrepreneurs, it’s clear that the IT field in particular has a lot of work to do in the press for progress.
As we look forward to more and more women making great strides in tech, it’s important to look backward, too, and remember the women who were instrumental in developing the technologies that our 600+ IT consultants—and technologists around the world—use every day.
“Growth and comfort don’t coexist.”
– Ginni Rometty, first female CEO of IBM
Ada Lovelace was a mahematician in the 1800s who, along with Charles Babble, founded the field of scientific computing. Thanks to her contributions to the design of the Analytical Engine, she is widely acknowledged as the first ever computer programmer.
Hedy Lamarr, a well-known actress, also developed a key component of wireless data systems and patented the concept of “frequency-hopping,” which is the basis for the spread spectrum radio systems used in tech products worldwide.
Edith Clarke was the first woman to earn a master’s degree in electrical engineering from MIT. She worked as a human computer for researcher George Campbell and went on to invent the Clarke calculator, which allowed engineers to compute electrical systems equations 10 times faster than existing calculators.
Dorothy Vaughn was a Black mathematician and computer. In 1949, she became the first Black manager at NASA and, sensing the rise of machine computers, taught FORTRAN to herself and her staff. Later, she headed the programming section of Langley’s Analysis and Computation Division.
Jean Bartik was one of the lead programmers for the first-of-its-kind ENIAC computer. She and her colleagues developed and codified many programming fundamentals, such as subroutines and nesting, as they developed the ENIAC. Bartik went on to work for several tech companies as a writer, manager, engineer, and programmer.
Mary Jackson was a mathematician who worked as a NASA computer before becoming NASA’s first black woman engineer. After rising through the ranks for 34 years, she became a manager of NASA’s diversity programs, where she influenced the hiring and promotion of women in STEM careers.
Katherine Johnson was a human computer who graduated high school at 14 and thereafter contributed to U.S. space programs for 35 years, breaking ground for black women. Known for computerized celestial navigation, she calculated the trajectories, launch windows, and emergency back-up return paths for many NASA missions, including the Apollo 11 flight to the Moon.
Admiral Grace Hopper was a distinguished U.S. Naval Officer and computer scientist. A pioneer in computer programming, she invented one of the first compiler-related tools and popularized the idea of machine-independent programming languages, which led to the development of COBOL.
Joan Clarke was an English cryptanalyst who worked as a code-breaker with Alan Turing during WWII. Despite encountering pay and promotion barriers (due to her gender), she was well-respected for her practice of Banburismus and instrumental contributions to the section known as Hut 8, eventually rising to deputy head.
Erna Hoover is a mathematician who invented a computerized call switching method that prevented system overloads by monitoring call center traffic and prioritizing tasks to enable more robust service during peak calling times. In 1971, she procured one of the very first software patents.
Anita Borg was a self-taught computer scientist who patented a method for generating complete address traces for analyzing and designing high-speed memory systems. A passionate advocate for women in tech, she founded the Institute for Women and Technology and the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing.
Radia Perlman is a Dell software designer and network engineer who invented the spanning-tree protocol (fundamental to operating network bridges). She is known as the “Mother of the Internet,” holding over 80 related patents.
Limor Fried is an electrical engineer, the owner of Adafuit Industries, and the first female engineer ever featured on the cover of Wired magazine. She is passionate about open-source hardware and has received Most Influential Women in Technology and Entrepreneur of the Year awards.
Mae C. Jemison is a physician and the first African-American woman admitted into NASA's astronaut training program. In 1992, she flew aboard the Endeavour on mission STS47, becoming the first African-American woman in space.
Melinda Gates is a computer scientist and philanthropist, well-known for co-founding the Gates Foundation. During eight years at Microsoft, she contributed to the development of many multimedia products, including Publisher, Encarta, Microsoft Bob, and Expedia. She is a strong influencer in programs for women’s development around the world.
Everyone in the modern world has benefited from the advancements made by these pioneers. Join our team as we #PressforProgress in women’s equality —especially women’s equality in tech. There may be a long way to go, but we’re on our way.
“The question isn’t who’s going to let me. The question is, who is going to stop me?”
– Ayn Rand, author
See how the foundation these pioneers laid have built and inspired our own teammates:
How are you contributing to women’s success in technology? What steps can your company take to embrace diversity in the coming months and years? Let us know! email@example.com