Computing and software engineering have become a popular career choice for young people, with a rise in interest from Women in particular. But did you know women have been a part of the history of computers since its beginning?
In its earlier stages, computing and programming was considered a ‘woman’s job’, as it was perceived to be ‘secretarial’, which is why the foundations of the profession have mostly been laid by female programmers.
So, we’ve put together a list of some of the successful women in computing and Technology, some of whom you might have heard about and others you might not have.
Lady Ada Lovelace (1815 – 1852)
Augusta Ada King, Countess of Lovelace, was the daughter of poet Lord Byron. However, she is more famous for being the first ever programmer. Lady Lovelace worked with Charles Babbage (the father of computers) on his Analytical Engine and developed what is considered the first algorithm.
Anna Winlock (1857 -1904)
Anna Winlock was an astronomer and one of the first members of the female computer group known as ‘the Harvard Computers’. These women would undertake complex mathematical calculations for astronomy. She is best known for her work in reducing and computing meridian circle observations.
Joan Clarke (1917 –1996)
Joan Clarke was a cryptanalyst who worked with Alan Turing at Bletchley Park to crack the Enigma code and is one to mention when talking about successful women in computing. The work that she and Turing did on this project played an important part in winning World War II. Their contribution has been portrayed in the movie ‘The Imitation Game’, featured in our list of ‘Top 10 Movies for Software Professionals and Programmers’, with Keira Knightley playing Clarke.
Hedy Lamarr – (1914 – 2000)
Hedy Lamarr is one of the surprising additions to the list of noteworthy women in technology. She was an Austrian-American actress who wanted to help the war effort during World War II. Her contribution was the concept of a frequency hopping signal that could not be tracked or jammed. This idea went on to be used in technologies like the Bluetooth technology and Wi-Fi.
Jean Bartik (1924 –2011)
Jean Bartik was one of the six women in computing who were a part of the ENIAC group, an all-women group of programmers using this early computer to do complex calculations like calculating ballistic trajectories. Bartik is credited with being the first to develop a piece of technology that could be considered software, and she also went on to work on BINAC and UNIVAC.
Grace Murray Hopper (1906 – 1992)
Grace Murray Hopper was an American Navy rear admiral while also being a computer scientist. She was among the first programmers of the Harvard Mark I computer, and is often cited as the person who coined the phrases ‘bug’ and ‘debugging’.
Her idea of machine-independent programming languages paved the way for development of COBOL.
Katherine G. Johnson (1918 – 2020)
Katherine Johnson was an American mathematician who used to calculate orbital mechanics at NASA. She was well known for her complex manual calculations and for being one of the first to use computers for calculations.
Additionally, she was also one of the first African-American women to work at NASA as a scientist along with Mary Jackson and Dorothy Vaughan, two other African-American mathematicians. Their life and work as successful women in engineering are portrayed in the 2016 movie ‘Hidden Figures’.
Sister Mary Kenneth Keller (1913 – 1985)
Sister Mary Kenneth Keller was one of first two people to earn a Ph.D. in computer science in America. She was a Roman Catholic nun who was known for her role in the implementation the computer language BASIC.
Evelyn Boyd Granville (1924 – Present)
Evenlyn Boyd Granville was the second African-American woman to earn a Ph.D. in mathematics in America, and is a pioneer in the field of engineering. During her career, she worked on a variety of projects for the Apollo program, which included celestial mechanics, trajectory computation, and digital computer techniques.
Frances E. Allen (August 1932 – Present)
Frances E. Allen is famous for her work in compilers, program optimisation, and parallelisation in her career as a computer scientist. She also played an important part in the intelligence work on programming languages and security codes for the NSA.
Barbara Liskov (November 1939 – Present)
Barbara Liskov is another woman in engineering – an American computer scientist who is known for her contributions to programming languages, programming methodology, and distributed systems. She developed two programming languages and was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2012.
Leah Jamieson ( August 1949 – Present)
Leah Jamieson is the founder of the Engineering Projects in Community Service Program (EPICS). As an American engineering teacher, she is known for her work in the fields of speech analysis and recognition, design and analysis of parallel processing algorithms. She also went on to apply her findings to the areas of digital speech, image, and signal processing.
Radia Perlman (December 1951 – Present)
Radia Perlman is known as the mother of the internet due to her invention of the spanning-tree protocol, which is integral to the operation of network bridges. She also recently corrected the shortcomings of spanning-trees with her invention of the TRILL protocol.
Melanie Rieback (1978 – Present)
Melanie Rieback is a computer scientist from America, known for her work on improving the privacy and security of radio-frequency identification (RFID) technology.
Samantha John (1985 – Present)
Samantha John is an American entrepreneur who is the co-founder of Hopscotch, an application that teaches kids to program their own games and animation. She is one of the new generation women in technology.
Heather Payne (1988 – Present)
Heather Payne founded Ladies Learning Code (which is now called Canada Learning Code) in 2011, along with Melissa Sariffodeen, Breanna Hughes, and Laura Plant. She has also set up a coding academy in Toronto, called HackerYou, which has also been renamed to Juno College.
Kathryn Parsons (1982 – Present)
Kathryn Parsons is a British entrepreneur who co-founded the London-based tech start-up, Decoded. This is a service that aims to make people achieve digital literacy and claims to train students to ‘code in a day’.
Virginia Rometty (1957 – Present)
Virginia Rometty is the first woman to head tech giant IBM. Before she became the president and CEO of the company in 2012, she worked there under many roles. In 1981, she joined as systems engineer, moving on to heading global sales, marketing and strategy.
Marissa Mayer (1975 – Present)
Marissa Mayer is one of the noteworthy women in technology, formerly serving as the president and CEO of Yahoo! She is also the co-founder of Lumi Labs, a start-up that uses artificial intelligence to build consumer applications.
Sheryl Sandberg (1969 – Present)
Sheryl Sandberg is the COO of Facebook and has been named in the Time 100, an annual list of the most influential people in the world. A philanthropist, she is also the co-founder of LeanIn.org, a support resource for women.
As you can see, there have always been women in engineering and technology, ever since the dawn of the computer age. These women were integral to the developments in this field and have laid the foundations for continued progress in the future.
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