Historically, women have had a fairly challenging experience breaking through the predominantly male-dominated tech industry. While they were, for a large part of history, excluded from the tech sector, when they did contribute, there was the added burden of going unrecognized for their efforts.
For example, did you know it was six women who programmed the world's first computer - the ENIAC? Many didn't, for years, as credits were rarely, if ever, given. But regardless of discrimination and impediments over the years, some women have truly made a long-lasting impact in the tech sector.
According to a compilation from Statista, women average about 26% of executive or senior management positions in S&P 500 companies, with Amazon featuring as many as 42% of its workforce as women. But tech isn't just Silicon Valley or business alone - women have contributed in a broader, and deeply fundamental variety of ways to the technology we use today.
From Lady Ada Lovelace, the world's first programmer, or Susan Wojcicki, CEO of YouTube, these women have taken what can only be termed as superhuman efforts to be the face of the tech world. Here is a small tribute to these wonderful women, in no particular order.
Ada Lovelace Augusta Ada King
Countess of Lovelace, more often known as Lady Ada Lovelace, popularly regarded as the world's first programmer. She worked with Charles Babbage's Analytical Engine, the proposed computer. She recognized that this engine was capable of more than just calculating and had published the first algorithm intended to be carried out by this machine. She was the first person to have recognized the potential of computers and the first one to have engaged in programming.
In her words - A new, a vast, and a powerful language is developed for the future use of analysis, in which to wield its truths so that these may become of more speedy and accurate practical application for the purposes of mankind than the means hitherto in our possession have rendered possible. Thus not only the mental and the material, but the theoretical and the practical in the mathematical world, are brought into more intimate and effective connection with each other.
It is crucial to keep in mind that Charles Babbage just proposed computers. Lovelace understood the implications that such a machine could bring into the world - something that even Babbage didn't articulate.
Popular with her modern-day moniker "Mother of computing", Grace Hopper was a United States Navy Rear Admiral. The moniker is entirely accurate, as she popularized the idea of machine-independent programming language, because of which COBOL was developed. COBOL is a high-level programming language still in use today. Hopper worked at Harvard Computation Lab in the late 1940s to program the mark 1 computers, which significantly improved the QoL (Quality of Life) of the military's computer applications. Speed and accuracy were among the many features that received focus during the mark 1 computer's development. She also helped in the development of UNIVAC-1, the world's first computer for commercial use. As we said, the moniker is quite accurate.
Moving on from computing and programming to the strides we are taking in space, Gwynne Shotwell, President & COO of Shotwell, is undoubtedly one of the most influential women in technology. She originally planned to be a part of the automobile industry, but later changed her mind because the role that she initially landed lacked the hands-on approach which she desired. Shotwell has authored papers on "conceptual small spacecraft design, infrared signature target modeling, space shuttle integration and reentry vehicle operational risks". She was the eleventh employee at SpaceX, now synonymous with commercial space exploration, and plays a critical role in the company's success, while taking a back seat on publicity and leaving that to Elon Musk.
YouTube needs no introduction. But its CEO should ideally be equally famous too - Susan Wojcicki. Even before YouTube, she was involved in the launch of Google, another important part of our daily lives.
She was in charge of leading the development of Google's AdSense. This tool has helped the success of millions of businesses across the world and has been a bulk driver of Google's revenue. Wojcicki revolutionized the way companies view advertising and is a critical factor behind Google's success. In a predominantly male-dominant industry, her decisions to acquire YouTube and DoubleClick, arguably the two of the best decisions made by Google to date, have helped cement her place as one of the most important women in the history of technology.
"One small step for man One giant leap for mankind" is one quote that would have never been heard by the world, if not for Margaret Hamilton. Apollo 11, moments before the final landing to the moon, had severe software glitches, triggering alarms and "never supposed to happen displays" which severely interrupted the mission. Had Margaret Hamilton not foreseen this years before the launch of Apollo 11, the first man on the moon would have been delayed by several years.
Hamilton's work is widely credited to be the foundation for ultra-reliable software, by her contemporaries and present generation. Another aspect that probably would not have existed if not for Margaret was the term "software engineering." Little did she know when she (along with Anthony Oettinger and Barry Boehm) coined this term as a running joke, she'd go on to create a name associated with the careers of millions of software engineers in today's world!
This post wouldn't be complete without many of our other favorites - such as Adele Goldberg - the pioneer behind the Smalltalk programming language, Fran Allen, the first woman to win the Turing award, known for her work in parallel computing, and many more!
Of course, this list in no way undermines the work that plenty of other women have done over the years. It's merely our genuine tribute to all the women in the tech industry who have shaped our lives. Here is hoping to see many more women take the lead in tech and everywhere else.