Although women have been stereotypically relegated to certain types of jobs for centuries, there have always been women who were willing to break the mold. Today, more women than ever are embracing their tech talents and contributing to the industry and the world in meaningful ways.
In celebration of Women’s History Month, we’re taking a look at 5 women who had a big impact on the tech industry in one way or another. These women paved the way not only for other women who would follow in their footsteps, but for major advancements in the tech industry as a whole.
Augusta Ada King, Countess of Lovelace
Augusta Ada King, often referred to as Ada Lovelace, is considered one of the very first computer programmers. Born in 1815, she was a mathematician and writer who is credited with publishing the first algorithm intended to be carried out by a machine. She also recognized that “machines” (i.e. computers) might be able to do more than simple calculations, which is the only thing most people thought they were good for. To this day, she is seen as a leading woman in the tech field.
“Your best and wisest refuge from all troubles is in your science.” -Ada Lovelace
Known as a pioneer in computer programming, Grace Hopper first devised the theory of machine independent programming languages, and worked to develop languages that were based on English rather than on mathematical notation. Some of the languages she helped develop are still used today. She worked on the Havard Mark I computer and helped develop the UNIVAC I computer. Though she passed away in 1992, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama in 2016.
“The most dangerous phrase in the language is ‘we’ve always done it this way.’” -Grace Hopper
Born in 1933, Annie Easley was a computer scientist, mathematician, and rocket scientist at NASA. She was also one of the first African-Americans, male or female, to work at NASA. She helped develop software for the Centaur rocket stage; that technology eventually contributed to future space shuttle launches, along with various satellite launches and the launch of the Cassini probe, which was sent to Saturn in 1997. She also studied possible solutions to energy problems.
“If I can’t work with you, I will work around you.” -Annie Easley
Radia Perlman is a network engineer and computer programmer best known for inventing spanning-tree protocol (STP). Why does that matter? Oh, just because it provided an underlying foundation for a little something called the Internet. She was one of just a handful of women in her graduating class at MIT. Perlman has also been credited with playing a role in getting young children involved in computer programming, as she developed a child-friendly version of a robotics language that successfully helped children program a functioning robot.
“The world would be a better place if more engineers, like me, hated technology. The stuff I design, if I’m successful, nobody will ever notice. Things will just work, and will be self-managing.” -Radia Perlman
Katherine Johnson’s work at NASA was instrumental to the success of crewed space flights, including Apollo missions to the moon and eventual space shuttle flights. She calculated the trajectory for the first American manned space flight. When John Glenn was preparing to become the first American to enter orbit, he specifically requested that Johnson verify the computer-generated numbers. She also worked on backup navigation charts for astronauts, which helped the crew of Apollo 13 return to Earth safely after their mission to the moon was aborted. Her story is told in the 2016 film Hidden Figures.
“Girls are capable of doing everything men are capable of doing. Sometimes they have more imagination than men.” -Katharine Johnson
These are just 5 out of thousands of women who have had a profound impact on the world of technology. As more women and girls look to them as examples and enter the tech industry, there are sure to be many more brilliant developments to come in science, mathematics, engineering, and technology.
Leave a Reply