The history of the invisibility of women’s labor in many areas of life is as old as the world. Hidden Figures, the movie released in 2016, tells the story of female mathematicians of African American origin who played a vital role in the development of one of the first NASA space programs. Catherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson did the calculations and worked as “human computers.” But instead of being recognized and acknowledged, they faced discrimination and devaluation.
At first glance, it might seem that the contribution of women into such areas as programming, computer science, cybernetics, and informatics is insignificant. Nothing could be further from the truth. Taking the trouble to study the topic with a little more care and precision, we will learn that modern female IT specialists had many talented and courageous predecessors. Who were they?
A Bit on Predecessors
A huge contribution to the development of the IT industry was made by Ada Lovelace (more on her later in the article), Grace Hopper (scientist, United States Navy rear admiral, pioneer of computer programming), Hedy Lamarr (inventor and actress who co-invented an early version of frequency-hopping spread spectrum communication), Annie Easley (computer and rocket scientist, mathematician), Mary Wilkes (programmer and developer most known for her worked on the LINC computer, considered the world’s first personal computer), Adele Goldberg (a scientist who participated in the development of the Smalltalk-80 programming language and object-oriented programming), Radia Perlman (programmer and network engineer, creator of the Spanning Tree Protocol), Karen Spärck Jones (pioneer in the field of computer technology, developed the concept that underlies most modern search engines), and Elizabeth J. Feinler (headed the Center for Networked Information Systems at Stanford Research Institute) to name a few.
Was their path an easy one? Hardly. But it is their efforts and persistence that enabled modern women to work in programming and computing. Despite the positive shift towards acceptance and recognition, however, women in IT still face discrimination. To combat this, female specialists need a supportive professional community, as well as public discussions on the topics of the day.
How to Increase the Visibility of Women in Tech
There is no single way to increase the visibility of women in the tech industry. One of the events aimed at reaching this goal is Ada Lovelace Day, held annually on the second Tuesday of October since 2009. Augusta Ada King, Countess of Lovelace, was an English mathematician and writer. She worked on a mechanical general-purpose computer, initially developed by Charles Babbage, and was the first to create an algorithm (or program) for this machine. For this reason, she is considered the world’s first programmer.
Ada Lovelace Day is held to increase the visibility of women in computer science, technology, engineering, and mathematics and provide girls and women with more role models. One of the activities arranged within the event involves editing Wikipedia to improve the representation of women in technology.
The Most Influential Women in Tech Today
And now let’s spend some time learning more about women who currently work in IT. Each of them can serve as an inspiring role model for those who are just thinking about starting a career in technology.
Photo credit: https://gaz.wiki/wiki/ru/Susan_Wojcicki
1. Susan Wojcicki is a business executive and CEO of YouTube. She has been working in the field of IT for over twenty years. Wojcicki was involved in the founding of Google and worked as its first marketing manager. It was Wojcicki who suggested that Google acquire YouTube, and she has been the CEO of the video-hosting service since 2014. Susan is the author of the excellent article How to Break Up the Silicon Valley Boys' Club. You can follow her on Twitter at @SusanWojcicki.
Whitney Wolfe Herd
2. Whitney Wolfe Herd is an American entrepreneur and founder and CEO of Bumble. What is so special about Bumble? This dating app was created by a woman for women and allows them to take the first step in dating, giving them complete control over what is happening. Whitney Wolf Heard was previously VP of Marketing at Tinder but left the company because of discrimination. Wolfe recently joined the list of the youngest female billionaires in the world. It was the female lens that allowed her to make the application so convenient for women. The developers did everything possible to ensure a woman does not face body shaming, misogyny, or other forms of discrimination on the platform. You can read more about Whitney’s work and life via her Twitter account at @WhitWolfeHerd.
3. Reshma Saujani is an American lawyer, politician, government employee, and founder of the nonprofit organization Girls Who Code. The main goal of the organization is to increase the number of women in IT. Reshma is the author of the famous TED Talk Teach girls bravery, not perfection (Reshma Saujani). She graduated from Harvard University and Yale Law School, and in 2010 she became the first Indian American to run for Congress. Reshma is on Twitter at @reshmasaujani.
4. Kimberly Bryant is the founder of the Black Girls CODE. Prior to its founding, Kimberly had worked in biotechnology. Kimberly’s main mission is to provide educational opportunities in IT for African American girls. Kimberly was inspired to create Black Girls CODE by her own daughter. She wanted her to have a learning environment in which the girl would not feel isolated. Kimberly’s mission is to teach a million black girls to write code by 2040. You can find her on both Facebook, at @blackgirlscode, and on her company’s Twitter account at @BlackGirlsCode.
5. Kate Crawford is not only an incredibly talented machine-learning specialist, but she is also a writer and composer. Crawford is a principal researcher at Microsoft Research (Social Media Collective) and cofounder of the AI Now Institute at New York University. In addition, she is a member of the Data-Driven Development Board of the World Economic Forum. The scope of her interests encompasses the changes in society caused by media technologies, as well as the impact of AI and machine learning on people. She writes a lot about this on her Twitter account at @katecrawford. Crawford is also a talented musician and cofounder of a record label, and she was previously part of an electronic-music duo.
6. Noushin Shabab has been a senior security researcher at Kaspersky Lab since 2016. As a child, Shabab was fond of puzzles and solving math problems. At school she often participated in programming contests. Noushin regularly speaks at various conferences and security events, and she also conducts thematic seminars. She is a member of Australian Women in Security Network (AWSN), which aims to unite, support, collaborate, and inspire women in the cybersecurity industry. You can find more about this on her Twitter account at @NoushinShbb.
7. Kike Oniwinde is a former athlete and javelin thrower. Today she is a cofounder of BYP Network, a platform that aims to connect Black professionals with corporations and each other. Kike holds a BA in Economics from the University of Nottingham and is also an MA fellow at the University of Florida. Kike believes that “technology is the future.” The ability to influence and shape the future with the help of technology is what attracted her to IT. You can find her on Twitter at @KikeOniwinde.
Ellen Kangru Pao
Photo credit: https://ghc.anitab.org/fr/speaker/ellen-pao/
8. Ellen Kangru Pao used to work as CEO of Reddit and is now CEO of Project Include. Ellen is a cofounder of this nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting diversity in technology. She often speaks publicly about sexism in Silicon Valley. Pao first raised this problem publicly in 2012 when she filed a discrimination lawsuit against her employer, Kleiner Perkins, a venture capital firm. Despite the fact that the case was ultimately lost, Pao’s lawsuit served as the impetus for further open and important discussions. She detailed her experience in Reset: My Fight for Inclusion and Lasting Change. She is on Twitter at @ekp.
9. Stacy Brown-Philpot is the CEO of TaskRabbit and a member of the board of directors of HP, Nordstrom, and Black Girls Code. She has also worked at Google—first as a sales director, then as head of the online sales department. On her LinkedIn, Stacy writes that she is inspired by the ability to influence the lives of people around the world on a daily basis. Her main purpose is to make it easier for others to achieve their goals. Due to the pandemic in 2020, a lot of things went wrong, and people had to rethink the way they live and work. Stacy does her best to make the world more inclusive, and her work is bearing fruit. Her Twitter account is @sbp04.
10. Chelsea Brown specializes in cybersecurity. She is an ethical computer hacker and security consultant at L7SS. She helps to identify and eliminate cyber threats. Her mission is to do whatever it takes to ensure that businesses have the skills and tools needed to develop a safety culture. Chelsea has been working in this field for almost ten years. She is the creator of the website digitalmomtalk.com, a site offering comprehensive solutions for family safety online.
In the recent past, women’s lives were largely predetermined. Deprived of the opportunity to do anything outside their home and family, women were limited to taking care of the households, children, and husbands. Until very recently they had to fight not only for visibility in the professional area and the opportunity to follow their dreams, but also for equal working conditions.
The struggle is hardly over, but thanks to the efforts of many courageous predecessors and modern women working in the industry, we are taking steps toward change for the better.
Who are these courageous women?
Leaders, managers, specialists who advocate inclusiveness and nondiscrimination, those who have gone the hard way themselves, those who know what it is like to combine motherhood and work, those who do their best to change the lives of others for the better, those who teach, those who speak at public events, those who are involved in the development of technologies of the future and know that their work will most likely remain invisible and unnoticed, and those who, knowing this, still make significant contributions to technology.
If you have been waiting for the right moment to start taking your own first steps in the field of technology, then perhaps it is time. How about doing it now? Our courses can become the platform and impetus for your further professional development. We would love to help you reach your goals.