Women have made significant contributions to the field of technology throughout history, but their achievements have often been overlooked or underestimated. By highlighting women’s achievements in technology, we can celebrate their achievements, break stereotypes and promote gender equality in the industry. Recognition of women’s contributions to technology also helps to create role models for young girls and women, inspiring them to pursue their tech dreams and contributing to a more diverse and inclusive tech industry.
Here are the 11 most influential women in tech history celebrating International Women’s Day.
Ada Lovelace is widely regarded as the first computer programmer. She was a mathematician who worked with Charles Babbage on the design of his Analytical Engine, the forerunner of the modern computer. Lovelace wrote the first algorithm designed to be processed by a machine, and her work laid the foundations for modern computer science.
Lovelace faced gender bias when she was a mathematician in the 19th century, but her groundbreaking work in computer programming earned her recognition as one of the most important figures in the history of computer science. Her legacy is a reminder of the importance of diversity and inclusion in the tech industry.
Margaret E. Knight
Margaret E. Knight was an inventor and engineer known for inventing a paper bag folding and sealing machine, which was granted a patent in 1871. Back then, paper bags were made by hand, which was a tedious and labor-intensive procedure. Knight’s device revolutionized the paper bag industry, producing up to 60 bags per minute.
About 20 patents were awarded to Knight throughout her life as an inventor, including a rotary engine, a shoe-cutting machine, and a tool for weaving flat-bottomed paper bags. She also created an improved sleeve valve motor and safety device for textile looms, so her innovations were not limited to the paper industry.
Knight is considered one of the most creative and prosperous inventors of the 19th century. Her work as an engineer and inventor helped develop many of today’s manufacturing processes. Knight has survived and left a lasting legacy in technology and invention despite experiencing discrimination and obstacles as a woman in a traditionally male-dominated engineering industry.
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Computer scientist and mathematician Grace Hopper is credited with creating the first compiler, a tool that converts human-readable programming languages into machine code. Hopper was also instrumental in the development of COBOL, one of the first high-level programming languages.
Hopper’s success as a pioneering computer scientist and inventor, despite confronting gender bias, serves as an inspiration for women in technology.
During the space race, Katherine Johnson, a mathematician and computer scientist, worked for NASA. She predicted flight paths for space missions, including the first manned mission to the moon, and her work was crucial to the success of the Apollo program.
Johnson’s remarkable achievements as a mathematician and computer scientist in NASA’s early space program, despite discrimination and barriers as a black woman, made her a pioneer and role model for women in the male-dominated field of technology.
Jean Jennings Bartik
Jean Jennings Bartik was one of the original programmers of the ENIAC computer, one of the first electronic computers. Bartik and her colleagues were tasked with programming a huge machine that was used to calculate ballistic trajectories during World War II.
Bartik’s groundbreaking work as one of the first computer programmers is a testament to the importance of diversity and inclusion in the tech industry.
Computer scientist Radia Perlman is credited with creating the spanning tree protocol, an essential part of modern computer networks. Routing algorithms and secure network protocols have greatly benefited from Perlman’s innovations.
Perlman’s groundbreaking work in the design of network protocols and bridging technologies that paved the way for modern Internet infrastructure is an inspiration to today’s women in the male-dominated tech industry.
Anita Borg founded the Institute of Women and Technology. She was an IT specialist and women’s rights activist. Borg’s work focused on increasing diversity in the tech sector and improving women’s representation in the field.
Borg’s pioneering work as a computer scientist and advocate for women in tech inspires today’s women who want to break down barriers in technology.
Video game developer Carol Shaw is considered one of the first female video game designers. In the 1970s, Shaw developed games including River Raid and 3-D Tic-Tac-Toe while employed by Activision. Shaw’s groundbreaking work as one of the first female game developers is an inspiration to today’s women in the gaming industry.
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Shafi Goldwasser is a computer scientist who has significantly advanced the disciplines of complexity theory and cryptography. For her work, Goldwasser has received various honors, including the Turing Award, which is the top prize in computer science.
Goldwasser’s contributions to cryptography and computing, as well as her leadership in promoting diversity and inclusion in the tech industry, provide important lessons about breaking down barriers and promoting equality in male-dominated fields.
Susan Kare is a graphic designer credited with designing many original icons and graphics for the Apple Macintosh. Kare’s work helped establish the visual language of modern computer science. Kare’s contributions to the development of user interface design and iconography are a reminder of the importance of diversity and creativity in the tech industry.
Computer scientist and electrical engineer Lynn Conway is well known for her contributions to the development of computer architecture. The science of microelectronics was revolutionized by Conway’s work on VLSI (very large scale integration), which also paved the way for modern computer technology.
Conway’s pioneering work in computing and microelectronics, as well as her advocacy for transgender rights and inclusion in the tech industry, provide important lessons about breaking down barriers and promoting diversity and inclusion in male-dominated fields.