When you think of leaders in technology, women are likely not the first people who come to mind and according to TechRepublic.com only about 26% of tech jobs were occupied by women in 2013. This hasn’t always been the case, in fact women have a history of help to advance technology. Here are a few of these influential women and the impact they’ve made.
Ada Byron, Lady Lovelace (1815-1852)
Considered the Founder of Scientific Computing, Ada Byron was the daughter of poet Lord Byron and Anne Isabelle Milbanke. In hopes that her daughter would be nothing like her poetic father, Milbanke saw to it that Ada was tutored in mathematics. Ada’s scientific mind really started to flourish when she met Charles Babbage, the inventor of the Difference Engine, a mechanical calculator designed to formulate polynomial functions. They met in 1833 and began a lengthy correspondence about mathematics and logic. Her work on Babbage’s Analytic Engine earned Ada the distinction of being the first computer programmer.
Sister Mary Kenneth Keller (1914-1985)
Very little is known about Sister Mary Kenneth Keller’s early life, including conflicting reports on her birth. Sister Keller took her vows in 1940 and received a B.S. in Mathematics and a M.S. in Mathematics and Physics at DePaul University. In the 60s, Sister Keller studied at the University of Washington, Purdue, the University of Michigan, and Dartmouth College. With the ban on women in the computer center at Dartmouth College relaxed, Sister Keller was able to aid in the development of the BASIC programing language. In 1965, Sister Keller became the first woman in the US to earn a Ph.D. in Computer Science and went on to found and run the computer science depart at Clarke College, helping open the doors for other women in Computer Science.
Grace Hopper (1906-1992)
Rear Admiral Grace Hopper is credited with creating the first computing language, COBOL and cited as popularizing the term “debugging” after removing a real moth from her computer. Not satisfied with the first computing language, Grace continued to rack up accolades. In 1969, she was named Computer Science Man of the Year (yeah, I know) by the Data Processing Management Association. She became the first person from the United States and the first woman of any nationality to be made a Distinguished Fellow of the British Computer Society in 1973. Finally, she received the National Medal of Technology in 1991, which is the highest honor in the engineering and technology field in the US.
Jean Bartik (1924-2011)
In 1945, math major Jean Bartik’s advisor saw an Army advertisement recruiting math majors as part of the war effort and suggested that she apply. Jean was hired to work for Army Ordnance at Aberdeen Proving Ground to manually calculate ballistics trajectories and when the Electronic Numeric Integrator and Computer (ENIAC) was developed to calculate these trajectories, she was selected to be one of its first programmers. After the war she was part of the group responsible for adapting the ENIAC to a stored program computer. Later, Jean teamed up with John Eckert and John Mauchly to develop the BINAC and UNIVAC I computers.
Now I know I’m leaving A LOT of people off of this list, but this is a blog, not a book. If you would like to learn more about the amazing women who helped pave the way for women in tech, check out this list The Ada Project.