We’ve said it before: men dominate the tech field. They make up 92% of computer programmers. Stats show that while girls start out wanting to code, a lack of encouragement dwindles the number of them who actually pursue a computer science learning track. In most places, the message is clear: men run tech; women in tech are anomalies.
Most studies can trace man’s dominance of the tech field back to 1984. That was the start of earnest advertisement of technology towards boys. The resulting geek culture is also male dominated. Not even just “mainly male” but almost exclusively male. Back then, computers weren’t the beast they are now, just bulky gaming software and hardware ungracefully combined. Boys became more used to it in the homes, and in schools became natural. Girls’ lack of expose kept them at an arm’s length, and have been playing catch-up ever since.
But before 1984, women in tech was the norm. In fact, computer programming was considered “women’s work”—like typing or cooking. Women were at the helm of the space race and have a lot to do with the technologies we have available to us now.
Below, we’ve made a list of women in tech who you should know. These women have paved the way for women in tech today. Learn about them:
No list of important woman in tech is complete without a spot for Lady Ada. Ada Lovelace is often considered the mother of computer programming. She worked with Charles Babbage, father of the Babbage Analytical Engine (BAE, if you will). While she translated one Babbage’s own articles, she added pages of notes three times longer than the original. computers. In those notes are the common principles for programming a computer today. Hence, she is the OG computer programmer.
Defying expectations of gender, Hedy Lamarr was both a beautiful woman of Hollywood films, but also imagined ad patented early encryption technology. While she was considered “The Most Beautiful Woman in Films,” she also worked with George Antheil to patent the “Secret Communication System” in 1942, technology that attempted to prevent enemies from accessing radio-transmitted messages. Their patent was largely ignored then, but made a comeback in the 1950s when some smarty-pants at Sylvania Electronic Systems Division revisited their work. The amazing woman in tech finally got her recognition in 1997, 3 years before her death.
An often unsung woman in tech, Evelyn Boyd Granville was the second black woman to receive a PhD in Mathematics from Yale University. She graduated in 1949, became a badass woman in tech, and started working from IBM in 1956. NASA, who, as you may know, does space stuff, contracted IBM. Amazing Evelyn “created computer software that analyzed satellite orbits for the Project Vanguard and Project Mercury space programs.” She’s one of the hidden figures of hidden figures. She kept working with sky and space stuff, and could never actually stop teaching, so she’s been a professor probably longer than you’ve been born.
Once upon a time, computers spoke to each other primarily in binary. Like 010100010010…blah blah blah ad infinitum. Grace Hopper is the reason they no longer do. As one of the foremothers of women in tech, Grace pioneered the first English-language programming language, COBOL. Common Business-Oriented Language, which, we’ll have you know, was based off another language she created.
Despite not being much of a programmer, Reshma Saujani is an important women in tech, though she herself is not much of a programmer. She is a politician and a lawyer, and the esteemed founder of Girls Who Code. Girls Who Code is a massive non-profit doing dope things to forward young girls’ interest and resources in pursing technology dreams. Because of Saujni lots more girls have access to resources that will allow them to compete as a woman in tech in a world dominated by boys.
This is the woman who created the internet: Radia Perlman. No, really. She will and had denied this: “It’s overreaching because I don’t think any single individual deserves credit for inventing the Internet. Many people had large roles, including, actually, Al Gore, and in a sense it was something that was inevitable.” But it was her bit of technology that made networking, the core tenet of the internet, possible.