International Women ‘in tech’ Day
Long before tech pioneers like Steve Jobs and Bill Gates made their mark, there were people writing the first computer programming languages. They worked hard to figure out the mathematics that tell machines to make calculations; they envisioned the future of what we now call computers … Many of those people were women.
They are the unsung heroes of computer science and technology history, the ones whose thinking and innovation paved the way for computers and technology as we know it.
Women, then and now shaped our technology world and in my humble opinion, these five women are an inspiration for their inventions but mainly, for their contribution and influence to the technological world as we know it today … let’s meet them !
Countess Ada Lovelace
“Use logic and creativity to invent new things”
Ada Lovelace, the daughter of Lord Byron, was tutored extensively in mathematics in the early 1800s because her mother did not want her to turn out like her father, a romantic poet.
At 17, she was introduced to Charles Babbage’s plans for a machine that he believed could do complex math calculations.
Asked to write about it for a scholarly journal, Lovelace envisioned that instructions could be loaded into a machine to do even the most complicated problems. Although Babbage’s machine was never built, his designs and Lovelace’s writings were examined by those who eventually built the first computer a century later.
Lovelace would later be credited as the first computer programmer.
Grace Murray Hopper
“Take things apart to learn how to fix them”
Tiny in size but big on results, Grace Murray Hopper made a career out of shattering the glass ceiling. The computer scientist and United States Navy Rear Admiral worked on the first computer, the Harvard Mark 1, and she invented the first compiler which led to the development of COBOL, one of the first high-level programming languages. Decades later, COBOL is still used in business, finance and administrative systems.
She was a pioneer in the Navy, programming early computers and fixing them when they broke down–a common occurrence back then, when computers were the size of rooms and were prone to overheating. Hopper was an adept and savvy problem solver, and kept the Navy’s computers running smoothly in the face of daily obstacles.
She’s credited with helping to popularize the term “debugging” after she fixed a computer glitch by removing a moth from a relay!
“Her code and onboard software got humans to the moon”
As Hamilton’s career got under way, the software world was on the verge of a giant leap, thanks to the Apollo programme launched by John F. Kennedy in 1961. At the MIT Instrumentation Lab where Hamilton worked, she and her colleagues were inventing core ideas in computer programming as they wrote the code for the world’s first portable computer.
The world didn’t think much at all about software back in the early Apollo days. The original document laying out the engineering requirements of the Apollo mission didn’t even mention the word software.
In 1965, Hamilton and the team of MIT engineers became responsible for the onboard flight software on the Apollo computers, without it, Neil Armstrong wouldn’t have made it to the moon.
“The wireless visionary
Largely known as a screen star of the 1920s, Hedy Lamarr proved to be more than just a pretty face. She played a key role in the invention of spread-spectrum technology; specifically, by conceptualizing the idea of frequency hopping, which is a method of sending radio signals from different frequency channels.
Lamarr and her co-inventor, George Antheil, developed the technology originally to help the Navy remotely control torpedoes. The key value of frequency hopping was that the randomized channel switching made it difficult for outside agents to understand what was being communicated. It was, in essence, an early form of encryption technology.
In the late 1950s, engineers at Sylvania Electronic Systems Division use Lamarr’s frequency hopping concept in secure military communications. Her work on spread-spectrum has played a part in many modern wireless technologies, such as Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA).
Dr Sue Black OBE
“Tech evangelist, social entrepreneur, writer, speaker and mum”
I met Dr Sue Black briefly at a BCS (British Computer Society) event. At that time, I didn’t know much about her but soon learned that for over twenty years, she has worked tirelessly to get more women into technology, inspired by her own life-changing experiences. Sue is motivated by the belief that technology has the power to change lives. She set up the UK’s first online network for women in tech BCSWomen and #TechMums that teaches mums technical skills and builds their confidence encouraging them into education, entreprenership and employment.
In 2003, she visited Bletchley Park, the UK World War II centre for decrypting enemy messages. After visiting the site and noting the appalling condition of the buildings, seeing the Bombe machine being rebuilt, and hearing that over 10,000 people had worked there during the war; Dr Black started a campaign to save Bletchley Park. Her book details the social media campaign she led to save Bletchley Park from 2008-2011, it has been an Amazon UK bestseller and is currently the fastest crowdfunded book ever.
Her steadfast dedication and innovation have earned her an OBE for “services to technology” in the 2016 Queen’s New Year’s Honours list.
About International Women’s Day
International Women’s Day (March 8th) is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity.
International Women’s Day (IWD) has been observed since in the early 1900’s – a time of great expansion and turbulence in the industrialized world that saw booming population growth and the rise of radical ideologies. International Women’s Day is a collective day of global celebration and a call for gender parity. No one government, NGO, charity, corporation, academic institution, women’s network or media hub is solely responsible for International Women’s Day.
Many organizations declare an annual IWD theme that supports their specific agenda or cause, and some of these are adopted more widely with relevance than others.
“The story of women’s struggle for equality belongs to no single feminist nor to any one organization but to the collective efforts of all who care about human rights,” says world-renowned feminist, journalist and social and political activist Gloria Steinem. Thus International Women’s Day is all about unity, celebration, reflection, advocacy and action – whatever that looks like globally at a local level. But one thing is for sure, International Women’s Day has been occurring for well over a century – and continue’s to grow from strength to strength.
Learn more about International Women’s Day
Dedicated to my wife, to whom I admire !