Women Who Changed the Tech Industry - International Women's Day
Updated: Mar 8
Throughout history, women have invented life changing items such as Wi-Fi and computer programmes. The tech Industry remains to be solely male dominated. Large technology companies are making slow but steady progress in increasing the female workforce representation. Deloitte Global predicts that by 2022 large global technology companies will reach nearly 33% overall female representation in their workforce (Ariane Bucaille, 2021). In comparison to just 22.4% representation in 2019 (Ariane Bucaille, 2021). This progress is a step in the right direction, but tech companies will have to work even harder to improve these numbers (Ariane Bucaille, 2021).
Its easy to forget all the monumental discoveries women have created. Many of these discoveries have carved out the future for upcoming generations. We often hear about the men who have helped to change the world we live in today, but best we don’t forget about all the amazing things women have done for the industry.
Hedy Lamarr: The Inventor of Wi-Fi
Hedy Lamarr was a Hollywood film legend who was awarded a patent award in 1942 for her “secret Communication system”. She invented wireless communication, however the US Government refused to take her seriously. Lamarr was the epitome of beauty and she was incredibly intelligent. Lamarr grew bored of Hollywood life and began focusing on science experiments.
In the mist of World War 2, Lamarr invented a frequency hopping system along side George Antheil, this was intended to set radio-guided torpedoes off during the war. The US Navy shrugged off Hedy’s invention. The technology was classified by the Navy; however, it was put aside until the Navy gradually began using it, giving zero credit to Lamarr. Frequency hopping has since been used to make Wi-Fi, GPS and Bluetooth which is essential to our modern-day society. Thankfully, the original patent was discovered and Lamarr was given the Electronic Frontier Award in 2000, shortly before her death.
Ada Lovelace: Computer Programmer
Ada Lovelace was one of the world’s first computer genius. She worked alongside Charles Babbage, together they came up with an idea for an “Analytical Machine”. This was a complicated device that resembled a computer. Lovelace contributed detailed notes to Babbage’s invention, they explained how the device could be fed specific data to solve complicated math problems. These notes are the earliest record of what might resemble a computer programme and algorithms. Alan Turing used Lovelace’s notes as inspiration for the first modern computer. As a result of her work, she is referred to as the ‘world’s first computer programmer’.
Grace Hopper: Computer Scientist
Grace Hopper is an American computer scientist and Navy rear admiral. Hopper was one of the first programmers to work on the Harvard Mark I. She is also responsible for developing the first complier for a computer programming language. Her work led to the development of COBOL computer language which is still used today. Hopper discovered the first ever computer bug in 1947. She became the first woman and person is the USA to become a Distinguished Fellow of the British Computer Society.
This year’s theme for International Women’s Day is ‘Break the Bias’.
“Imagine a gender equal world.
A world free of bias, stereotypes, and discrimination.
A world that is diverse, equitable, and inclusive.
A world where difference is valued and celebrated.
Together we can forge women's equality.
Collectively we can all #BreakTheBias.” Website
The movie ‘Hidden Figures’ is based off the true story of three female African-American’s – Katherine G. Johnson, Mary Jackson, and Dorothy Vaughan, who served a vital role in NASA and were the brains behind one of the greatest operations in US history. They were known as the ‘Human Computers’. Set during a time of racial and gender discrimination, we follow these women as they conquered inequality and rose through the ranks of NASA.
Katherine G. Johnson:
Johnson helped NASA send astronauts to the moon and return them home safely. One of her biggest accomplishments was helping to calculate the trajectory of Americas first human spaceflight in 1961. She ensured several astronauts such as Alan B. Shepard, John Glenn, and in 1969 she calculated the trajectories for Neil Armstrong’s historic trip to the moon on Apollo 11. During her time at NASA, she broke racial barriers, like using the bathroom that was supposed to be for white women only.
Jackson worked in National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA). This unit was made up of African-American female mathematicians, these women provided data that was essential for of the U.S space program. Jackson began working alongside engineer Kazimierz Czarnecki, Czarnecki suggested Jackson entered into a training program to become an engineer. At the time, schools in Virginia were segregated, meaning Jackson had to receive permission in order to attended the classes. She completed the course and became the NASA’s first African-American female engineer. Jackson later became the manager for NASA’s women’s program, working hard to improve the opportunities for all women in NASA.
Vaughan worked as part of the computing unit in NACA alongside Mary Jackson. Vaughan was promoted to lead the West Computers in 1949. She was one of few female supervisors, but she was NACA's first African-American supervisor. Vaughan continued to work for NACA until 1958, when it became NASA and the segregated facilities were closed.
Incredible women like these are an inspiration for all women today. Their work drew paths for future generations.