The technology industry is well-known to be a heavily male-dominated industry. However, the tech industry’s history is rich with contributions made by females towards the development and establishment of some of the renowned technological systems and tools we use today.
In today’s articles, I have compiled a list of 5 women who have made significant contributions in the STEM field, inspiring the younger generation of females to pursue STEM-related careers.
1. Ada Lovelace – The World’s First Computer Programmer in Technology
Ada Lovelace, also known as Augusta Ada King, was an English mathematician, writer. Lovelace was primarily known for her work on the Analytical engine, which was a mechanical general-purpose computer proposed by Charles Babbage.
Her substantial contributions to the tech field led her to be called the prophet of the computer age by the masses. However, Lovelace received very little recognition when she was alive. In one of her footnotes of studies, she wrote, “The Analytical Engine has no pretensions whatever to originate anything. It can do whatever we know how to order it to perform. It can follow analysis, but it has no power of anticipating any analytical relations or truths. Its province is to assist us in making available what we are already acquainted with.”
These footnotes were extracted from the footnotes she wrote on the engine and they serve as a proof that Ada Lovelace was indeed, the first programmer. She was also the first person to recognize the full potential of a computing machine.
Every year on October 13th, academic institutions and organizations celebrate Ada Lovelace Day (ALD) to highlight the success stories and achievements of females in science, technology, engineering, and maths (STEM).
2. Grace Hopper – The Esteemed Computer Scientist
Grace Hopper was an American computer scientist and the rear admiral of the United States Navy.
Hopper was one of the first programmers of the Harvard Mark I computer while being a pioneer of computer programming who invented one of the very first linkers. Grace Hopper is popular for her substantial contributions in the field of design & implementation of programming languages, software development, and also computer programming.
In 1947, Hopper was the first individual in the world to record a real computer bug. She was also the mastermind creator behind the first all-electronic computer known as UNIVAC.
In short, Hopper invented the first computer compiler, which was a program that translated written instructions into codes for the computers to read.
This work by Grace led to so-develop one of the earliest standardized languages of computers known as COBOL. Hopper’s pioneering career did not stop there. She also invented the first English-like language of data processing known as FLOW-Matic which initiated the development of the Navy’s standard operating language known as COBOL.
At present, the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing (GHC) is a series of conferences designed to bring the research and career interests of women in computing to the forefront.
3. Radia Perlman – Woman Behind the Internet of Technology
Radia Perlman is a mathematician and an engineer. She was also the individual behind the creation of one of the most substantial underlying foundations of the internet called the Spanning Tree Protocol (STP). Despite contributing significantly towards the development of the internet, Perlman insists that the “internet was not invented by any individual.”
A challenging information routing problem was solved with her invention of the algorithm which earned her the title of the “Mother of the Internet.”
Radia Perlman said, “In engineering, the point is to get the job done, and people are happy to help. You should be generous with credit, and you should be happy to help others.”
Being a holder of over 100 issued patents, Perlman is also the recipient of numerous prestigious awards such as the Lifetime Achievement awards from Usenix and the Association for Computing Machinery’s Special Interest Group on Data Communication (SIGCOMM).
4. Katherine Johnson: The NASA Mathematician
Katherine Johnson was an American mathematician and is significantly known for the calculations of orbital mechanics she made as an employee for NASA which served to be a substantial tool for the first and subsequent U.S crewed spaceflights.
She is well-known for contributing towards the calculated and analyzed flight paths of spacecraft during her more than three decades of work for NASA.
During the era when tools of technology were not as accessible as they are now, Katherine Johnson calculated flight trajectories with her hand for the space program of the United States. Johnson’s calculation made space exploration possible which led her to win the Hubbard Medal.
In 2015, Katherine Johnson won the Presidential Medal of Freedom and in 2016, NASA named one of its buildings as the Katherine G. Johnson Computational Research Facility to pay tribute to the mathematician.
5. Mary Kenneth Keller – First Woman to Earn Ph.D. in Computer Science
Mary Kenneth Keller, B.V.M was an American educator, pioneer of computer science and was also the first person to earn a computer science Ph.D. in the United States.
Mary was the founder of the Association of Small Computer Users in Education (ASCUE), which was an organization that focused on furthering the use of technology in education.
Mary Kenneth Keller recognized the extensive potential of the computer and realized that it can be used as an instructive tool. Kenneth Keller strived towards equal access to computers for all, and her work impacted students inside and beyond a classroom.