With the current push by the tech industry to encourage more young women to consider studying for and working in STEM – science, technology, engineering, and mathematics – career fields, we wanted to celebrate International Women’s Day this year by highlighting five women in tech who changed the world for the better.
No list about women in tech would be complete without Ada Lovelace. She even has her own day dedicated to her (you can read our article about that right here). Ada Lovelace is commonly referred to as the first computer programmer, which is interesting because computers didn’t even exist when she was alive!
In 1843 Ada was employed by Charles Babbage, an English mathematician, philosopher, inventor, and mechanical engineer, who was working on his idea for an invention called the Analytical Engine – a machine designed to count Bernoulli numbers. It was within her notes that she had recorded what would later be recognizes as the first algorithm intended to be carried out by a machine, also known as the first computer algorithm and what would become the foundation for modern computing.
Hedy Lamarr, born Hedwig Eva Kiesler, was an Austrian actress who shot to stardom in the 1930’s and 1940’s for her role in movies such as “Samson and Delilah”, “Ecstasy,” and “The Strange Woman,” and she is even referred to by many critics and fans alike as the most beautiful woman to ever appear in films. However, it was during World War II that she proved to be more than just a pretty face.
Along with George Antheil – an American composer, pianist, author, and inventor – Lamarr played a pivotal role in the invention of frequency hopping, a method of sending radio signals from different frequency channels. The duo originally invented this technology to help the U.S. Navy remotely control torpedoes, however, despite receiving two patents and multiple lobbying and fundraising efforts, the Navy ultimately decided not to pursue the technology.
It found new life in the 1950’s from engineers at Sylvania Electronic Systems as an early form of encryption technology as they realized that the randomized channel switching made it difficult for outside users to understand what was being communicated and was promptly integrated into military communication devices.
Despite being invented more than 70 years ago, her invention has made a significant contribution to today’s technology in the form of wireless security as it still plays as integral role in technologies such as Bluetooth and Wi-Fi.
Radia Joy Perlman
Radia Joy Perlman, also known as the Mother of the Internet, is a network engineer who developed a computer protocol known as Spanning Tree Protocol (STP) which made it possible to build extensive networks over Ethernet connections. It’s because of this network that we can surf the internet and its seemingly infinite sources of information from the comfort of our home.
More impressively, she is currently working at Intel and recently developed the Transparent Interconnection of Lots of Links (TRILL), which is a new standard for data center connectivity that could very well replace the STP.
Have you ever gone somewhere and asked yourself ”What is there to do around here?” Or have you ever made plans to go on a road trip to visit friends who live in another state or across the country? Chances are you’ve done one of these things at least once and chances are when looking for that local attraction or planning that road trip you did what most people do: you Googled it.
Simple, right? You can thank Marissa Mayer for that! Marissa is Google’s first female engineer who started with the tech giant back when it was a startup in 1999. She currently still works with Google as vice president of location and local services and leads project management and engineering for some of the search engine’s top services including Google Maps, Local Search, Google Earth, and Street view.
The ENIAC Programmers
Ok, so putting this group of women on the list puts the grand total of women who changed the world up to 10, but hey, who’s counting? The Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer, or ENIAC, was the first electronic general-purpose computer which was designed to calculate artillery firing tables for the U.S. Army during World War II.
This powerful new tool was primarily programmed by these six women: Kay McNulty, Betty Jennings, Betty Snyder, Marlyn Wescoff, Fran Bilas, and Ruth Lichterman and stayed in operation until 1955. Unfortunately, when the computer was introduced to the public in 1946 these women were never given the credit they deserve for its creation because the public was more interested in the machine than the people behind it.