Women have made significant contributions to the field of technology throughout history, but their achievements have often been overlooked or undervalued. By highlighting the accomplishments of women in tech, we can celebrate their achievements, break down stereotypes, and promote gender equality in the industry. Recognizing women’s contributions in tech also helps to create role models for young girls and women, inspiring them to pursue their dreams in tech and contributing to a more diverse and inclusive tech industry.
Here are 11 of the most influential women in tech history to celebrate this International Women’s Day.
Ada Lovelace is widely considered to be the first computer programmer. She was a mathematician who worked with Charles Babbage on the design of his analytical engine, a precursor to the modern computer. Lovelace wrote the first algorithm intended to be processed by a machine, and her work laid the foundation for modern computing.
Lovelace faced gender bias during her time as a female mathematician in the 19th century, but her groundbreaking work in computer programming has since earned her recognition as one of the most important figures in the history of computing. Her legacy serves as a reminder of the importance of diversity and inclusion in the tech industry.
Margaret E. Knight
Margaret E. Knight was an inventor and engineer known for her invention of a machine that folded and glued paper bags, which was granted a patent in 1871. Paper bags were created manually at that time, which was a tedious and laborious procedure. Knight’s device revolutionized the paper bag industry by producing up to 60 bags every minute.
Around 20 patents were awarded to Knight throughout her life as an inventor, including ones for a rotary engine, a shoe-cutting machine and a tool for weaving flat-bottomed paper bags. She also created an improved sleeve-valve engine and a safety device for textile looms, so her innovations were not just for the paper sector.
Knight is regarded as one of the most creative and prosperous female inventors of the 19th century. Her work as an engineer and inventor helped to develop many contemporary manufacturing processes. Knight persisted and left a lasting legacy in the fields of technology and invention despite experiencing discrimination and obstacles as a woman in the traditionally male-dominated industry of engineering.
Related: 10 emerging technologies in computer science that will shape the future
Computer scientist and mathematician Grace Hopper is credited with creating the first compiler, a tool that converts programming languages that can be read by humans into machine code. Hopper was also instrumental in the development of COBOL, one of the first high-level programming languages.
Hopper’s success as a pioneering computer scientist and inventor, despite facing gender bias, serves as an inspiration for women in technology.
During the space race, Katherine Johnson, a mathematician and computer scientist, worked for NASA. She predicted flight paths for space missions, including the first manned voyage to the moon, and her work was essential to the Apollo program’s success.
Johnson’s remarkable achievements as a mathematician and computer scientist in NASA’s early space program, despite facing discrimination and barriers as a black woman, have made her a trailblazer and role model for women in the male-dominated tech field.
Jean Jennings Bartik
Jean Jennings Bartik was one of the first programmers of the ENIAC computer, one of the first electronic computers. Bartik and her colleagues were tasked with programming the massive machine, which was used to calculate ballistic trajectories during World War II.
Bartik’s groundbreaking work as one of the first computer programmers serves as a testament to the importance of diversity and inclusion in the tech industry.
Computer scientist Radia Perlman is credited with creating the spanning-tree protocol, a vital part of contemporary computer networks. Routing algorithms and secure network protocols have greatly benefited from Perlman’s innovations.
Perlman’s groundbreaking work in network protocol design and bridging technology, which paved the way for modern internet infrastructure, serves as an inspiration for today’s women in the male-dominated tech industry.
Anita Borg founded the Institute for Women and Technology. She was a computer scientist and women’s rights advocate. Borg’s work concentrated on advancing diversity in the technology sector and improving the representation of women in the field.
Borg’s pioneering work as a computer scientist and advocate for women in technology serves as an inspiration for today’s women seeking to break barriers in tech.
The video game creator Carol Shaw is regarded as one of the first female video game designers. In the 1970s, Shaw created games, including River Raid and 3-D Tic-Tac-Toe, while employed by Activision. Shaw’s groundbreaking work as one of the first female game developers serves as an inspiration for today’s women in the gaming industry.
Related: The importance of open source in computer science and software development
Shafi Goldwasser is a computer scientist who has significantly advanced the disciplines of complexity theory and cryptography. For her work, Goldwasser has received various honors, including the Turing Award, which is the top prize in computer science.
Goldwasser’s contributions to cryptography and computer science, as well as her leadership in promoting diversity and inclusion in the tech industry, provide important lessons for breaking down barriers and promoting equality in male-dominated fields.
Susan Kare is a graphic designer who is credited with designing many of the original icons and graphics for the Apple Macintosh. Kare’s work helped to establish the visual language of modern computing. Kare’s contributions to the development of user interface design and iconography serve as a reminder of the importance of diversity and creativity in the tech industry.
Computer scientist and electrical engineer Lynn Conway is well-known for her contributions to the development of computer architecture. The science of microelectronics was revolutionized by Conway’s work on VLSI (very large-scale integration), which also served to pave the way for contemporary computer technology.
Conway’s pioneering work in computer science and microelectronics, as well as her advocacy for transgender rights and inclusion in the tech industry, provide important lessons for breaking down barriers and promoting diversity and inclusion in male-dominated fields.