In recent years, it’s been noted that we need more women in the technology field. The truth is, women have been involved in technology for decades. Unfortunately their stories haven’t made it to the forefront of our history lessons. To encourage more women to join the ranks of these pioneers, it is vital that we recognize those who have forged ahead and made advances in the tech industry. We need female role models in order to inspire young women to dive into technology at an early age.
Below is a brief history and timeline of women over the years who have shaped and impacted the tech industry. From designers to mathematicians, these women changed the world we live in with their innovative spirits and groundbreaking inventions.
Ada Lovelace – 1800’s
Recognized as the world’s first computer programmer, Ada Lovelace worked with Charles Babbage’s “Analytical Engine” design by translating lecture notes from French to English. During her work, Ada discovered many errors and realized the machine could be used for more than calculation. In 1843, she created the first algorithm intended to be processed by a machine – thus creating the first concept of a computer operating system.
Edith Clarke – 1920’s
Known as a human computer, Edith Clarke was the first woman to earn her master’s degree in electrical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). She invented the Clarke calculator which computed electrical systems equations 10 times faster than existing methods and worked on the construction of the Hoover Dam. In 2015, Clarke was posthumously inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame.
Grace Hopper – 1940-50’s
Admiral Grace Hopper was a huge believer in change and fought the phrase, “We’ve always done it this way,” her whole career. Prior to language-based computer programming, computers used binary code. Enter Grace, who took on programming in English which sparked the development of the common business-oriented language (COBOL) that is still widely used today.
Katherine Johnson – 1950-60’s
Ever since she could remember, Katherine Johnson loved math. It was this love that eventually lead her to NASA where she worked on crucial missions including the Apollo 11 flight to the moon. At NASA, Katherine calculated the trajectories, launch windows, and emergency back-up return paths for numerous missions. In 2015, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom and recently NASA renamed a facility after Katherine to honor her efforts.
Susan Kare – 1980-90’s
Graphic designer Susan Kare is responsible for developing some of Apple’s signature graphics. Although the graphics look simple, they are incredibly difficult to design. Think about it – she created a way to communicate different technologies via pictures, making them crystal clear to each user. These innovations are still used as icons to this day. Susan was honored for her efforts with an AIGA Medal, a prestigious award in the design world.
Megan Smith – 2010’s
First female Chief Technical Officer of the White House, Megan Smith is a huge advocate for women in STEM fields. Before working at the White House during the Obama Administration, she served as Vice President of Business Development at Google and CEO of PlanetOut, a leading LGBT online community. Megan is currently the CEO and founder of shift7, an organization that works in partnership on systemic economic, social, and environmental challenges.
Ada Lovelace. Digital image. Scientific American. 10 October 2017, https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/image.
Edith Clarke. Digital image. Wikipedia. 27 January 2019, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edith_Clarke.
Grace Hopper. Digital image. Vassar College. 06 July 2017, https://stories.vassar.edu/image.
Katherine Johnson. Digital image. NASA. 24 November 2015, https://www.nasa.gov/image.
Susan Kare. Digital image. PLOS. 22 November 2011, https://blogs.plos.org/neurotribes/image.
Megan Smith. Digital image. NPR. 04 November 2014, https://www.npr.org/image.