Technology is a notoriously male-dominated space. According to a recent Statistical survey, over 90% of software developers identified as male in 2021, and less than 6% identified as female. But don’t let these disheartening statistics fool you. Despite being underrepresented in STEM professions, women have made massive contributions to technology over the years.
For Women’s History Month, we wanted to shine a light on a few of these influential women and show how their contributions to the world have made a difference for themselves, those who have come after them, and society at large.
Annie Easley, 1933-2011
Computer scientist, mathematician and rocket scientist
Annie Easley worked for the Lewis Research Center (now called the Glenn Research Center). She also worked with NASA and the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) which preceded NASA. One of Easley’s most notable accomplishments was his work on Project Centaur, which helped make future space travel possible.
Her work contributed to the 1997 Cassini probe, and she also worked to help other African Americans register to vote. She even studied battery-powered vehicles long ago, before companies like Tesla and Rivian were household names.
Ada Lovelace made her mark on the world in the mid-1800s, a time when not only was it very rare for a woman to learn STEM disciplines, but computers as we know them today didn’t even exist yet. .
Lovelace was fascinated by the brain and other scientific and technological disciplines. In 1833, she met a man named Charles Babbage, who had created an early computer machine called the Analytical Engine. Lovelace translated one of Babbage’s lectures into English and added footnotes. In her notes, she included an algorithm that allowed Babbage’s engine to calculate Bernoulli numbers, and ultimately this was the first time a computer algorithm was published.
Due to its published algorithm, Lovelace is often seen as the very first computer programmer.
Hédy Lamarr, 1914-2000
The Mother of Wi-Fi
When some people think of Hedy Lamarr, they often only think of a beautiful actress. But there’s so much more to Lamarr than meets the eye. Hedy, along with another inventor (named George Antheil), developed a radio-based torpedo guidance system that was immune to jamming. Initially, few people took the actress seriously, and her patent eventually expired without being used in the real world. However, Lamarr and Antheil’s technology ended up being used in many of our essential technologies today, including Wi-Fi and GPS.
In 2014, Lamarr and Antheil were inducted into the National Inventor’s Hall of Fame.
Reshma Saujani, 1975-present
Founder of Girls Who Code
Girls who Code is an organization committed to diversity and inclusion in technology. The organization has served nearly half a million girls and reached 500 million people since its inception.
Reshma Saujani is the founder of Girls Who Code, but she’s also an activist and lawyer, working to close the gender pay gap. Along with all the young women Reshma has helped, she absolutely deserves a spot on our Most Influential Women in Tech list.
Former YouTube CEO
Since its appearance in 2005, YouTube has fundamentally changed the way we consume content on the web. He’s empowered everyday people to become stars, influencers, and helpful tutors on everything from relationship advice to cosmetic advice.
Susan Wojcicki was previously senior vice president of Google and was one of the company’s first employees, but the Harvard graduate eventually became CEO of YouTube in 2014. She is an inspiration to young women around the world whole due to his hard work, tenacity and success in the tech industry.
Creator of the Spanning Tree Protocol
Radia Perlman attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the late 1960s and early 1970s. During that time, few women were in these STEM programs, so it’s pretty impressive that she managed to make her mark.
Perlman’s work has had a significant impact on the field of technology, particularly on how networks move data and organize themselves. His most notable creation is the Spanning Tree Protocol (STP): a set of rules for network design that helped improve the Internet. Others have developed the technology since Perlman invented it, but it was his creation that paved the way for the modern, ultra-fast networks we enjoy today.
Karen Sparck-Jones was a self-taught computer programmer at a time when there were very few female programmers in the field. His most notable contributions focused on inverse document frequency and index term weighting – two great concepts that helped create the modern search engines we have today.
Whenever you search for a recipe on Google, ask Google what is the best Thai restaurant or search for what robot vacuum you should buy, Sparck-Jones’ work helps ensure that the search results you see are helpful.