Even with the underrepresentation of women in the technology industry, many women have taken leadership roles in the industry and are recognized globally. This article gives a brief history of women in technology, and the impact of women today in enhancing diversity in the technology industry. At Wilson Consulting Group, we value the role women have in the technology field and the influence they bring to the cybersecurity sector.
Women in Technology – 19th and 20th Century
Women in technology fields date back to the early 1800s. Mathematicians and scientists led the the burgeoning field of computer technology as new methods and models began to take shape.
Francis E. Allen
Francis E. Allen is an American computer scientist well known for her achievement in code and compilers optimization. In 1957, Allen received a Master's degree in mathematics from the University of Michigan. After graduation, Allen was hired by IBM to teach the “FORTRAN” programming language to staff. She later worked on compilers for IBM supercomputers needed by the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA). Allen became an IBM fellow in 1989, and in 2006, she became the first female to receive the A.M. Turing award.
Grace Hopper was an American Computer scientist and rear admiral in the United States Navy. She invented one of the world’s first compilers, a program that converts English language instructions into code that can be read and executed by the computer. Her computer programming language design led to the invention of COBOL. The USS Hopper supercomputer launched in January 1996 was named after her, and on November 22, 2016, a posthumous award was granted to her by President Barack Obama. The Grace Hopper Celebration, known as the world's largest gathering of women in technology, is held annually.
Sister Mary Kenneth Keller
Sister Mary Keller was one of the first women to receive a Ph.D. in the field of computer science. She received her Ph.D. in 1965 from the University of Wisconsin and founded the computer science department at Clarke College, a Catholic womens’ college. Because of her work at Clarke College, the institution dedicated the Keller Computer Center and Information Services to her memory. The Keller Computer Center provides computing and telecommunication support to Clarke College students, faculty members, and staff.
In 1843, English Mathematician Ada Lovelace designed the first computer algorithm that showed how a machine could perform computations. The algorithm was used by her friend, Charles Babbage, on his proposed mechanical general-purpose computer called the Analytical Engine. Lovelace was widely known as the first computer programmer, and a programming language named ‘Ada’ was introduced in 1980, more than a century after her death. “Ada Lovelace Day” is held annually in October to recognize women in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields.
Women in Technology – 21th Century
Women in technology fields have only continued to grow and thrive. The women below illustrate the vanguards in the field from 2000-present.
Angela McKay is Microsoft’s director of the Cybersecurity Policy and Strategy team, where she works internationally with industry and governments to improve cybersecurity around the world. She also works as Secretary for the IT Sector Coordinating Council, a partnership between the IT industry and the U.S. Government for cybersecurity and critical infrastructure protection, and is a member of the EastWest Institute Board of Councilors.
Virginia M. (Ginni) Rometty
Ginni is the recently retired President, Chairman, and Chief Executive Officer of IBM. Her career with IBM began in 1981, and she has held various leadership positions and projects, including the successful integration of PricewaterhouseCoopers Consulting that created a large team of over 100,000 business consultants. Her journey as IBM’s CEO began in January 2012, and she successfully transformed the company to lead in areas such as cybersecurity and artificial intelligence.
Dr. Bhavani Thuraisingham
Dr. Bhavani Thuraisingham is the Executive Director of Cybersecurity Research at the University of Texas at Dallas, where she is also a distinguished Professor of Computer Science. She is also the co-director of the Centers for Women in Data Science and Women in Cybersecurity. Dr. Thuraisingham holds a doctorate degree from the University of Wales, UK in Theory of Computation. Dr. Thuraisingham has received many noteworthy awards for her work in the field of intelligence and security informatics as well as data and applications security.
Susan Diane Wojcicki
Susan Wojcicki became Google’s first marketing manager in 1999, where she worked on marketing programs and contributed successfully to some Google products such as Google Images and Google Books. She was the brains behind the acquisition of YouTube which took effect in 2006. Wojcicki began her journey as CEO of YouTube in February 2014 where she has completed successful projects including different forms of monetization for YouTubers and YouTube Premium, an advertisement fee subscription service.
Leading New Generations
The new generation of women leading the field of technology and information systems has a derth of passionate young minds with emphasis placed on mentorship, education, and practical information system usage.
Tabitha Goldstaubis a British technology entrepreneur and co-founder of Cognition X, an AI Advice platform that offers organizations the chance to connect with a global network of AI experts. In 2018, Goldstaub led the team that analyzed the AI ecosystem in London for the Mayor of London’s office, and was named head of the AI Council for the UK Government’s Office for AI. To, Along with Sharmadean Reid, Amy Thomson, Pia Stanchina, and Elvira Vedelago, Goldstaub co-founded Future Girl Group, a non-profit organization geared towards encouraging young women and girls in technology and entrepreneurship. Goldstaub is also on the Marketing Advisory Council for Founders 4 Schools.
Sheila Flavell is the Chief Operating Officer of the FDM group. She is passionate about enhancing diversity and acts as a mentor to women in the Information Technology sector. FDM’s Global Women in Technology is known for providing opportunities for new employees or those returning to the workforce.
Benin Saffo is an African-American lead product manager with IBM in New York City, NY who specializes in the use of AI to build and scale products in the cloud. Saffo’s passion for technology and engaging with people was cultivated at Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University (FAMU) in Tallahasee, FL. Her work in the Enginnering and Applied Physics department at FAMU and her supply chain and production internship at PepsiCo motivated her to take on a project with a real-world application. Saffo used an AI tool to categorize unique combinations of hair types by using machine learning and cognitive computing to build a custom model that defines different hair types.
Helen Wollaston is the CEO of WISE, a non-profit company that encourages young girls to take STEM subjects, and young women to pursue STEM roles. WISE offers support and services to companies seeking to reduce their gender gap, as well as increase the advancement of women in STEM.