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The tech industry is a $3 trillion industry in today’s world and is constantly growing. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that the number of people employed in this field will surpass 1.4 million in 2020. However, with large amounts of people being brought into this career, women still make up only 1/3 of those employed in the tech industry in 2019.
There are many efforts to create new jobs and give praise to the women in technology, but even some of these efforts make it clear that the separation between men and women in this field is vast. If you need an example of this, just look back to the comments made by Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft, at the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women In Computing in 2014. Nadella mentions that women shouldn’t ask for raises in tech, but rather receive them from having “good karma.”
Even with the overwhelming gender inequality, women are taking the tech scene by force and bringing their innovations to the world. These are some of our favorite women and their contributions to the world we live in today.
Ada Lovelance was a brilliant mathematician, known for her work on Charles Babbage’s 'Differential Engine' and 'Analytical Engine'. Lovelance wrote the world’s first algorithm for the ‘Analytical Engine’ and was the world’s first computer programmer. Her contributions created the framework for many careers available today.
Without Lovelance, coding may have developed decades later, and the internet could still be on the horizon. She not only changed the tech scene, she helped get it off the ground.
During WWII, the ENIAC six were recruited by a group of male engineers to assist in the programming of the ENIAC, the Electronic Numerical Integrator And Computer. This job was thought to just be “key-punching”, even though there was no previous research or information to develop the technology from. Known then as “The ENIAC Girls”, the group of women taught themselves to programmed developed a machine that could complete a ballistics trajectory in just seconds.
When the ENIAC was released to the public, none of its creators were credited. The ENIAC was the first general-purpose electronic computer - an invention that is perhaps one of the most widely used pieces of technology in today’s world.
With the numbers of women in the tech industry already at a disadvantage, the numbers of women of color in the tech industry are dwindling. One of the first and most influential African-American women was Evelyn Boyd Granville. She was the second African-American woman to earn a Ph.D. in mathematics (during a time of segregation we might add). Her computer programming skills were utilized by NASA during The Apollo Project (which put astronauts on the moon) and The Mercury Project (the first manned trip into space).
Black women make up less than 2% of the population in the tech industry. Another incredibly influential African-American woman in the tech field attempting to change those numbers is Kimberly Bryant. Bryant is an electrical engineer and the founder of Black Girls CODE, a training course that teaches basic programming skills to young black women in areas where technology careers are not as accessible. In 2013, Bryant was honored by the White House for her work in tech inclusion and her focus on bridging the digital divide for girls.
Karen Spärck Jones name may not be familiar to you, but we can guarantee you’ve used her contributions to technology. Her development of IR, or informational retrieval, allowed computer users to type in general search words instead of a code. This breakthrough was crucial to the development of search engines and is still used today by Google.Jones enabled the precursors to the technologies that today allow us to sift through the massive amounts of data we have at our fingertips.
All these women and more have made important contributions to technology and it is important to recognize their accomplishments. Without them, the world we live in would be nowhere close to the same. To quote Todd VanDuzer, CEO of Student Tutor, “We will never be able to reach the accomplishments of the future until we acknowledge the accomplishments of the past. By acknowledging great women that have contributed to presently male-dominated fields, we can inspire the girls of today to break barriers and pass boundaries.”
Katherine (Tori) Lutz
Freelance Writer, Editor & Social Media Strategist