Inspiring Women of History and Their Impact on the Tech Industry

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To break into the tech career for women has been tough. Despite the controversial debate and conversations about gender diversity in technology, women are still underpaid and underrepresented in the tech industry. Not only that, but they also face severe discrimination in workplaces and are neither treated, nor paid equally as their male colleagues. 

According to the National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT) data, in 2015, women held only 25 percent of computing roles in the U.S in the tech industry. Despite women disproportionately being divided into the tech industry, many women have fought for equal opportunities. They are continuously fighting to positively impact the tech industry and leave a substantial impact on the coming generation of women to live their lives substantially and peacefully.

Here are five of the most inspirational women in history who have positively impacted the tech industry.

Ada Lovelace (1815-1852) – First Programmer and the Poet of Science

“The science of operations, as derived from mathematics more especially, is a science of itself, and has its own abstract truth and value.” – Ada Lovelace.

Born and brought up in London, Ada Lovelace had several tutors and was homeschooled by her mother. It was Lovelace’s mother who insisted that she should study the subjects of mathematics and science. Lovelace showed her admiration for mathematics early and later became known as the first computer programmer because of the many computer concepts she introduced. Lovelace was an associate of Charles Babbage, and worked for his digital computer’s prototype. Luigi Federico Menabrea, an Italian engineer, wrote an article on the analytical engine created by Babbage, and Lovelace was asked to translate that article. 

Since Federico’s article was written in French, she translated it into English and added her ideas and thoughts into the machine. And the most surprising thing to everyone was that the notes were three times longer than Federico’s original article. In 1843, her work was published in a journal of science and English. In the publication, instead of her name, she used the initials of “A.A.L.” Ada Lovelace was a software developer, a mathematician, a computer scientist, and a writer. 

Living in an age where women’s accomplishments were not considered celebratory, Lovelace is an inspiration for all the women in tech who aspire to make a difference in the world through their inventions and their God-given gifts that they have to offer to the world. Some of the books written on the life of Lovelace are:

  • Ada’s Algorithm: How Lord Byron’s Daughter Ada Lovelace Launched the Digital Age by James Essinger
  • Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine by Laurie Wallmark
  • Ada’s Ideas: The Story of Ada Lovelace, the World’s First Computer Programmer by Fiona Robinson
  • Enchantress of Numbers: A Novel of Ada Lovelace by Jennifer Chiaverini
  • Ada Lovelace: The Making of a Computer Scientist by Adrian Clifford Rice, Christopher Hollings, and Ursula Martin
  • Ada Lovelace: A Life from Beginning to End Hourly History by Hourly History.

Grace Hopper (1906–1992) – The Mother of Computing

“To me, programming is more than an important practical art. It is also a gigantic undertaking in the foundations of knowledge.” – Grace Hopper.

Grace Murray Hopper at the UNIVAC keyboard, c. 1960.

Grace Hopper was born in New York City, and after studying physics and maths at Vassar College, she proceeded to receive her Master’s degree from Yale in 1930. At the same time, she was continuing her career as a lecturer at Vassar College. In 1934, Grace earning her mathematics Ph.D was only one of the first few women to achieve such a prestigious degree. Hopper then joined the Naval Reserve in 1943, and in 1966, she retired. 

During her time at the Navy, Grace helped build a compiler that translated the programmer’s instruction into computer codes. Grace was also one of the first programmers to work on the Harvard Mark I. Being a rear admiral of the US Navy, Grace helped in developing COBOL – one of the most important programming languages of the 20th century that simplified programming. She was the one who led the team for creating the first working compiler of codes. In 2016, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Barack Obama. 

Grace Hopper is a perfect example of the fact that a woman can be anything she puts her mind to; a woman can be a navy officer and also positively impact the tech industry, both professions that are usually male-dominated. Grace Hopper changed Computer Science through COBOL. Plenty of books have been written dedicated to her life:  

  • Grace Hopper and the Invention of the Information Age by Kurt Beyer
  • Grace Hopper: Queen of Computer Code by Laurie Wallmark
  • Grace Hopper: Admiral of the Cyber Sea by Kathleen Broome Williams
  • Grace Hopper: The Woman Behind Computer Programming by Nancy Loewen

Katherine Johnson (1918 – 2020) – A Tech Genius and a Mathematics Magician

“Girls are capable of doing everything men are capable of doing. Sometimes they have more imagination than men.” – Katherine Johnson.

Born in West Virginia in 1918, Katherine Johnson was only one of the three students of color to attend the graduate college of West Virginia. Katherine played one of the most crucial roles in various missions for NASA during the race of Space. Being a mathematician for NASA, Johnson was the one who calculated the trajectory for the mission of Apollo 11 to the moon and back. After working for more than 30 years for NASA, Johnson retired in 1986. Indeed, she was a stereotype-shattering mathematician, whose mathematical calculations helped the NASA astronauts fly into space. 

Being a woman of color, it was hard for Katherine to survive in the tech world. However, she survived and overcame any challenges that she might have faced in her professional career. Katherine Johnson is an inspiration for all those women of color who have a hard time surviving in tech. She is proof that your skin color or gender do not matter. But all that matters is what you have to offer that the world desperately needs. Some of the books written on the life of Katherine Johnson are:

  • Reaching for the Moon: The Autobiography of NASA Mathematician Katherine Johnson by Katherine Johnson. 
  • Counting on Katherine: How Katherine Johnson Saved Apollo 13 by Helaine Becker.
  • Katherine Johnson by Feldman T.
  • A Computer Called Katherine: How Katherine Johnson Helped Put America on the Moon by Suzanne Slade. 
  • The Extraordinary Life of Katherine Johnson by Devika Jina. 

Annie Easley (1933 – 2011) – Creator of Hybrid Vehicles and Centaur Upper-Stage Rocket

“You’re never too old, and if you want to, as my mother said, you can do anything you want to, but you have to work at it.” – Annie Easley.

                 Credit: NASA

Annie J.Easley was born on the 23rd of April, 1933. She was born and brought up in Birmingham. Easley once read in a newspaper about the lab of NASA in need of an individual with strong math skills, while she was in search of a job after her relocation from Birmingham. She then took up that job after two weeks. 

As a computer scientist, she contributed to various programs and inspired millions of people through her regular participation in outreach programs. Easley helped in breaking down barriers for women of color in the STEM fields. Annie Easley implemented and developed codes using the research systems for energy-conversion, which helped analyze alternative power technology. This also included the technology of batteries used for the Centaur upper-stage rocket and the first hybrid vehicles. 

Annie was a mathematician and a computer scientist. A single mother raised Annie, who taught her that she could achieve whatever she wished for, as long as she worked hard for it. Despite facing much discrimination at her workplace, Annie did not let it deter her from the path towards her dreams. 

She is an inspiration for all those women who have suffered sorrow at a young age, A book was written dedicated to Easly’s life; 

  • Annie Easley Book by M. M. Eboch

Evelyn Boyd Granville ( 1914–1979 ) Creator of Computer Software

“I always smile when I hear that women cannot excel in mathematics.” – Evelyn Boyd Granville.

    Credit: Scientific American Blog

Born in Washington, D.C, Evelyn Boyd Granville was a woman with a dream and a passionate soul. She earned Smith’s College Fellowship with the help of which she began her graduate studies at Yale University. In 1949, she earned her Ph.D. in mathematics and went on to perform impactful work in the field of computing. After Euphemia Lofton Hayne, Evelyn was the second African-American woman to attain a Ph.D. in mathematics. Evelyn discovered the computer software for analyzing the orbits of satellites for NASA space programs. 

During the summers, Evelyn would spend her extra time with the local teachers of her community. She helped inspire many teachers of high school to pursue advanced degrees in their respective fields. It was because of her persistence and dedication, the quality of math education improved in North Carolina. 

Throughout her career, Evelyn’s strong skills were in high demand in various corporations and organizations, including the North American Aviation Company, Diamon Ordnance Fuze Laboratories, IBM, and NASA. No specific book was written in her dedication though.

These women, who substantially impacted the tech industry’s history were like you and me. However, what made them stand out was their courage, determination, and commitment to fulfill every goal. If they can accomplish their dreams, living in an era that demeaned women profoundly, so can you. 

Eman Khalid

Eman Khalid is a writer, editor, storyteller, and a journalist. She has been a co-author of more than twenty poetry books. She is a contributing writer to the Women's Republic, the Meraki Magazine, Litlight Magazine, Prosart Literary, Kitaab, StoryHouse UK, and The Latest. Eman is an English Language and Literature major born and raised in the Middle East (Kuwait). She has a deep passion for reading about inspirational women from the past. When she is not writing, you will find her reading books, listening to songs and taking long walks at the beach.

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