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10 Women Who Changed the Tech Landscape Forever

Illustration of 10 women that changed the tech landscape forever. The ten women are: Ada Lovelace, Jean Bartik, Hedy Lamarr, Grace Hopper, Katherine Johnson, Margaret Hamilton, Radia Perlman, Ursula Burns, Ruzena Bajcsy & Fei-Fei Li
In honour of Women's History Month, we’re celebrating 10 trailblazing women who left their mark on STEM.

Discover 10 trailblazing women who have shaped the technology industry and blazed the trail for future generations of women in tech.

As we celebrate Women’s History Month, it’s important to recognise the amazing women who have helped shape the world of technology. These Trailblazers have shattered stereotypes and broken barriers to pave the way for future generations of women in tech.

Join us as we highlight the achievements of some remarkable women in STEM fields, and emphasise the importance of gender equality in the workplace. Let’s celebrate the incredible women who have shaped the tech industry and continue to inspire others to follow in their footsteps.

Doctor Ada Lovelace: Mathematician, Writer

Image credit: © Generated with AI by NTGUILTY

Ada Lovelace, born in 1815, is widely regarded as the world’s first computer programmer. Her mother was a mathematician, and her father was a poet. Lovelace displayed a knack for mathematics and logic from a young age.

She collaborated with Charles Babbage on his “Analytical Engine,” considered the first computer. Lovelace worked with Babbage to design and understand the machine’s capabilities. She translated an Italian article about the Analytical Engine and wrote extensive notes. Her notes, longer than the original article, included what is considered the first computer program. Lovelace saw the potential of computers beyond number-crunching, envisioning their use in music composition and scientific analysis.

That brain of mine is something more than merely mortal; as time will show.

Ada Lovelace
Mathematician, Writer

Jean Bartik: Computer Programmer

Image credit: © Computer History Museum

Jean Bartik was a groundbreaking computer programmer who made significant contributions to the early development of electronic computers.

During World War II, she was one of six women recruited by the University of Pennsylvania’s Moore School of Electrical Engineering to work as “computers.”Bartik and her colleagues programmed the ENIAC, one of the world’s first electronic computers. Their work involved developing complex mathematical calculations and wiring diagrams to enable the ENIAC to perform various tasks, such as calculating military artillery trajectories. Bartik’s work on the ENIAC played a pivotal role in shaping the future of computing and programming.

Her contributions demonstrated the potential of electronic computers to solve complex problems efficiently and laid the foundation for modern computing.

We were never treated as though we knew anything. When the press came, they had us act like models and pretend to set switches. We were never considered a part of history.

Jean Bartik
Computer Programmer

Doctor Grace Hopper: Computer Scientist — Navy Rear Admiral

Image credit: © Defense Imagery – James S. Davis 

Dr. Grace Hopper was a trailblazer in computer science and the U.S. Navy, known for her contributions to early computer programming languages and education.*

Hopper played a pivotal role in developing COBOL, one of the first high-level programming languages for business applications. COBOL’s specifications and compiler implementation, led by Hopper, made programming more accessible and efficient for businesses. Her creation of the A-0 System, the first compiler, revolutionised programming by translating mathematical code into machine-readable language. This innovation expanded programming accessibility to a wider audience.

Doctor Hopper is credited with coining the term “debugging” in computer programming. The term emerged when she discovered a moth causing a computer malfunction and recorded the incident in the logbook.

A ship in port is safe, but that’s not what ships are built for.

Doctor Grace Hopper
Computer Scientist — Navy Rear Admiral

Hedy Lamarr: Actress, Inventor

Image credit: © George Rinhart/Corbis via Getty Images

Hedy Lamarr, an Austrian-American actress and inventor, made significant contributions to technology. She co-invented frequency-hopping spread spectrum technology with composer George Antheil during World War II. This technology rapidly switched radio signals between frequencies, making it hard for enemies to intercept communication.

Lamarr’s invention laid the groundwork for modern wireless communication technologies like Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and GPS. It was particularly influential in developing secure military communications. Despite her groundbreaking work, Lamarr’s contributions were not widely recognised during her lifetime due to her fame as a Hollywood actress. However, she has since received posthumous recognition for her impact on telecommunications and digital technology.

Improving things comes naturally to me.

Hedy Lamarr
Actress, Inventor

Doctor Katherine Johnson: Mathematician

Image credit: © NASA

Doctor Katherine Johnson was an influential African American mathematician who played a vital role in NASA’s early space program. Her work included calculating trajectories and orbits for historic missions like the first manned spaceflight by an American and the Apollo 11 moon landing.

As a “human computer” at NASA, Johnson performed complex mathematical calculations by hand. Her meticulous work and exceptional mathematical skills ensured the success and safety of astronauts in space. Johnson’s contributions advanced space exploration and broke down barriers for women and people of colour in STEM fields.

She received numerous awards, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2015. Johnson’s legacy inspires future scientists, engineers, and mathematicians. Her story highlights the importance of diversity and inclusion in scientific discovery and technological advancement. The movie “Hidden Figures” raised awareness of her accomplishments and cemented her status as a trailblazer in science and technology.

The women did what they were told to do. They didn’t ask questions or take the task any further. I asked questions; I wanted to know why. They got used to me asking questions and being the only woman there.

Doctor Katherine Johnson

Trailblazing Women: Driving Change

Throwback to our annual equality summit, featuring thought-provoking panellists and luminary speakers who are inspiring and empowering us all to drive change on the path to gender equality.

Doctor Margaret Hamilton: Computer Scientist, Systems Engineer

Image credit: © MIT Museum

Margaret Hamilton is a pioneer of software engineering who played a critical role in the Apollo space program.

Margaret Hamilton’s contributions to the Apollo software were groundbreaking. They set new standards for software development and laid the foundation for modern software engineering practices. She also introduced innovative techniques, such as “software reliability engineering.” This emphasised rigorous testing and verification procedures to catch and fix errors in software code.

Hamilton was a dedicated engineer who worked tirelessly to ensure the safety of the Apollo astronauts. Her contributions to the field of software engineering are immeasurable, and she is a role model for generations of computer scientists and engineers.

We were doing things that no one else had ever done, and that was always my motivation.

Doctor Margaret Hamilton
Computer Scientist, Systems Engineer

Radia Perlman: Computer Scientist, Network Engineer

Image credit: © Radia Perlman

Radia Perlman, often known as the “Mother of the Internet,” is a pioneering computer scientist whose work has profoundly impacted network protocols and design.

Her key contribution is the invention of the Spanning-Tree Protocol (STP) algorithm while working at Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) in the 1980s. STP prevents loops in Ethernet networks, ensuring stability and reliability. It became a crucial part of the IEEE 802.1 standard for Ethernet bridging. Beyond STP, Perlman’s contributions include Transparent Interconnection of Lots of Links (TRILL) for improved network scalability and efficiency, and Shortest Path Bridging (SPB), an enhanced Ethernet bridging protocol.

Perlman’s work has shaped the architecture and reliability of computer networks, enabling widespread connectivity and communication. She is celebrated as a trailblazer in computer science, receiving numerous awards and honours for her pioneering achievements.

Start out with finding the right problem to solve. This is a combination of ‘what customers are asking for’, ‘what customers don’t even know they want yet’ and ‘what can be solved with something simple to understand and manage’.

Radia Perlman
Computer Scientist, Network Engineer

Ursula Burns: Business Executive (Former CEO of Xerox)

Image credit: © Lonnie Major/Xerox

Ursula Burns is a pioneering visionary who has made a significant impact on the technology industry. She began her career as an intern at Xerox in 1980 and rose through the ranks with unwavering determination and a passion for innovation. As CEO from 2009, Burns led Xerox through a remarkable transformation. The company shifted from being a traditional copier and printer manufacturer to an industry leader in business process outsourcing and cutting-edge technology services.

Beyond her contributions to technology, Burns is known for her commitment to diversity and inclusion in the workplace. As a trailblazing African-American woman in a typically homogeneous industry, she has championed the representation of women and minorities in leadership roles. With passion and eloquence, Burns advocates for equal opportunities for all employees, ensuring that the workplace fosters an environment where everyone can thrive.

Believe that there are no limitations, no barriers to your success – you will be empowered and you will achieve.

Ursula Burns
Business Executive (Former CEO of Xerox)

Professor Ruzena Bajcsy: Computer Scientist, Robotics Researcher

Image credit: © Ruzena Bajcsy / University of California Berkeley

The illustrious computer scientist Ruzena Bajcsy stands as a beacon of brilliance in the realms of robotics, artificial intelligence, and computer vision. Her pioneering endeavours in computer vision and image processing have revolutionised these disciplines. She leaves a lasting impact on a variety of fields, including robotics, healthcare, and security.

Throughout her remarkable career, she’s ascended to prominent leadership positions in both academia and industry. Her body of work encompasses numerous highly influential papers and books on robotics, computer vision, and artificial intelligence. Each has contributed significantly to the advancement of scientific and technological progress.

It’s not viewed as feminine to have a screwdriver in your hand! Things are changing — the new generation is better off in expectations and perception — but it’s still an uphill battle.

Professor Ruzena Bajcsy
Computer Scientist, Robotics Researcher

Doctor Fei-Fei Li: Computer Scientist, AI Researcher

Image credit: © Doctor Fei-Fei Li / Stanford University

Doctor Fei-Fei Li is a prominent computer scientist who’s made significant contributions to the field of artificial intelligence (AI). Her groundbreaking research in computer vision has led to the development of innovative algorithms and techniques that allow computers to interpret and analyse visual information. Li’s work has had far-reaching implications for a wide range of applications, including healthcare, autonomous vehicles, and robotics. In addition to her research contributions, Li promotes diversity and inclusion in the field of AI.

She’s been a vocal advocate for increasing the representation of women and underrepresented minorities in STEM fields, particularly in AI. Li has also co-founded AI4ALL, which aims to create more access for underrepresented people in the field of artificial intelligence… As a true Trailblazer, Fei-Fei Li’s work is helping to shape the future of technology and its applications in society. Her innovative work led her to be recognised by Time’s Magazine as one of the most influential people in AI in 2023.

If you were a computer and read all the AI articles and extracted out the names that are quoted, I guarantee you that women rarely show up. For every woman who has been quoted about AI technology, there are a hundred more times men were quoted.

Doctor Fei-Fei Li
Computer Scientist, AI Researcher

The Legacy of Women in Tech 

Women have made significant contributions to the field of technology, and their impact is undeniable. Their determination, innovation, and resilience have helped shape the world we live in today. From the early days of computing to the present moment, women have played a crucial role in driving progress and pushing the boundaries of this constantly evolving field.

These trailblazing women have paved the way for future generations of women in tech. Their work has inspired and encouraged others to pursue careers in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) fields. They have also helped to create a more inclusive and welcoming environment for women in STEM fields. Let’s continue to celebrate and support women in tech, and yes, men can join the equality movement too. Their diverse perspectives and talents are essential for creating a more innovative and inclusive industry. These trailblazers have proven that gender should never limit one’s potential, and their legacy will continue to inspire and motivate future generations of women in tech.

Note from the author: As a woman in tech, I’d like to give a special shoutout to the other women in tech who made this article possible. To Raluca Oltean-Revel, Brand & Content Marketing Director, for giving me the platform to celebrate Women’s History Month. Shalmali Prakash, Marketing Associate, for her web expertise. And to the talented Lina Bojaca, Art Director, for her Creative skills in creating the banners to introduce each of these “10 Women that Changed the Tech Landscape Forever”.

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