There may be a widely recognised gender gap when it comes to attracting women in technology today, despite the many reasons why you should hire women in technology positions.
There are incredible women whose innovations, commitment and dedication have changed the world as we know it. This International Women’s Day let’s celebrate women in technology by taking a look at the changes bestowed on us by some of the lesser-sung heroines of the technology world.
We use it for our banking, to communicate, to save our photos, to listen to music. WiFi has quite literally changed the way the world works in the last few years. However, without big screen Hollywood actress, and co-creator of a spread-spectrum radio during World War 1, Hedy Lamarr, this wouldn’t be a possibility. The spread-spectrum radio was designed to accurately guide torpedoes via an un-jammable radio signal. Today’s WiFi uses direct spread spectrum transmission in the 2.4GHz band.
In 1953 the first computer software program was created to translate human instructions into computer source code. Rear Admiral Dr. Grace Hopper created this software, a mathematician and physicist who created the software ‘Compiler’ for use in payroll and automatic billing functions.
In the mid-1800’s Ada Lovelace worked with Charles Babbage to translate the functions of his ‘Analytical Engine’. Sound cryptic? Many people still think so, as Lovelace’s work described how the analytical engine worked using algorithms to generate Bernoulli numbers. Without Lovelace’s work almost 180 years ago, apps and websites of today wouldn’t work.
We often complain that there isn’t enough time in a day, and clearly this isn’t a new thing. Mary Allen Wilkes, a computer programmer in the 1960’s, has revealed that she took her work home with her too. Mary wrote the LINC’s first operating program manual and the operating system for the LAP6 (the world’s first mini-computer and forerunner to the personal computer). So, like us, she could take her work home with her, and maybe if she hadn’t, we wouldn’t have the option of working from home today?
Remember Tic-Tac-Toe (1979), Video Checkers (1980) and River Raid (1982)? The first female video game designer, Carol Shaw, created the graphics for all these. She was a computer graphics and video game designer for Atari, paving the way that computer games looked and felt during their formative years.
Marie Van Brittan Brown created the first closed-circuit TV system in 1969. When police were dragging their heels in responding to calls for help in her New York neighbourhood, she devised a system that has gone on to form the basis of the CCTV that is used today in almost every major town and city across the UK.
Susan Kare’s typography and iconic graphic design skills helped to turn Apple into the success story it is today. This is because she is responsible for many of the symbols we now use in our daily lives. As the creator of the Happy Mac icon, she designed the screen that greets literally millions of people worldwide every single day. Kare was responsible for making machines feel more like a friend than a piece of equipment.
Every day, many of us connect to the internet. STP (Spanning Tree Protocol), created by Network Engineer Radia Perlman in 1985, enables us to create reliable network connections. This enables us to carry out our day to day operations using a reliable connection, free from the risk of being overwhelmed by continuous multicast or broadcast traffic.
With all these changes in technology, we’re having an interesting time keeping up with how we need to change the world in response. Joy Buolamwini is a computer scientist and digital activist paving the way for safer and fairer use of today’s technological advancements. Joy is an expert on algorithmic bias and artificial intelligence and so, founded the Algorithmic Justice League to shape fair practice and accountability in the use of algorithms and AI.
Sadef Monajemi has created software that, with the use of artificial intelligence, can help medical professionals to predict strokes in at-risk patients without having to spend vast amounts of money on extensive tests and investigations. It’s still early days, but the project is already seeing substantial backing from investors.
One more person to add to this list of influential women in technology is Amali de Alwis, CEO of Code First: Girls. Amali recently received an MBE for her services to diversity and training in the tech industry. But for now, the gender question remains. Let’s hope that in time, coding initiatives like this one are able to address the current gender imbalance.
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