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A brief history of pioneering women in technology

​Meet some of the inspirational women who have blazed a trail for female tech innovation down the years

First published on January 22, 2019

1815-1852 Ada Lovelace

In the early 1840s, Lovelace translated an article on Charles Babbage's proposed mechanical general-purpose computer, the Analytical Engine. She added her own notes to the paper, containing an algorithm designed to be carried out by a machine – considered to be the first computer program. 

Bletchley Park Code Crackers: Joan Murray (1917-1996), Margaret Rock (1903-1983), Mavis Batey (1921-2013) 

Murray was a leading member of the team that broke the German Enigma ciphers during WWII, becoming deputy head of Hut 8. Rock and Batey broke the Abwehr Enigma, which allowed Britain to control the German spy network in Britain.

1906-1992 Grace Murray Hopper

When working on Mark I, an early computer, a moth caused a circuit malfunction. Hopper described removing the moth as "debugging" the circuit. After this, computer malfunctions are referred to as "bugs". Hopper was part of the team that defined common business-oriented language, embracing her belief that programs should be written in a language close to English.

1913-1985 Sister Mary Kenneth Keller

In 1965, Keller became the first woman in the US to be awarded a PhD in computer science. Her dissertation, Inductive Inference on Computer Generated Patterns, focused on "constructing algorithms that performed analytic differentiation on algebraic expressions". This later became known as The Ada Project.

1920-1964 Adele Goldstine

Goldstine assisted in the creation of the ENIAC (Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer), the world's first electronic digital computer, in the 1940s. She also authored the manual for the ENIAC in 1946, which provided a technical description of the computer, detailing the entirety of the machine.

1932 - Fran Allen

Allen is a computer scientist, the first female IBM fellow and, in 2006, she became the first female winner of the Turing Award. The annual prize is awarded by the Association for Computing Machinery for contributions of lasting and major technical importance to the computer field.

1969 - Sheryl Sandberg

Sandberg is a technology executive who served as President of Global Online Sales and Operations at Google before joining Facebook as Chief Operating Officer. In 2012, she became the first woman to serve on Facebook's board.

1975 - Marissa Mayer

Mayer earned her BSc in symbolic systems in 1997 and MSc in Computer Science in 1999. She was the first female engineer at Google in 1999 and wrote the codes and oversaw teams of engineers to develop and design Google's search offerings and the layout of the homepage we recognize today. Mayer was also President and CEO of Yahoo! from 2012–2017.

1982 - Kathryn Parsons

Parsons co-founded Decoded to help increase digital literacy. The start-up produced a curriculum, which claims to teach participants to code in a day, allowing participants to build their own app using programming languages like HTML and JavaScript. 

TAGGED IN women; innovation; technology; digital security