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International Women’s Day 2023: Celebrating the Pioneering Women of Tech

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International Women’s Day 2023: Celebrating the Pioneering Women of Tech


Over the past 150 years women have made significant (yet often underreported) achievements and developments in the world of technology. From pioneering computer scientists to diversity advocates, women have played a vital role in shaping the tech industry as we know it today.

Today, to mark International Women’s Day 2023 (IWD), we will discuss some of the most influential women of tech from the past 150 years - encompassing CEOs, computer scientists, electrical engineers, and changemakers.

International Women’s Day


Before highlighting the instrumental women of tech, it’s first important to dive briefly into the meaning and necessity of International Women’s Day! IWD is a global celebration of the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women - being observed annually on the 8th of March. International Women's Day serves as a call to action to promote gender equality and empower women around the world, it highlights the ongoing struggles and challenges faced by women and aims to raise awareness and spark conversation about the need for progress towards total gender equality. IWD is an important reminder of the contributions of women throughout history and serves as a catalyst for continued efforts to advance women's rights and opportunities. This year’s IWD is centred around equity, being accompanied by the phrase #EmbraceEquity.

Computer Science and Innovation


Countless female computer scientists and mathematicians have made foundational discoveries throughout the course of the past 150 years, with many modern technologies coming into existence thanks to their inventions and calculations.

For example, Ada Lovelace, a mathematician and writer, is widely regarded as the first ever computer programmer. In the 19th century she worked in tandem with Charles Babbage on his proposed ‘Analytical Engine’, recognising its potential beyond simple calculation. Lovelace subsequently wrote and published the first ever computer algorithm; her pioneering work laid the foundation for modern computing and programming languages in use today.

Following on from the work of Lovelace, Grace Hopper, a computer scientist and naval officer, made significant leaps in programming languages in the 20th century. Hopper developed the first compiler, which transformed programming languages from machine code into human-readable code - being instrumental in the development of COBOL.

One of the most trailblazing of computer scientists and mathematicians of the 20th century was, Annie Easley, a ‘human computer’ who worked at NASA in the 1960s. Easley was a pioneering figure in the field of rocket propulsion and played a crucial role in developing software for energy conversion systems. Her work at NASA helped to pave the way for future advancements in the field of space exploration technologies and energy conversion, also paving the way for women of colour in the tech industry.

More recently, Fei-Fei Li, a computer scientist and AI expert, has made significant contributions to the field of artificial intelligence. Li was instrumental in developing ImageNet, a large-scale database of annotated images used for training machine learning models. She has also been a vocal advocate for diversity in AI and founded AI4ALL to increase access to AI education and opportunities for underrepresented groups.

Leadership and Entrepreneurship


Women have also taken on significant leadership roles in the tech industry, breaking down significant barriers to reach the upper echelons of business. With only 24% of tech roles occupied by women, female CEOs and founders are paving the way for the next generation of female tech leaders.

Ginni Rometty, the former CEO of IBM, was the company’s first female CEO and an instrumental player in the company’s transition from hardware to software and services. During her tenure as CEO, she led IBM’s efforts in AI, cloud computing, and blockchain, kickstarting major product changes for the company.

Ursula Burns, the former CEO of Xerox, was the first African American woman to lead a Fortune 500 company. Burns was central to the company’s transformation from a document and printing company to a technology and services company. She has been recognized for her leadership and contributions to the tech industry with numerous awards and honours.

A woman who achieved ultimate influence at a state level is Megan Smith, a technologist and entrepreneur who became Chief Technology Officer of the United States during the Obama administration. Smith was instrumental in developing initiatives to increase access to technology and improve diversity in the tech industry. Outside of her time as US CTO, Smith has used her position to institute major industry change through initiatives such as; co-founding the Malala Fund; co-creating WomenTechmakers at Google; and actively campaigning for equity in STEM education.

Another powerful influence in the world of tech is Susan Wojcicki, the previous CEO of YouTube. Wojcicki was instrumental in growing YouTube into the global phenomenon that it is today, overseeing its expansion into new markets and the development of new features and services. In addition to her work at YouTube, Wojcicki has previously been an integral member of the early Google team, and been a vocal advocate for diversity and inclusion in the tech industry.

Diversity and Inclusivity


In recent years, there has been growing awareness around the necessity of increased diversity and inclusivity in the tech industry. Reshma Saujani, the founder and CEO of Girls Who Code, a nonprofit organisation that aims to close the gender gap in technology, has been a vocal advocate for diversity and inclusivity in the tech industry. Since founding Girls Who Code, Saujani’s organisation has got over 500,000 girls, women, and non-binary people coding - with 50% of those engaged being from historically underrepresented backgrounds.

Similarly, Ellen K. Pao has brought gender disparity in the tech industry into the fore. As the former CEO of Reddit and co-founder of Project Include, Pao has made instrumental changes such as banning revenge porn on Reddit, and advocating for meaningful and lasting inclusion in tech. Pao first became known for her high-profile gender discrimination lawsuit against a former employer, Kleiner Perkins. In the interim years Pao has been a vocal advocate for change in the tech industry and has worked to promote greater representation of women and underrepresented groups in the venture capital and tech industries.

Championing Women in Tech


With the annual arrive of International Women’s Day, now provides a perfect opportunity to reflect on and remember the significant contributions women have made to the tech industry since its inception. Whilst we’ve only touched upon a handful of the innovative and exceptional women who have contributed to today’s tech landscape, there are hundreds more who could be mentioned in such lists. Thanks to the work of CEOs and tech specialists such as Reshma Saujani and Megan Smith, there will also undoubtably be many more powerful female tech figures to come in future generations.

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