Top ten women in technology

This is a great V3 article featuring female technology researchers. It highlights people who have had a profound impact in computer science and the wider technology industry and shows just how huge womens’ contribution to technology has been. The only problem with this story is it’s very long, and printed as an exchange between Iain Thomson and Shaun Nichols so not the easiest thing to read quickly. Here’s a shortened version of their top ten list – to find out more just read their story:

Special mention to: Meg Whitman of eBay, and Caterina Fake of Flickr.

10: Mena Trot: Set up Six Apart with her husband and created the tools to enable the blogging revolution to take off with blogging tools TypePad and and Moveable Type. Both systems, while also used by big publishing companies, turned blogging from something you needed a lot of expertise to do to something everyone can do.

9: Hedy Lamarr: Her achievements aren’t as great as the others on the list apparently, but she earned her place on it by being a glamourous actress at the same time as working on a side project that “more or less laid the foundations for wireless ethernet, mobile broadband and synthesised music markets.” Iain Thomson says in the article, “I feel she deserves the place for showing a generation of women that science and glamour are not incompatible. All too often I fear young women are turned off science because it’s seen as unfeminine.” I get what he’s trying to say here, but I personally think that knowing about any of these women would have piqued my interest in computer science when I was younger. What matters is that they’re female and brilliant, not what they look like.

8: Danielle Bunten Berry: One of the world’s greatest computer games designers and creator of M.U.L.E. This stands for multiple use labour element, and it was the first multi-player game, allowing people to play the same game on different consoles. The Sims is dedicated to her.

7: Mitchell Baker: The Mozilla president who guided the company from being a “defunct browser technology to the biggest threat to Microsoft this side of Google.” Her skills are on the legal side of technology, but she’s been instrumental in pushing forward the development of open source technology. Iain Thomson says, “Open source is hated by much of the commercial software industry, which has used any means possible to undermine its principles and subvert its core structure. Baker has been its guardian angel.”

6: Barbara Liskov: The first woman in the US to be awarded a PhD in Computer Science, in 1968 from Stanford University. She has invented two key computer languages, CLU and Argus, as well as the Venus operating system and the Thor object-orientated database system. She still teaches at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

5: Sophie Wilson: Wilson and her associates outlined the design of the ARM chip, a low power processor that runs most mobile handsets today – including the Apple iPhone and iPad.

4: Mary Lou Jepsen: Jepson has contributed to a number of fields. First, her work in optics had an important impact on display technology, notably in HDTV and projects. She then moved onto holographic systems, designing and building the world’s first holographic video system at the MIT Media Lab in 1989. She was also chief technology officer of the One Laptop Per Child project, where she invented a display that could be used in sunlight and was also behind the power management system that made the laptop energy efficiency.

3: Frances Allen: The first woman to win the Turing Award, Shaun Nichols says of her: “Allen began work with IBM in 1957 and carried on a career that would last until 2002. In that time she would amass a body of work that would lend her legendary status in the software development and high-performance computing fields, particularly in the development of programming languages and code compilers.”

2: Ada Lovevlace: I can’t really put it better than Iain Thomson, who says, “She was the world’s first computer programmer, which is remarkable in itself, but even more so considering she was a woman in a time when most of her sex were considered only useful for producing children, preferably male ones.” She studied Charles Babbage’s mechanical computer and worked out how to make it work in ways beyond basic number crunching.

1: Grace Hopper: She was a Rear Admiral; she had a US Navy Destroyer named after her; she coined the term “computer bug” and her work is behind most software code that dictates application development today. You couldn’t make her up. To find out more about all these women you can read the full article, linked to above.

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We recently ran a survey on the topic of women in IT (http://blog.theitjobboard.co.uk/2010/03/this-is-a-man%E2%80%99s-world/) and one of the main points that emerged from this was the fact that working in such a male domainated environment is really tough and that women constantly have to work harder to overcome stereotypes and prove themselves. So I just want to say how great I think it is that you are celebrating women in technology with the post above :-)

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