Inspiring Women of History and Their Impact on Tech Industry

Eman Khalid

December 27, 2020

  • Share:    
Breaking into the career of technology for women has been a long battle. Despite the debate and conversations about gender diversity, women are still underpaid and underrepresented in the tech industry. They also face severe discrimination in their workplace and are not treated -- nor are they paid -- equal to their male colleagues.

According to the National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT) data, in 2015, women held only 25% of computing roles in the U.S tech industry. Though it is difficult for women to positively impact this industry, some manage to do it. Here are five of the most inspirational women who have positively impacted the tech industry.

Ada Lovelace (1815-1852) - First Programmer and the Poet of Science

"The science of operations, as derived from mathematics more especially, is a science of itself, and has its own abstract truth and value." - Ada Lovelace

Born and brought up in London, Ada Lovelace had several tutors and was homeschooled by her mother, who insisted that she should study the subjects of mathematics and science. Lovelace showed her affinity for mathematics early and later became known as the first computer programmer because of the many computer concepts she introduced. Lovelace was an associate of Charles Babbage, and for his digital computer's prototype, she created a program. Luigi Federico Menabrea, an Italian engineer, wrote an article on the analytical engine created by Babbage, and Lovelace was asked to translate that article.

Since Federico's article was written in French, she translated it into English and added her ideas and thoughts into the machine. And the most surprising thing to everyone was that the notes were three times longer than Federico's original article. In 1843, her work was published in a journal of science and English. In the publication, instead of her name, Lovelace used the initials of "A.A.L." Ada Lovelace was a mathematician, a computer scientist, and a writer.

Living in an age where women's accomplishments were not considered celebratory, Lovelace is an inspiration for all the women in tech who aspire to make a difference in the world through their inventions and the God-given gifts that they have to offer to the world. Some of the books written on the life of Lovelace are:

- Ada's Algorithm: How Lord Byron's Daughter Ada Lovelace Launched the Digital Age by James Essinger
- Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine by Laurie Wallmark
- Ada's Ideas: The Story of Ada Lovelace, the World's First Computer Programmer by Fiona Robinson
- Enchantress of Numbers: A Novel of Ada Lovelace by Jennifer Chiaverini
- Ada Lovelace: The Making of a Computer Scientist by Adrian Clifford Rice, Christopher Hollings, and Ursula Martin
- Ada Lovelace: A Life from Beginning to End Hourly History by Hourly History.

Grace Hopper (1906–1992) - The Mother of Computing

"To me, programming is more than an important practical art. It is also a gigantic undertaking in the foundations of knowledge." - Grace Hopper

Grace Hopper was born in New York City, and after studying physics and maths at Vassar College, Grace received her Master's degree from Yale University in 1930. At the same time, she was continuing her career as a lecturer at Vassar College. In 1934, Grace earned her mathematics Ph.D. She was one of the first women to achieve such a prestigious degree. Hopper then joined the Naval Reserve in 1943, and in 1966, she retired.

During her time at the Navy, Grace helped build a compiler that translated the programmer's instruction into computer codes. Not only that, but Grace was also one of the first programmers of a computer to work on the Harvard Mark I. Being a rear admiral of the United States Navy, Grace helped in developing COBOL - one of the most important programming languages of the 20th century. She was the one who led the team for creating the first working compiler of codes. In 2016, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Barack Obama.

Grace Hopper's life is proof that a woman can be anything she puts her mind to, even a navy officer, and make a positive impact in the tech industry. Grace Hopper changed Computer Science, and if it weren't for her talent, we wouldn't have access to the COBOL - a program that has simplified our computer language and made it more understandable. Plenty of books were written dedicated to the life of Grace Hopper. Some books on Hopper:

- Grace Hopper and the Invention of the Information Age by Kurt Beyer
- Grace Hopper: Queen of Computer Code by Laurie Wallmark
- Grace Hopper: Admiral of the Cyber Sea by Kathleen Broome Williams
- Grace Hopper: The Woman Behind Computer Programming by Nancy Loewen

Katherine Johnson (1918 - 2020) - A Tech Genius and a Mathematics Magician

"Girls are capable of doing everything men are capable of doing. Sometimes they have more imagination than men." - Katherine Johnson

Born in West Virginia, Katherine Johnson was only one of the three students of color to attend the graduate college of West Virginia. In 1937, at age 19, Johnson received her B.S in French and Mathematics from the State School.

Katherine played a crucial role in various missions for NASA during the Space Race. Being a mathematician for NASA, she calculated the trajectory that was to be needed for sending Apollo 11 to the moon and back. After working for more than 30 years for NASA, Johnson retired in 1986.

Katherine Johnson is an inspiration for all those women of color who have a hard time surviving in tech. She is proof that the color of your skin or your gender doesn't matter if what you have to offer is something that the world desperately needs. Some of the books written on the life of Katherine Johnson are:

- Reaching for the Moon: The Autobiography of NASA Mathematician Katherine Johnson by Katherine Johnson.
- Counting on Katherine: How Katherine Johnson Saved Apollo 13 by Helaine Becker.
- Katherine Johnson by Feldman T.
- A Computer Called Katherine: How Katherine Johnson Helped Put America on the Moon by Suzanne Slade.
- The Extraordinary Life of Katherine Johnson by Devika Jina.

Annie Easley (1933 - 2011) - Creator of Hybrid Vehicles and Centaur Upper-Stage Rocket

"You're never too old, and if you want to, as my mother said, you can do anything you want to, but you have to work at it." - Annie Easley

Annie J.Easley was born in Birmingham and was raised by a single mother who taught her that she could achieve whatever she wished for, as long as she worked hard for it.

As a mathematician and computer scientist, she contributed to various programs and inspired millions of people through her regular participation in outreach programs. Easley helped in breaking down barriers for women of color in the STEM fields. Annie Easley implemented and developed codes using the research systems for energy-conversion, which helped analyze alternative power technology. This also included the technology of batteries used for the Centaur upper-stage rocket and the early hybrid vehicles.

Despite facing much discrimination at her workplace, Annie did not let their rude actions deter her from the path towards her dreams. One book was written about Easley's life:

Annie Easley Book by M. M. Eboch

Evelyn Boyd Granville ( 1914–1979 ) Creator of Computer Software

"I always smile when I hear that women cannot excel in mathematics." - Evelyn Boyd Granville

Born in Washington, D.C, Evelyn Boyd Granville was a woman with a dream and a passionate soul. Evelyn had always been a bright student, and because of that, she earned Smith's College Fellowship, which helped when she began her graduate studies at Yale University. In 1949, she earned her Ph.D. in mathematics and later went on to perform impactful work in the field of computing. After Euphemia Lofton Hayne, Evelyn was the second African-American woman to attain a Ph.D. in mathematics. Evelyn Boyd Granville discovered the computer software for analyzing the orbits of satellites for NASA space programs.

During the summers, Browne would spend her extra time with the local teachers of her community. She would tell them of the linear algebra's wonders. Evelyn helped inspire many teachers of high school to pursue advanced degrees in their respective fields. Because of her persistence and dedication, the quality of math education improved in North Carolina.

Throughout her career, Evelyn's skills were in high demand at various corporations and organizations, including the North American Aviation Company, Diamon Ordnance Fuze Laboratories, IBM, and NASA. No specific book was written about her life.

These women, who have substantially impacted the tech industry's history, were average women, like you and me. But the only contrivance that made them stand out among the others was their courage, their determination, and their commitment to fulfill their every goal. If they can accomplish their dreams, despite being different from the rest while living in an era that demeaned women profoundly, so can you. They used their intelligence to positively impact and create history by inspiring millions of women after them. So can you.

About the author:

Opinions expressed by the author are not necessarily those of WITI.

Become a WITI Member!

Are you interested in boosting your career, personal development, networking, and giving back? If so, WITI is the place for you! Become a WITI Member and receive exclusive access to attend our WITI members-only events, webinars, online coaching circles, find mentorship opportunities (become a mentor; find a mentor), and more!

Become a Member

Member Coaching Circles

There are no WITI online coaching circles scheduled at this time. Please check back soon for updates.

More Coaching Circles

Our Story

Founded in 1989, WITI (Women in Technology International) is committed to empowering innovators, inspiring future generations and building inclusive cultures, worldwide. WITI is redefining the way women and men collaborate to drive innovation and business growth and is helping corporate partners create and foster gender inclusive cultures. A leading authority of women in technology and business, WITI has been advocating and recognizing women's contributions in the industry for more than 30 years.

Read More

The organization delivers leading edge programs and platforms for individuals and companies -- designed to empower professionals, boost competitiveness and cultivate partnerships, globally. WITI’s ecosystem includes more than a million professionals, 60 networks and 300 partners, worldwide.

WITI's Mission

Empower Innovators.
Inspire Future Generations.
Build Inclusive Cultures.

As Part of That Mission WITI Is Committed to

Building Your Network.
Building Your Brand.
Advancing Your Career.