One can only be inspired when listening to Carolyn Leighton speak about WITI (Women in Technology International). She is a champion for the contribution women have made for today and tomorrow's STEM advancements. The pride and sheer awe of these accomplishments can be felt as you hear the recollection on WITI's humble, yet powerful beginnings. One can begin to understand the dynamic, pioneering move in the late 80s and what it has taken for WITI members to persevere. The excitement Carolyn shows for another woman's achievements is unmistakable. It is easy to see what continues to drive her every day. Women in technology stand throughout the technology industry; because of them, we have inventions such as Kevlar and the silicon retina. And while the current chief technology officer of the United States is a woman, women in technology will continue to stand out and make history.
In 1989, Carolyn founded Women in Technology International through email to empower women. In 1995, the first conference commenced with a room full of extraordinary women who were responsible for many unnoticed accomplishments. Through this, Carolyn and her team realized there was no forum to celebrate these women. She undoubtedly changed the way the corporate world, the media, and young girls viewed the roles of women. WITI launched their first Hall of Fame recognition event in 1996 to celebrate the women who made remarkable improvements around the world.
When WITI researched for inductees for the Hall of Fame, the ENIAC programmers surfaced. They were a group of women who worked by programming the ENIAC computer. However, they were rarely allowed in the room with the computer.
Nor were they given any credit within the media; instead, they were painted as secretaries. In 1997, WITI proudly added them to the Hall of Fame. It was one of Carolyn's favorite moments. Seeing the women who had thought they were forgotten for 80 years finally become recognized was a memory worth having.
2015 is the 20th year of WITI's Hall of Fame. We are thankful for this inception, and in celebration, we will begin looking back to the mid 90s to reflect on the original inductees. The women inducted set a foundation for others to follow. Once the Hall of Fame nominations were underway, there was a marked difference in how marketing techniques changed toward female executives, and more women were recognized for their work. WITI continues onward in their pursuit for equality, including helping the younger generation find proper role models. We salute these women who have made and continue to make an indelible mark in science and technology and help to pave the way for the next generation.
WITI's 1996 Hall of Fame Inductees:
Ruth Leach Amonette
: In 1943 at the age of 27, Ruth Leach Amonette was elected IBM's first female vice president, four years after joining the company.
Ruth's promotion was, according to the IBM board of directors, "in recognition of her ability and of the increasingly important part which women are playing in the operation of the company." She was the first woman to hold a corporate position at IBM and one of the few women at that time to hold an executive position in any large company in the United States. After becoming vice president, she devoted herself to the advancement of women in business and industry.
Dr. Eleanor Baum
: Dean of Engineering at Cooper Union Engineering School in New York and the executive director of the Cooper Union Research Foundation. She was the first female dean of engineering in the United States in 1984 when appointed to that post at Pratt Institute and the first female president of the American Society for Engineering Education.
Dr. Jaleh Daie
: Jaleh has extensive executive experience in private and public institutions and academia. She is managing partner at Aurora Equity, a Palo Alto-based investment company financing technology start-ups. She is also treasurer of the United States Space Foundation and a member of the Band of Angels. Most recently, she was director of science and senior advisor to the president at the Packard Foundation where she provided executive and technical direction for a $120 million annual budget and managed a diversified portfolio of science and technology.
Dr. Barbara Grant
: Dr. Barbara Grant is a partner in American River Ventures, a venture capital fund managing over $100M in investments in early-stage technology companies. Prior to joining American River, Barbara had spent the past three decades acquiring management, operational, and technology development experience working in both start-up companies and major corporations.
Stephanie L. Kwolek
: Stephanie L. Kwolek was retired and working part time as a consultant at E.I. DuPont de Nemours & Co., Inc. at the time of her death in 2014. In 1965, she developed the technology that became the foundation of the Kevlar fiber while working in the Textile Fibers Pioneering Research Laboratory at DuPont's Experimental Station. Kevlar is five times stronger than steel, yet 43% lower in density than fiberglass. It is resistant to wear, corrosion, fatigue, and flame, and is nonconductive. Kevlar in bulletproof vests has saved the lives of thousands of police officers. It has replaced asbestos in friction products, such as brakes, and is used in fire blocking protective clothing, ropes, and cables for use on offshore oil drilling platforms and in aircraft and space vehicle construction.
Dr. Misha Mahowald
: Dr. Misha Mahowald was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in 1963. She received her professional training at the California Institute of Technology, graduating in biology in 1985 and obtaining her doctorate in computational neuroscience in 1992. During her doctoral research, she—together with Carver Mead—made pioneering contributions to the emerging field of "neuromorphic" engineering, the application of analog CMOS VLSI technology to the fabrication of analog electronic circuits that emulate real neural systems. Her doctoral thesis won the Clauser Prize, awarded for work that demonstrates the potential of new avenues of human thought and endeavor.
: Linda Sanford leads the strategy for IBM's internal transformation to the premier globally integrated enterprise. In this role, Linda is responsible for working across IBM to transform core business processes, create an IT infrastructure to support and integrate processes globally, and help create a culture that fosters innovation.
Dr. Cheryl L. Shavers
: Cheryl L. Shavers, PhD is the chairman and CEO of Global Smarts, Inc.—a technology globalization enterprise that specializes in integration of capital, technology, and information across national borders. Cheryl is the immediate former under secretary of commerce for technology confirmed by the 106th Congress. In this role, she oversaw the commerce department's technology administration and the office of technology policy, as well as the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), the National Technical Information Service, and the Office of Space Commercialization.
Dr. Sheila Widnall
: When President Clinton appointed her Secretary of the Air Force in 1993, Dr. Sheila E. Widnall became the first woman placed in charge of a branch of the military. She is responsible for 400,000 active duty forces as well as 185,000 men and women in the Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard. Sheila came to the Air Force after 28 years at MIT where she won international acclaim for her work in fluid dynamics.
Dr. Chien-Shiung Wu
: Dr. Chien-Shiung Wu was a senior research scientist at Columbia University when she performed an experiment that changed the accepted view of the structure of the universe. By proving that identical nuclear particles do not always act alike, she disproved one of the widely accepted laws of physics, the conservation of parity, and the idea that the universe is not biased toward left-handed or right-handed systems. This radically altered modern physical theory.
These 10 women have gone on to create amazing feats in their profession and were recognized because of this.
While we look back to the past, we must remember the historical ramifications of these changes, the technological advancements women have been part of, and the transitions that have been created because of them. When women started standing up for themselves, they found their confidence. WITI is part of this history, and WITI's Hall of Fame helped women leap into their empowered future so the next generation can look upon them and know that they can achieve anything.
Kara Zone is a professional writer, editor, and graphic designer. She is the managing editor of WITI.com and enjoys working remotely. She is a critical thinker and builds departmental systems for companies to use when structuring organizational systems.
Opinions expressed by the author are not necessarily those of WITI.
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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.
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