In honor of International Women’s Day, we’d like to shine some light on the wonderful women who have contributed to the world of science and technology over time.
While gender diversity still remains an issue in the current world of tech, we are nevertheless taking the necessary steps in creating more opportunities and changing how we view technology.
FixMeFact – did you know that women make up around 50% of our FixMeStick team? Check out our blog to meet these awesome women at FixMeStick.
It Wasn’t Always an Industry for Men
In an industry that people generally associated with men, it’s interesting to note that it hadn’t always been that way. Dating back to the 1800s, programming and computing had originally been a task delegated to women. Back when any sort of mathematical computing was done by hand, women were given “clerical duties” while men made the initial observations – however these clerical duties often involved intricate calculations, cataloguing, and data analysis.
This seems to have been a recurring trend throughout history – starting with women doing the computing and calculations for the Harvard Observatory in the 19th century, to Katherine Johnson, who created the calculations that would guide the spacecraft of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin during the first moon mission of Apollo 11.
Pioneers in Their Field
Women have no doubt held a strong position within the tech industry, despite the prevailing stereotypes of it being a profession solely for men. With that being said, we’re going to provide you with a list of women who have helped change technology as we know it!
Born in the early 1800s, Ada Lovelace was the only legitimate child of Lord Byron and wife Lady Byron. Ada was regarded as one of the first computer programmers of her time. Lovelace’s first introduction into the world of computing came when she met Charles Babbage, who became her friend and mentor.
Babbage, considered to be the father of computing, had created a computing device known as the “Analytical Engine”, that served the purpose of making thousands of accurate calculations as its cogs spun. Working alongside Babbage, Lovelace wrote what is now considered the first “computer program”, and came up with real world applications of the device which otherwise eluded Babbage.
One of only three African American students to integrate West Virginia’s graduate schools, Katherine Johnson’s life was full of remarkable achievements, as she was also among the first African American women to work as a NASA scientist. Johnson, whose achievements were captured in the blockbuster film Hidden Figures, had calculated the exact trajectories that would help Neil Armstrong and Apollo 11 land on the moon back in 1969.
However, it was not until recently that Johnson began to receive universal praise – as her gender and race played significant factors in how her achievements were perceived.
Back in 2015, President Barack Obama awarded Johnson the Presidential Medal of Freedom, stating that “Katherine G. Johnson refused to be limited by society’s expectations of her gender and race while expanding the boundaries of humanity’s reach.”
Katharine recently passed away at the age of 101.
Back in the 1800s, while the men at the Harvard College Observatory were gathering information about our universe, women were working behind the scenes, actually using the information for calculations and measurements. As we stated prior, this sort of task was simply viewed as “clerical work”, and delegated to women to perform.
The head of the Observatory, Edward Pickering, needed someone to take over this task, so he chose his housemaid, Williamina Fleming, to take over the duties. Eventually going on to lead a team of over 80 women, Fleming and her team were responsible for computing the raw data provided to them, and coming up with calculations that help us the universe as we know it.
The Women of ENIAC
The ENIAC (Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer) was the predecessor to the types of computers we see today. Used during World War II, the ENIAC was designed to plot ballistic trajectories, although it’s design evolved to include far less destructive purposes.
Though it was two men who designed the ENIAC, it was a team of women who programmed the computer, effectively becoming the world’s first coders. While the work they initially did was initially used for military purposes, their contributions lead to the development of the first software program, and the development of computer memory and storage.
Shaping the Future
Technology has come a long way since the first days of computing. Although the industry itself still tends to be male dominant, women are constantly paving the way for new discoveries and new innovations – proving that when given equal chance, boundaries will be broken, and truly anything can be accomplished.
With that being said, happy International Women’s Day! Check out some of the dedicated and talented women who make up our team here.