Inspiring Women in Tech

March 8 of every year is observed as International Women’s Day (IWD) to celebrate women for their immense contribution towards national development and raise awareness on the need for gender equality in all spheres of life. This year, we’re paying tribute to the tireless and important work of a diverse group of women in technology and science.

Ada Lovelace (10 December 1815 – 27 November 1852)

Considered the first woman programmer in history, Ada Lovelace was a British mathematician, computer scientist, and writer. She made history for all her work on Charles Babbage’s general-purpose calculator, the “Analytical Engine,” considered the modern computer antecedent.

Ana Roqué de Duprey (April 18, 1853 – 1933)

Born in Puerto Rico in 1853, she started a school in her home at age 13. She wrote a geography textbook for her students, which the Department of Education later adopted. Roqué had a passion for astronomy and education, founding several girls-only schools and the College of Mayagüez, which later became the Mayagüez Campus of the University of Puerto Rico. 

Grace Hopper (December 9, 1906 – January 1, 1992)

Rear Admiral Grace Murray Hopper was at the forefront of computer and programming language development between 1930-the 1980s. One of the crowning achievements of her 44-year career was the development of computer languages written in English rather than mathematical notation. She developed the business computing language known as COBOL, which is still in use today.

Hedy Lamarr (November 9, 1914 – January 19, 2000)

Hedy Lamarr was an Austrian-born American actress, inventor, and film producer. She pioneered the technology that would one day form the basis for today’s WiFi, GPS, and Bluetooth communication systems.

Katherine Johnson (August 26, 1918 – February 24, 2020)

She was an African-American space scientist, mathematician, and a leading figure in American space history. She made enormous contributions to America’s aeronautics and the Space Race. Katherine estimated the trajectory for Alan Shepard, the first American in space, and the 1969 Apollo 11 flight to the moon.

Rajeshwari Chatterjee (24 January 1922 – 3 September 2010)

Rajeshwari Chatterjee was an Indian scientist and an academic. She was the first woman engineer from Karnataka. During her tenure at the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, Chatterjee was a professor and later chairperson of the Department of Electrical Communication Engineering. She has over 100 published papers and seven books to her credit. 

Annie Easley (April 23, 1933 – June 25, 2011)

Annie Easley made the jump from “human computer” to computer programmer while working at the mid-century agency of NASA. Running simulations at a freaking “Reactor Lab,” she was one of only four African-American employees. Later, her work as a programmer involved energy conversion systems. According to NASA, she “developed and implemented code” that led to the battery development used in the first hybrid cars. 

Karen Spärck Jones (26 August 1935 – 4 April 2007)

The search engines we use daily rely on the natural language processing discoveries made by Karen Spärck Jones. Jones’ most notable achievements laid the groundwork for the sort of information retrieval we use today. She introduced the use of thesauri into language processing, allowing for computational recognition of similar words. And she also introduced the idea and methods of “term weighing” in information retrieval, which helped queries determine which terms were the most relevant.

Mary Allen Wilkes (born September 25, 1937)

Aside from helping develop the first “personal computer,” Mary Allen Wilkes was also the first to have a PC in her home. Wilkes worked on the LINC computer as a programmer and instructions author. In a 2011 interview, she revealed that she took the LINC home to write the operating system, helping to make working remotely a reality for so many of us today. 

Dr. Shirley Ann Jackson (born August 5, 1946)

Dr. Shirley Ann is the first African American woman to earn a Ph.D. from MIT (specializing in Physics). She leveraged her physics knowledge to advance telecommunications research at Bell Laboratories. It influenced the creation of the portable fax, touch-tone phone, and the technology behind caller ID and call-waiting.

Radia Perlman (born December 18, 1951)

Radia Perlman created the algorithm behind the Spanning Tree Protocol (STP), which is a crucial part of the internet’s underlying foundation. Despite this, she insists the “internet was not invented by any individual.”

Ellen Ochoa (born May 10, 1958)

In 1993, Dr. Ellen Ochoa became the first Hispanic woman to go to space when she served on a nine-day mission aboard the space shuttle Discovery. She has flown in space four times, logging nearly 1,000 hours in orbit. Before her astronaut career, she was a research engineer and inventor with three patents for optical systems. Ochoa is also the first Hispanic (and second female) to be named director of NASA’s Johnson Space Center.

Cher Wang (born 15 September 1958)

Cher Wang is a Taiwanese entrepreneur and philanthropist. As co-founder and chairperson of HTC Corporation and integrated chipset maker VIA Technologies, she is one of the Android world pioneers. She was featured on Forbes World’s Billionaires list for three years straight and is now seeking to venture into the virtual reality realm. 

Her Excellency Sheikha Lubna bint Khalid Al Qasimi (born 4 February 1962)

HE Sheikha Lubna Al Qasimi studied computer science before opening one of the Middle East’s premier electronic business-to-business marketplaces, Tejari. She is best known for being the first woman to hold ministerial posts in the UAE, as Minister of Economy and Planning, Minister of State for International Cooperation, and then Minister of State for Tolerance.

Megan Smith (born October 21, 1964)

The White House’s third-ever CTO was a former Google VP. While serving as the CTO under President Obama, she helped bring the US government — parts of it reportedly still running on floppy disks in 2015 — into the 21st century. Among other achievements, Smith closely advised President Obama to maintain net neutrality and endorse a free and open internet.

Jenny Lee

Jenny Lee is a Managing Partner at venture capital firm GGV Capital (worth over 3 Billion USD) that invests in tech startups. She is best known for her focus on startup innovation in EdTech, FinTech, Robotics, and AI. Jenny launched GGV’s first office in China in 2005 and reopened GGV’s Singapore office in 2019. She has spoken on panels like the Wall Street Journal D.Live global technology conference and more.

Angelica Ross  (born in 1980/1981)

From the boardroom to film sets to the White House, Angelica Ross is a leading figure of success and strength in the movement for trans and racial equality. She is the founder of TransTech Social Enterprises, which focuses on helping gender-nonconforming people get opportunities in technical roles.

Tan Hooi Ling (born in 1984)

She is the co-founder of Grab, a transport-booking app popular in Southeast Asia. Tan is the co-founder of Southeast Asia’s most exciting startups, which operates in 65 cities in over seven countries today, valued at over 5 billion USD. She came up with the idea with a fellow Malaysian co-founder while at Harvard Business School.

Chancey Fleet

Chancey is the Assistive Technology Coordinator at the New York Public Library. She founded the Dimensions Project, a free open lab to explore and create accessible images, models, and data representations through tactile graphics, 3d models, and nonvisual approaches to coding, CAD, and “visual” arts. She is an advocate for communities of disability in tech and researches how cloud-connected accessibility tools benefit and harm.

Suvda Myagmar

Suvda is the Director of Product Management at Salesforce. With over 12 years of experience as product and engineering lead at Salesforce, Adobe, Microsoft, Yahoo, she is also an angel investor helping other startups grow. She has a Ph.D. in Computer Science and has expertise in developing complex cloud platforms.