Data Queen: How Women are Leading in Tech
When we hear the word “Queen”, our minds are often flooded with images of crowns, castles, and regal attire. In the 21st century however, the queens many of us look up to don’t have a royal title or vaults filled with jewels. Instead, these inspiring female leaders have computers, revolutionary ideas, and the courage to blaze trails in a male-dominated tech space while opening doors for future generations.
In our Women in IT blog, we highlighted four brilliant minds who helped kickstart the tech revolution for women around the world. In this blog, we’re going to focus on the modern day heroes who have continued the revolution and left their mark on the world.
Video games wouldn’t be what they are today if not for Carol Shaw. After completing her studies in electrical engineering and computer science from UC Berkeley, she accepted a job at Atari as a Microprocessor Software Engineer, making her the first professional female game developer in the video game industry. While at Atari, she developed some of the first 3D graphic games including Tic-Tac-Toe, Polo, and Video Checkers for the VCS console, which was later renamed the 2600. She then transitioned to Activision where she once again became an organization’s first female designer. Her success continued at her new company where she developed River Raid, a revolutionary side-scrolling shooter game that sold more than 1 million cartridges. Due to her contributions to the video game industry, Carol received the Industry Icon Award at the Game Awards in 2017, and helped pave the way for modern Virtual Reality games and digital art innovations.
Evelyn Boyd Granville
After becoming the second Black woman to achieve a PhD in Mathematics, Evelyn Boyd Granville continued to pave the way for women in the fields of math and science while also making it possible for future generations to access computer technology from their home. The first role she held after completing her PhD involved working with engineers to help develop missile fuses. Her success in this position led her to work with IBM, where she played a critical part in developing programs for the IBM 650, the first mass-produced computer in the world. Through IBM’s partnership with NASA, she was able to pursue her passion for astronomy and joined Project Vanguard which helped send the first satellite into orbit, followed by Project Mercury, which had a goal of launching humans into space. Eventually, she went on to work on Project Apollo where she handled orbital computations and celestial mechanics to help man land on the moon. Following her illustrious career, she began teaching her methods, which are still used by physicists, mathematicians, astronomers, and other scientists to this day.
Often referred to as “The Mother of the Internet”, we have Radia Perlman to credit for inventing the technology that transformed the way computers and networks are connected. Her idea came to fruition when she was asked to create a solution that would allow computers to share information in an efficient manner. The result? Spanning Tree Protocol (STP). STP is a link management protocol designed to create path redundancy through automatic backups should a link fail. In addition, links that are not part of the tree are automatically disabled. We use similar processes today when we back up our phones or link to a VPN. Her solution quickly became the standard protocol for network bridging and is credited with allowing Ethernet to handle large networks. After creating the traffic rules for the internet, she went on to receive her PhD in Computer Science, has earned more than 80 patents, and been the recipient of numerous accolades and awards.
Karen Spärck Jones
If you’ve ever typed your burning questions into Google’s search bar, you can thank Karen Spärck Jones for your ability to find answers among the vast amounts of information available on the internet. While pursuing her doctorate, she wrote a thesis titled “Synonymy and Semantic Classification” which was the first known instance of applying statistical clustering methods to structured information. She later went on to work on information retrieval systems and developed Inverse Document Frequency weighting, which uses numbers to determine how relevant a word is to the information being retrieved. This process is still used by the world’s biggest search engines today, and is a testament to how ahead of her time she was.
The data queens above, as well as the many other women who have worked behind the scenes for hundreds of years, have paved the way for women of our current and future generations. Now, more than ever, women should feel empowered to pursue their career goals without fear of glass ceilings, gender-bias, or pay gaps.
The path has been laid out by incredible female leaders in tech, and it’s up to us to continue what they started. In addition to promoting the resources available to women in tech, such as Girls in Tech, Black Girls Code, CyberJutsu, and Change Catalyst, we should increase the visibility of available female roles, demolish age-old stereotypes, highlight female tech leaders, and educate women on the opportunities available to them.
Stay tuned to our upcoming blog posts and INE Live sessions to learn more about how INE supports women in tech, and the ways you can too.
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