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5 women in tech I think everyone should know

11 October 2016

Ada Lovelace Day was founded in 2009 and “aims to raise the profile of women in science, technology, engineering and maths by encouraging people around the world to talk about the women whose work they admire.”

So today I would like to introduce you to 5 women in tech I think everyone should know.

The first published computer algorithm

The first published computer algorithm

Ada Lovelace (1815 – 1852) – The first computer programmer

So of course I start this list with Ada Lovelace.

Ada’s father was a poet and left her and her mother when Ada was just a month old. Her mother loved maths and promoted Ada’s interests in maths in the hope that she would not turn out like her father. This means she got a good education by several noted researchers and mathematicians.

In 1842, she was asked to translate and expand an article written by an Italian mathematician since she ‘understood the machine so well’. This final article contains several pieces of text now regarded as early computer programs. This is why she is often referred to as “the first computer programmer”.

Unfortunately, Ada died of cancer at 36, but even after her death she stayed important with her notes being one of the critical documents to inspire Alan Turing with on the first modern computers in the 1940s.


Photo of the

Photo of the “first computer bug”

Grace Hopper (1906 – 1992) – Inventor of the first compiler for a computer programming language

Grace Hopper became famous working for the Navy at Harvard. During WW2, she was one of the first programmers working on the Harvard Mark I computer, a general purpose computer used in the war. After the war, she worked on making the first compiler, known as the A compiler. This led to her being the first director of automatic programming at her company, which then released some of the first compiler-based programming languages.

Grace and her team also discovered a moth stuck in the Mark II computer, and while the term bug had already been in use for many years, this case is often regarded as the first case of literal debugging.


Anita Borg (1949 – 2003) – Founder of the first email network for women in technology

Anita Borg, as so many programmers, was originally a mathematician and did not intent to go into computer science, but taught herself how to program while working at an insurance company. After this, she got a doctorate in computer science.

While attending symposia for computer science in 1987, she notices how few women were present. After the symposium, these women met up and decided to start an email network for women to seek input and share advice, called Systers. In the beginning, discussions were only about technical issues, but later the Systers list started playing a role in social debates.

In 1997, Anita founded the Institute for Women and Technology, which was renamed the Anita Borg institute for Women and Technology after her death. This institute is still active, with the mission “to accelerate the pace of global innovation by working to ensure that the creators of technology mirror the people and societies who use it”


Sheryl Sandberg on the cover of Time magazine

Sheryl Sandberg on the cover of Time magazine

Sheryl Sandberg (1969) – Forbes most powerful woman in tech and COO of Facebook

Someone who also deserves a mention is Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer of Facebook. Originally schooled at the Harvard Business School, she came into the tech world by working for Google as Vice President of Global Online Sales and Operations. Later, she met Mark Zuckerberg, who thought Sheryl would be a perfect fit for their COO. She played a big part in making facebook profitable and became the first female member of Facebook’s board of directors.

Sheryl has since written a book, called ‘Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead’, about business and feminism. She also has given many speeches about female leaders. This year, she was named the 7th most powerful woman in tech by Forbes and the first person on this list to work in tech for the fifth consecutive year.


Sheryl Sandberg on the cover of Wired magazine

Limor Fried on the cover of Wired magazine

Limor Fried – Electrical engineer and owner of Adafruit Industries

This hardware hacker, also known as Ladyada, is the founder of Adafruit Industries. When googling ‘women in tech’, most lists consist of 5 amazing women who all lead a big company, but I thought I should also include one programmer or hacker on this list.

After earning her master of Engineering, Limor founded Adafruit Industries, a place that designs and sells open source electronic kids, components and tools. Limor created Adafruit wanting to create the best place for learning electronics and selling products for makers of all skill levels, from pre-schoolers to adult hobbyists.

Since, she became the first female engineer to be on the cover of Wired and was named ‘Entrepeneur of the Year 2012’, where she was the only female out of the 15 finalists. About this, she said “If there’s one thing I’d like to see from this, it would be for some kid say to themselves “I could do that” and start the journey to becoming an engineer and entrepreneur.”


Feli - post author

Feli is a general geek. She just finished her bachelor in Artificial Intelligence at the University of Amsterdam and is currently working as a software developer. Apart from AI, her interests also include drawing, gardening and organizing.