Though women in computing have been pivotal in the creation of amazing modern technology, their story is not one that’s often told nor celebrated. On the contrary, instead, great tech women pioneers have been all but erased from history, and that needs to change.
We need both women and men joining the tech workforce, however, for girls it is more difficult to make that choice. How can they aspire to become the next Grace Hopper or Barbara Liskov if they never heard of women excelling in tech? Very often women put off technical degrees not because they do not have the cognitive ability nor because they are not biologically ‘wired’ to do tech (as in that ridiculous memo). One of the key reasons (besides organisational culture barriers) for women not entering the tech workforce is because of the lack of role models.
Marie Wilson once said: “You cannot be what you cannot see” and those are very wise words. Too often in the tech world, we only see men take centre stage and being celebrated – ‘the Gates, Zuckerbergs, and the Jobs’. When I was at University, I learned about them but had never heard of Ada Lovelace (first computer programmer), Radia Perlman (inventor of STP), Hedy Lammar (inventor of frequency hopping technologies).
The good news is that we DO HAVE amazing women doing astonishing work in computer science (though, still not enough women!). We must make them visible to inspire the generations to come. Their ground-breaking work can serve as an inspiration to both girls and boys alike.