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Celebrate Women in STEM for International Women’s Day
March 8 is International Women’s Day–a day to celebrate the women in our lives and society who are making a difference! Women have helped land humankind on the moon, develop programming languages, found startups, lead the fight for diversity in tech fields, and so much more! This International Women’s Day, learn more about the powerful, inspiring women–past and present–who are shaping the way we use technology and making a big impact in STEM!
RKimberly Bryant is an electrical engineer and founder of Black Girls Code, an organization that serves thousands of girls from underrepresented communities. As a woman and African American, she faced difficult odds while completing her degree at Vanderbilt university in the 1980s. But despite the challenges she faced as an engineering student and during her career, Bryant has triumphed to become not only a leader in the biotechnology industry but also an inspiring company founder and mentor. Through it all, she’s remained determined to accomplish her goals and make a difference. Talking about her experience studying electrical engineering at Vanderbilt, she said: “I definitely experienced bias throughout my college career. I was just determined that I would make it through there, no matter what.”
Evelyn Berezin was an American computer designer who started her own tech company in an era when female corporate leaders–especially in the tech industry–were relatively unheard of. Her company designed and distributed the “Data Secretary,” one of the first word processing systems, and made their own computer processors (a new technology in those days). Before starting her own company, she faced gender discrimination that prevented her from climbing the corporate ladder. Despite this barrier, Berezin used her computing knowledge and determination to be successful in the tech world as an inventor and company founder: “I finally did come to the conclusion that the only way out– or really the only way UP, was to start a company.”
Jean E. Sammet, who entered the 1950s world of computers from a mathematics background, led the development of FORMAC (FORmula MAnipulation Compiler), the first commonly used programming language for manipulating non-numeric algebraic expressions. With another well-known woman in STEM, Grace Hopper, as the technical consultant for the project, Sammet also helped develop COBOL (Common Business-Oriented Language), one of the first programming languages designed for business use. Jean Sammet was the first female president of the Association for Computing Machinery and her book Programming Languages: History and Fundamentals is considered a classic. Her career in computing began with an interest in math, as she explains: “When I started the first grade, I immediately decided I liked that number stuff.”
“There was no choice but to be pioneers.” That’s what Margaret Hamilton has to say about her experience engineering software for NASA at MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) in the 1960s. Back then, software engineering was a relatively obscure profession and regarded by many “as an art and as magic, not a science.” Margaret Hamilton is credited with coining the term “software engineering”–the implementation of programming methodologies used to make a project happen–during her work at MIT and, along with her team, wrote the code for Apollo 11’s on-board flight software.
Deemed “the most beautiful woman in the world” by MGM – but quoted saying that “the brains of people are more interesting than the looks” – Hedy made incredible contributions to both military technology and the tech that is ubiquitous in our lives today. We can thank Hedy for our ability to surf the web, chat on the phone in the car, find our way to the store, and more! With her “Secret Communications System,” now a $30 billion technology known as frequency-hopping, she laid the foundation for Wi-Fi, GPS, and Bluetooth.
Ada Lovelace was born in 1815, the daughter of famous poet Lord Byron. From an early age, Lovelace showed a gift for mathematics that developed into a passion as she grew older, thanks to extensive math and science tutoring encouraged by her mother. At the age of 17, she met her mentor, Charles Babbage, who is now known as the father of the computer. While Lovelace was translating Babbage’s paper on a new machine that could perform and analyze math calculations (the Analytical Engine, one of the first computers), Lovelace supplemented the paper with pages of notes sketching out computer programs for the machine. A century later, Babbage’s and Lovelace’s work would be fundamental in building the first computer.
But celebrating International Women’s Day doesn’t stop with honoring the women in the headlines. We need to work together to prepare the next generation to bring innovative technologies and perspectives to the world! Getting girls involved in STEM at an early age is vital to ensuring they stay interested in these fields throughout their lives. Empower the girls in your life by helping them learn to code!
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