Becoming curious about women in computing
It's International Women's Day. And as someone who works at a company that's all about empowering healthcare with better tools built with AI, I can't help but think about the women who paved the way for people like me.
It's fascinating when you think about it; when we talk about notable people in AI or computing, our minds often jump to the likes of Alan Turing, Andrew Ng, Charles Babbage, or even Elon Musk. And to be honest, a couple of years ago, I don't think I could've mentioned that many women in the field. And that's a problem.
To celebrate the day, I took the opportunity to present at Corti's monthly Coffee & Competencies, recognizing some of the incredible women who've made strides in computing; women who have broken down barriers, shattered stereotypes, and paved the way for future generations.
During my presentation, I got the chance to talk about some of these women, and why it’s important for us to try and break down stereotypical ideas that we might have about specific industries and the influential people behind them.
First up, we have the woman who started it all. Not just being a woman in computing, but programming in general. Ada Lovelace, the world's first computer programmer. Yup, that's right—a woman was the first person ever to write code for a computer! To be fair, most people at Corti should know who she is by now, as one of our meeting rooms is named after her. Ada was a visionary mathematician and writer, and her work on Charles Babbage's Analytical Engine laid the foundation for modern computing. She was a true trailblazer.
Next, let's talk about Grace Hopper—or better known as the "Queen of Software." Grace was a computer scientist and United States Navy rear admiral, and she's credited with developing the first compiler and later COBOL, a programming language still in use today. Basically, she made it easier for humans to write code—talk about a game-changer.
And we can't forget about Margaret Hamilton, the woman who helped put humans on the moon. And guess what? Yet another room at the Corti Copenhagen Offices, arguably the most comfortable one as well. Hamilton was the director of the Software Engineering Division of the MIT Instrumentation Laboratory, and her work on the Apollo program was critical to the mission's success. She might just be one of my favorite women in the field.
We covered a number more women in the talk, from female codebreakers in WW2 to creators of the internet, to pioneers of digital media. Almost anywhere you look in science and computing, you will find women who made significant contributions.
When I first logged in to the Google Meets session with the Corti team, I couldn’t help but feel a little nervous about whether the team would be interested in the topic and if it would be informative. But you could really feel the excitement come from the people joining the session (as much as you can feel it in a remote Google Meet room).
As someone passionate about diversity and inclusion, it's amazing seeing my team members equally as excited about this topic, and I loved hearing their stories about learning about women in the computing industry. I feel like every year, I witness, not only at Corti but in the technology industry in general, that there’s huge progress toward becoming a more inclusive and equitable industry.
And even though we shouldn't just have these conversations on International Women's Day, I appreciate frequent reminders about the women who came before me and made it possible for women like me to pursue careers in technology.
Most of my knowledge on the subject comes from the following books: a big thank you to the amazing women who wrote them!
- "Broad band: the untold story of the women who made the internet" by Claire Evans (this is the book that got me started on this topic!)
- "Code Girls, the untold story of the American women code breakers of World War 2" by Liza Mundy
- "Hidden Figures: The Untold Story of the African-American Women Who Helped Win the Space Race" by Margot Lee Shetterly
And to all the women out there who are currently making waves in any industry—keep on crushing it! Happy International Women's Day.