Digital roles are, unsurprisingly, still staggeringly under-filled by women. According to Leigh Smyth, who is Head of Digital Inclusion at Lloyds Banking Group ‘only 9.5% of students taking computer science A-Level courses are female’ and the number of women in the Uk in specialist technology roles is only at 17%. Although we’re making progress, we still have a long way to go in closing the gender gap in digital professions.
With these stats, are we surprised that any, if not many, groundbreaking digital discoveries were made by women?
Google has been celebrating their #IAmRemarkable campaign and as avid supporters and followers of this campaign, we too have been dedicating a few of our own blogs to the remarkable women who have and do work in digital or have contributed to the evolution of digital as we know it today, see our feature on Hedy Lamarr, without whom, we may not have the wifi we do today!
Ada Lovelace can stake claim to contributions to the digital world which date back to the 1800’s, undeniably remarkable. Ada was potentially not only the world’s first female computer programmer, but the world’s first computer programmer full stop, and merely happened to be a woman too. Having satisfied her hunger for knowledge and desire to not only learn but invent, (she was thought to have deeply researched and drawn up plans which showed the understanding of the world’s first flying machine at the age of 12, 15 years prior to groundbreaking aviation strategists, John Stringfellow and William Henson) Ada worked with Mathematician Charles Babbage, while he was developing his Analytical Engine, a huge and complex version of the world’s first computer; she has been referred to as a prophet of the computer age. Lovelace had the vision, foresight and incredible mind to write the first and most complex programs for Babbage’s engine at the time.
The Imitation Game brought the fabulous Joan Clarke to our screens, (in the form of Keira Knightley) an integral cog and undeniable mind in, not only a significant turning point in the Second World War, but also in developing a machine which changed and influenced the thinking around how computers could work.
Having fought her way into an incredibly male-dominated world, in a male-dominated time, she was reluctantly accepted as part of the team. She possessed a rare mind that could support and understand the workings of Turing’s in a time when there were few to no women in her field and she outshone many of her male counterparts too.
Kay McNulty Mauchly Antonelli & The ENIAC Six
Kay was one of only 3 in her class to graduate in Mathematics, at which she clearly excelled, she advanced to work as a ‘computer’ at the University of Pennsylvania, Moore School of Engineering; computers spent their days calculating, transcribing and recording information, so her mathematics degree was put to good use. Through this occupation, she, along with a handful of other women, Jean Jennings Bartik, Betty Holberton, Marlyn Wescoff Meltzer, Ruth Lichterman Teitelbaum and Frances Bilas Spence, was recruited to work on improving and developing the ENIAC (Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer) machine which was to be used to track the trajectory of shells. Their work was outstanding and unrecognised, these remarkable women, self-taught, learnt how to operate the ENIAC machine, how to programme it and wrote the programme enabling it to track the shells. These women were a gang of innovators and instigators in the world of computing and programming.
These would be trailblazers, had they been known, acknowledged or named are women who have helped to develop, understand and truly pioneer the world of digital and computing; some of the most groundbreaking work is either listed above or has been possible because of remarkable, digitally minded women, like these.