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5 Women in Tech you should know about

March 8 has been observed as International Women’s Day by the United Nations since at least 1975, recognizing the many achievements of women around the world. Nonetheless, challenges for women remain. For instance, 34 percent of the workforce in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) are female as of 2022, around half of the share of women professionals in the social sciences (65 percent). Despite this, they have made significant contributions to how high tech society has developed to this day. Learn more about five of these women in tech.

Ada Lovelace, computer pioneer

Ada Lovelace

Ada Augusta King, Countess of Lovelace (1815-1852) is credited for creating one of the first published computer algorithms. Although she has been known as a writer, Lovelace’s background in mathematics likely drew her interest on computing devices. The program she developed was intended to calculate Bernoulli numbers, a sequence of rational numbers, through Charles Babbage’s Analytical Engine. While the program was never really tested since Babbage failed to complete the machine, and some have criticized her actual role in the development of computer programming considering Babbage himself had developed his own programs, it was believed that she saw the potential of the Analytical Engine to conduct operations beyond numbers.

To this day, it remains a mystery if Babbage’s machine could have handled Lovelace’s program. Nonetheless, recent attempts such as those done by Jim Randell and Sinclair Target went on to run her program using modern computers. Both found what could be considered as early computer bugs, although their analysis assume that they might have been typos rather than errors in Lovelace’s original programming.

Ada Lovelace Day, commemorated every second Tuesday of October since 2009, is organized to recognize the accomplishments of women in STEM. This in addition to the International Day of Women and Girls in Science, which is observed on February 11 by virtue of a United Nations General Assembly resolution.

Grace Hopper, Mark I programmer

Grace Hopper And Univac

Grace Murray Hopper (1906-1992) sought to enlist in the United States Navy during the Second World War, but was denied to be commissioned as a regular soldier because of her age. Instead, she got assigned in the development of Harvard Mark I. No, it is not Iron Man’s first suit of armor. The Mark I is an electromechanical computer which began computing operations for the US Navy Bureau of Ships in 1944. Her manual for Mark I, among her works on coding, is considered to be among the first in the world. Her later work on FLOW-MATIC, the programming language used for the electronic Universal Automatic Computer I (UNIVAC I), is believed to have contributed in the creation of common business-oriented language (COBOL) in 1959. COBOL remains to be in use today.

By 1985, while Hopper has been a reservist during the entirety of her career, she received the rank of rear admiral. On another note, the popularization of “bug” to refer to computer glitch is usually attributed to Hopper’s experience with the Mark II, and it turned out to be from an actual insect. A trapped moth in the relay caused error in their operations. While Hopper’s team documented the incident (the moth was taped in the log entry), she may have not been the first to have used the term. The log entry itself says, “First actual case of bug being found.” This implies that “bugs” in reference to technical errors may have been in use prior, albeit they may not involve insects in the process.

The Arleigh Burke-class destroyer USS Hopper, commissioned in 1997, was named in her honor.

Mary Kenneth Keller, PhD in Computer Science

Mary Kenneth Keller Web

Regarded as one of the first women in the United States to achieve a doctorate in computer science, Mary Kenneth Keller, BVM (1913-1985) professed her vows with the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary in 1940. Thereafter, she pursued her studies in mathematics and physics, until she finished her PhD with the dissertation on “Inductive Inference on Computer Generated Patterns” in 1965. She eventually established a computer science department in Clarke University, wherein the Keller Computer Center there was named in her honor.

Katherine Johnson, NASA’s ‘human computer’

Katherine Johnson

Katherine Coleman Johnson (1918-2020) began her career as a research mathematician. With the advent of the Space Race, the trajectory of her work changed. Among others feats, Johnson calculated the trajectory of Mercury-Redstone 3 (Freedom 7). This was the first human spaceflight conducted by the United States, and in extension the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), which was established in 1958. Even when electronic computers began to be used later on, Johnson’s calculations were still deemed beneficial in verifying the results. An example of this was working on the trajectory of the orbital spaceflight of Mercury-Atlas 6 (Friendship 7) in 1962.

What she considers to be her “greatest contribution” to the exploration of space, however, would be helping in the calculations for the Apollo program, which placed humans on the moon for the first time in recorded history. While Johnson eventually learned how to use computers, her reputation as a “human computer” did not go away. In 2015, she received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, one of the highest civilian awards in the United States.

Fe del Mundo, First Filipina National Scientist

Fe Del Mundo

While her record in Harvard remains subject to debate, Fe del Mundo (1911-2011) has much more in her career to be impressed of. Considered as a pioneer in pediatrics in the Philippines, the so-called bamboo incubator is attributed as a device she developed for areas which lack access to electricity. Of course, it has to be noted that incubators have been developed elsewhere. A French prototype using wood and hot water tanks was introduced as early as 1881.

During her lifetime, she advocated for the establishment of children’s hospitals in the country. The Children Medical Center, founded in 1957, is regarded as the first pediatric hospital in the Philippines. It is now called Fe Del Mundo Medical Center in her honor. She was conferred the rank of National Scientist of the Philippines in 1980, the first woman to receive the award. In addition to this, del Mundo has received the Ramon Magsaysay Award (often dubbed as “Asia’s Nobel Prize”) in 1977.

Conclusion

As women continue to thrive in science and technology, we are given an opportunity to carry on with working together towards a sustainable future and continually reforming for the betterment of all. Many of humanity’s ills hound modern society to this day, including the matter of gender rights and justice. We may not have achieved our lofty goals and objectives yet, but that is perhaps why we hope, for why shall we hope for what we already have?

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Avatar for Arius Lauren Raposas

A public servant with a heart for actively supporting technology and futures thinking, responding accordingly to humanity's needs and goals, increasing participation of people in issues concerning them, upholding rights and freedoms, and striving further to achieve more despite our limited capacities. In everything, to God be all the glory.

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