Breaking the code: celebrating women’s contributions to computing
Publication date: March 14, 2023
March is Women’s History Month, when we celebrate the scientific, economic, cultural and political contributions of women to events in history. Historically, coding and computer science have been male-dominated fields, but not exclusively! Women have been contributing to the development of computing technology since its inception, and we owe much of the technology we use today to the contributions of women. Let’s take a closer look!
One of the first female pioneers of computing was Ada Lovelace, a mathematician who is often credited as being the first computer programmer. She worked alongside Charles Babbage, a famous inventor who developed a machine called the Analytical Engine, which was a precursor to modern computers. Lovelace recognised the potential of the machine beyond mere calculations, and she wrote the first algorithm designed to be processed by a machine, making her the world’s first programmer.
Another famous woman in computing is Margaret Hamilton, who was the director of the Software Engineering Division of the MIT Instrumentation Laboratory, which developed software for the Apollo space programme. Hamilton led the team responsible for the on-board flight software for the Apollo 11 mission that landed astronauts on the Moon in 1969. Her work was critical to the success of the mission, and she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2016.
Hedy Lamarr, an actress in the Golden Age of Hollywood, was also a pioneer of computing. She co-invented a technology called frequency hopping spread spectrum, which was a precursor to modern Wi-Fi and Bluetooth technology. Lamarr’s invention was originally developed to help the US Navy control torpedoes remotely, but its applications have since expanded to a range of wireless communication technologies.
These women were among the first to break into the field of computing, but they were far from the last. Women like Grace Hopper, who developed the first compiler and programming language, and Jean Jennings Bartik, who was one of the first programmers of the ENIAC (electronic numerical integrator and computer), paved the way for generations of women to follow.
Despite these accomplishments, women still face challenges in the tech industry today. Women are underrepresented in technology and STEM fields, and face barriers to entry and advancement. This lack of diversity can lead to a narrow perspective on product design and development, which can limit innovation and limit the potential benefits of technology.
EU Code Week for women
At EU Code Week, we believe that recognising the contributions of women in coding and computer science is important, but it’s not enough. We need to continue to promote diversity and inclusivity in the tech industry, not only to provide equal opportunities for all but also to ensure that our technology is developed for the benefit of all.
As we celebrate Women’s History Month, let’s not forget the women who have contributed to the development of computing technology and continue to work towards a more diverse and inclusive future for the tech industry.