Women’s History Month: Influential Women in Tech

It’s no secret that the role of women in technology has seen significant changes over the years, and the technology industry still has a long way to go. In fact, according to a recent study in 2013, just 26 percent of computing jobs in the U.S. were held by women. That’s down from 35 percent in 1990.

At Coding Dojo, we want to help change that, because we believe anyone who has a passion for technology, regardless of their background, can learn how to code.

In honor of Women’s History Month, we want to recognize two women that have made incredible strides for women in technology.

Ada Lovelace (1815-1852) Ada Lovelace

Ada Lovelace was an English mathematician in the mid-1800s whose work is considered to be the first written instructions for computer programming. As a child, her mother insisted that she focus her education on mathematics and science, rather than music, singing, drawing, dancing and the modern languages which were the traditional areas of study for females during that time.

At 17, Lovelace became friends with inventor and father of the computer, Charles Babbage. Babbage was best known for designing the difference engine, a computer meant to perform mathematical calculations. He also designed its successor, the analytical engine which was supposed to carry out more complex calculations.

Over time, Babbage became so impressed with Lovelace’s analytical skills that he called her the “Enchantress of Number.” He later asked Lovelace to translate an article written by an Italian mathematician about the analytical engine from French to English. While translating the article, she added her own notes describing how to write code for the device to handle letters, symbols and numbers.

Today, Lovelace’s legacy lives on as the world’s first computer programmer. Her work with Babbage and her mathematical mind not only gave us the first language of code, but also the method of looping, which is a series of instructions that continually repeats until a certain condition is reached. The looping process is still in use by programmers today.

Margaret Hamilton (1936-present)  Margaret Hamilton

Margaret Hamilton, an American computer scientist, systems engineer and business owner, led the team that developed the on-board software for the Apollo Moon missions.

In the 1960s Hamilton took a job with MIT as a developer on the Semi-Automatic Ground Environment (SAGE) project. SAGE was a system of large computers and networking equipment that pulled data from radars to produce a single image of the airspace over a wide area. This technology was eventually used by the military for anti-aircraft air defense against the Soviets during the Cold War. Hamilton’s participation in this project catapulted her into her longstanding career as a computer programmer.

Hamilton then joined Charles Stark Draper Laboratory at MIT, where she began working as the lead software designer for the Apollo space mission. During the most critical moments of the Apollo 11 mission, it was Hamilton’s priority alarm display that helped decide whether an alert the astronauts received just before they were to land on the Moon meant they should abort their mission. Thanks to Hamilton’s system, the NASA team was able to see that the alert was nothing critical, and the landing went ahead.

President Obama gave Hamilton the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2016 to recognize her work saying she encapsulated the “American spirit of discovery that exists in every little girl and little boy.”

These two represent only a fraction of the women that have made history for their technological innovations. At Coding Dojo, we hope to produce more women like Ada Lovelace and Margaret Hamilton, women who aren’t afraid to push past the status quo and use their minds to change the world. Could you be one of them?

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