The Women Who Brought Us Wi-Fi, WFH, and More

McElla Pappas our consultant managing the role
Posting date: 3/4/2021 10:23 AM
It seems almost counterintuitive to lament the statistics of women in tech when you realize how many women, throughout history, helped to build the world of technology. Some names you may know. Ada Lovelace. Hedy Lamarr. Karen Johnson. Grace Hopper. 

The list is long and these few names barely scratch the surface. But you have these ladies to thank for computer programming, wi-fi, and human mathematical ‘computers’ which have paved the way for so much of what we can do today.

In honor of Women's History Month, we wanted to celebrate both the women of technology who set the stage for us to work from home on computers using wi-fi to the women of tomorrow. 

Women in Tech Isn’t New


Near the turn of the 20th century, a ‘woman’s work’ went well beyond the kitchen. Yet, it was a housemaid who was tasked with crunching the numbers from raw Data gathered by the men of the Harvard Observatory. When the men declined to analyze their Data deeming it ‘clerical’ and therefore, women’s work, the head of the Observatory needed help. Enter Williamina Fleming, housemaid to Edward Pickering, head of the Harvard College Observatory.

Williamina would go on to lead 80 ‘computers’ at Harvard. Enter The Women of ENIAC, the first computer programmers. Though the ENIAC itself was built by men, it was a unit of six women who would actually do the coding on the machine. Their calculations plotted missile trajectories on behalf of the U.S. Military. These women would go on to become mathematicians at NASA and its Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

And Grace Hopper, known as the ‘mother of computing,’ helped develop the COBOL language. She also helped develop the UNIVAC I computer, the first business-focused computer.

The Old Normal


Would you believe the idea of working from home began with a woman bringing home her computer to write its operating systems manual? As you commute across your home from your non-work life to your working life, cup of coffee in hand, thank Mary Allen Wilkes. She’s credited with being the first person ever to have a personal computer in her home. 

And there would be no working from home without wi-fi. Hedy Lamarr, the famous actress of the 1940s was also a brilliant scientist. She loved to see how machines worked and helped develop what would become wi-fi.

The Pioneering Women of Today in Tech  


From AI to Machine Learning to Coding, women are leading the way. Not only are their businesses data-driven, but there is a strong focus on diversity and inclusion both for human and machine.

Danah Boyd, founder and president of Data & Society, is keeping an eye the on ethical and legal implications of emerging technologies. Some topics she’s focused on include accountability in machine learning and media manipulation.

Want to know what’s next in the world of tech? Meet Cathy Hackl, one of LinkedIn’s Top Tech Voices and the host of the Future Insiders podcast. She focuses on AR and VR working with name brands on the how best to use these technologies. 

Dr. Fei-Fei Li, co-director of Stanford's Human-Centered AI Institute is a pioneer of not only AI, but also Computer Vision. Her nonprofit, AI4ALL, is intended to improve diversity within the field. But it’s her ImageNet project which holds the most sway. The images in this database have helped ‘train’ computers how to recognize what they see.

Katie Moussouris is an unlikely heroine in the world of security. Cybersecurity. In the world of Data privacy and security, we may not automatically think of a woman. But we might imagine a hacker who would use their powers for good. The founder and CEO of Luta Security, Katie Moussouris, is the best of both worlds and is busy protecting businesses and government agencies from digital threats.

With a focus on diversity and inclusion in the fields of Data and Technology, Kimberly Bryant, started Black Girls Code. Her aim is to create a more diverse computer programming course. An electrical engineer herself, she was determined her daughter not feel culturally isolated or give up her passions. 

These women are the tip of the iceberg of women in tech today. As a recent interviewee suggested, we encourage you, if you’re interested, to join organizations and networks that support women in data and technology fields.

At Harnham, we’re proud to partner with Women in Data. If you’re interested in Big Data and Analytics, Life Sciences, Data Science, or any of our Data professional fields, we may have a role for you.

Check out our current vacancies or contact one of our expert consultants to learn more. 

For our West Coast Team, contact us at (415) 614 - 4999 or send an email to sanfraninfo@harnham.com

For our Mid-West and East Coast teams contact us at (212) 796-6070 or send an email to newyorkinfo@harnham.com.  

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