Insights & Advice

Celebrating Women in Tech

By Ryan Browne on 04/02/2019

To bring some more awareness to women in tech we are focussing on women working in STEM subject areas, Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.
I have done some really fun research and thought I would share with you what I found from facts to information about women past and present in the tech industry.

Today in 2018 there is still a huge gap between men and women working in these career subjects.
If you’re not aware of the differences between men and women in STEM careers education here are a few facts;

· In 1995 37% of computer scientists were women, today it is only 24%.
· Girls are less likely to study STEM subjects at school and this continues through education into their careers- 83% of boy’s study STEM subjects in school compared to 63% of girls. 52% of men studying in university to 30% of women and only 3% of women choose STEM as their career to 15% of men.
· Only 5% of leadership positions in the technology sector are held by women.
· 78% of students can’t name a famous female working in technology. (Including myself!!)

I was thinking about the statistic ‘78% of female students can’t name a famous female who worked or works in the tech industry!’ and thought it would be good to write about and educate myself of some women in STEM careers. Both past and present.
I mean what better way to get girls and women inspired to focus on a possibility in this career path than to inform them on the amazing careers and experiences women have had or changes they have made through the industry?

Just so you know, there are so, so many more women who have and are concurring the tech industry than the few that I have picked for this post!
You can find out all about the many women by researching ‘women in tech’ online. Or you can be old school and find books about them.

Whilst I was doing my research I found out about so many women in the tech industry that I had never heard of before, even ones who work for popular companies such as YouTube.
More needs to be done throughout schools and education to make girls and boys aware of the women that are in technology. It’s so important in today’s world to get girls interested in technology from a young age. Have them know that they also have the ability to take on STEM careers.
I remember when I was in year 10&11 out of 900+ students in my year only 1 girl was doing engineering as a GCSE.

Women from the past in STEM subject careers

I am going to start with -in my opinion- an amazing film that focus’ on Women from the past who had STEM careers called Hidden Figures. The film is a real-life story and is all about the African-American women who worked for NASA in the 1950’s and were the core help for the famous operation in history- The launch of astronaut Glen Powell into orbit. Here is a little bit of information about how the women ended up working for NASA despite challenges they faced against them.

KATHERINE JOHNSON – Mathematician for NASA 1953 – 1986.

Started her career in STEM when she graduated with the highest honours in 1937 she then got a job teaching at a black public school in Virginia.
in 1939, West Virginia State’s president Dr John W. Davis selected Katherine and two male students as the first black students to be offered spots at the state’s flagship school, West Virginia University. After a year she left the programme to start a family with her husband.

In 1952 a relative told her about positions at the all black west area computing section at NASA (then NACAS).
1953 Katherine took the job and her and her husband moved with their three daughters to pursue the opportunity. Just two weeks into her job she was assigned the position on the project in the Manoeuvre Loads Branch of the Flight Research Division

In 1957, Katherine provided some of the math for the 1958 document Notes on Space Technology, a compendium of a series of lectures given by engineers in the Flight Research Division and the Pilotless Aircraft Research Division.

Engineers from those groups formed the core of the Space Task Group, the first official attempt into space travel. Katherine had worked with many of them since coming to Langley so she came along with the program. Katherine did trajectory (the path followed by a projectile flying or an object moving under the action of given forces) analysis for Alan Shepard’s 1961 Mission Freedom 7- Americas first human spaceflight.

In 1960 she and an engineer co-authored Determination of Azimuth Angle at Burnout for Placing a Satellite Over a Selected Earth Position which was report that laid out the equations describing an orbital spaceflight in which landing position of the spacecraft is specified. Through this report it was the first time in history that a Woman in the flight division had received credit as an author of research report.

Katherine was greatly trusted by John Glenn the astronaut who was to be fired into orbit aboard Friendship 7 in 1962 so much that he told the male engineers to “get the girl” meaning Katherine, to check the same numbers through the same equation that they had used in the computer but by hand and “if she says they’re good, then I’m ready to go”.

– https://www.nasa.gov/content/katherine-johnson-biography

MARY JACKSON- Mathematics and Physical Science 1951-1985.

Mary Jackson had a love for science and helping improve the lives of people around her, in the 1970’s she helped youngsters in the science club at Hampton’s king street community centre to build their own wind tunnel and use it for experiments. Mary Jackson said in an interview with her local newspaper ” We have to do something like this to get them interested in science, sometimes they don’t know of the number of black scientists or the career options for them”.

Jackson’s path to her engineering career at NASA Langley Research Centre was not direct. She graduated from Hampton Institute in 1942 with a dual degree in Math and Physical Sciences and went onto teach Math at a black school in Calvert County, Maryland. She then had 4 more job changes until 1951 where she began working at the Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory’s segregated West area computing section.

Mary Jackson received an offer to work for engineer Kazimierz Czarnecki in a supersonic pressure tunnel. Czarnecki gave Mary hands on experience experimenting in the facility and then went on to suggest she enter a training program that would allow her to earn a promotion from Mathematician to Engineer. This was not an easy course to get on for Mary as the classes managed by University of Virginia where held at then, all white Segregated Hampton High School. Mary Jackson needed special permission from the City of Hampton to join her white peers in the classroom. Mary persevered this challenge and went on to get her place and complete the courses, earned the promotion. In 1958 Mary became the first black female engineer.

Mary went on to leave her engineering career as she got frustrated when she realised that she was unable to break through to the management-level grades because she was a woman. She moved to Langley’s Federal Women’s Program Manager where she focused on impacting the hiring and promotion of the next generation of all NASA’s female mathematicians, engineers and scientists.

-https://www.nasa.gov/content/mary-jackson-biography

Now let’s fast forward to today, 2018. Who are the famous, inspiring, intelligent women in tech today? Off the top of my head I can barely think of two!! I think back to being in school, education I don’t ever recall learning about any women who achieved within a STEM subject. So, I thought I’d do some research and find the women of today who are (shockingly AS IT IS 2018) fighting off a very large stereotype with their chosen career.

The first woman who came to mind was.

SHERYL SANDBURG- Facebook COO 2007-present day

She is probably the most known woman in tech, Sheryl is the COO, Chief Operating Officer of Facebook and founder of Leanin.org. In June 2012 Sheryl Sandberg became the board of directors which led her to be the first woman to serve Facebook’s board. AMAZING. Although, we are talking about 2012 and not the 1950’s…
Sandberg started off work after she graduated business school in 1995, she started off as a management consultant for a year. She then moved over to Silicon Valley in 2001 joining Google Inc as its Vice President of Global Online Sales and Operations. Then in late 20017 Sheryl Sandberg met Mark Zuckerberg- co-founder and chief executive of Facebook, at a Christmas party. Zuckerberg thought that Sandberg would be the perfect fit for Facebooks COO role.
Sheryl Sandberg also is an author of the book ‘Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to lead’. This book explores themes like feminism, sexism in the workplace and the social/personal barriers to gender equality in the professional world.

Another woman who concurred the world of tech is Padmasree Warrior.

PADMASREE WARRIOR- Cisco 2007-2015

Padmasree Warrior was CTO Chief Technology and Strategy Officer of Cisco Systems. Before this Padmasree Warrior worked at Motorola as Corporate Vice President and CTO for 23 years. In 2004 with Warrior at the front of it, Motorola was awarded by President Bush the 2004 National Medal of Technology.
Something that makes Warrior different is she challenges the whole ‘tech geek’ stereotype to the next level. Padmasree uses her social media and platform to influence girls through posting all the stuff she loves to do such as art, food and then all that is associated with being a girl such nail art, selfies, fashion as well as also posting about technology and tech news. This really helps to connect girls who usually wouldn’t even think once about having a career in tech connect to someone who has been a huge success in the industry.
Padmasree Warrior is now CEO of NIO US.

The last Woman I’m going to talk about is Elizabeth Varley,

ELIZABETH VARLEY- Tech Hub 2009-present day

Varley founded TechHub in 2009/2010 because she found that London was lacking shared spaces for growing tech start-up companies to go. TechHub was one of the first hubs for new technology companies in London. TechHub was doing so well in 2012 it opened up another hub on the Google campus, a bigger workspace for internet start-ups. This was sponsored by Google.
TechHub continued to excel and in 2015 the company announced that it was expanding its partnership with Google and opening in three new locations; Bangalore India, Riga Latvia and Bucharest Romania. This expansion allows the members in these countries to have access to Google for entrepreneur’s services. TechHub has spaces today in London, New York, Bangalore, Riga, Bucharest and Swansea.

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