Women have been fundamental to the growth of data science and programming for many years. Throughout the 19th and early 20th century, and up to World War II, programming was predominantly done by women; significant examples include the Harvard Computers, codebreaking at Bletchley Park and engineering at NASA. Names like Ada Lovelace, Grace Hopper, and Jean Sammet have since circulated the big data landscape for their substantial contributions to the industry. By the 21st century, women began to take on leading roles in many tech companies, such as Marissa Mayer, former president and CEO of Yahoo! and key spokesperson at Google.

Ada Lovelace Grace Hopper Marissa Mayer
Ada Lovelace Grace Hopper Marissa Mayer

 

Many women of color have been acknowledged for their contributions to the data science field as well. Katherine Johnson and Mary Jackson made pivotal contributions to scientific instruments and offered their engineering skills to NASA, while Gladys West was responsible for the mathematics that brought about the invention of the Global Positioning System (GPS). Diversity in the field of data science provides a variety of perspectives that are essential to the innovation, growth, and trans-disciplinary nature of the industry as a whole.

Women around the world are blazing a trail in the world of big data, and as years progress, the opportunities seem endless for what they can achieve.

Mary Jackson Katherine Johnson Gladys West

Women in Computing Profiles and downloadable zoom backgrounds

Fran Allen×

Fran Allen is an American computer scientist and pioneer in the field of optimizing compilers. Allen was the first female IBM Fellow and some of her achievements include seminal work in program optimization, compilers, and parallelization. To read more, click here

 

Gwen Barzey×

Gwen Barzey was the first Black female programmer in Canada and lead a number of large computerization projects in the insurance industry as well as for the City of Toronto. To read more, click here.

Photo of Gwen Barzey

Joy Buolamwini×

Joy Buolamwini is a Ghanian-American computer scientist and digital activist based at the MIT Media Lab. She founded the Algorithmic Justice League, an organization that looks to challenge bias in decision making software. To read more, click here

Cynthia Dwork×

Cynthia Dwork is an American computer scientist at Harvard University and distinguished scientist at Microsoft, who is renowned for placing privacy-preserving data analysis on a mathematically rigorous foundation through the invention of differential privacy. Dwork has also made contributions in distributed computing, cryptography, and robust adaptive data analysis. To read more, click here.

Margaret Hamilton×

Margaret Hamilton is an American computer scientist, systems engineer, and business owner. She was the director of the Software Engineering Division of the MIT Instrumentation Laboratory, which developed onboard flight software for NASA’s Apollo program. To read more click here

Grace Hopper×

Grace Hopper was an American computer scientist who is most famous for her work in transforming source code into computer language. She worked on the Harvard Mark I and Mark II computer systems, and also helped develop the idea of machine-independent programming languages such as COBOL which is still used today. To read more, click here

Katherine Johnson×

 Katherine Johnson was an American mathematician whose calculations of orbital mechanics as a NASA employee were critical to the success of the first and subsequent U.S. crewed spaceflights. Johnson worked at NASA for 35 years, and earned a reputation for mastering complex manual calculations and helped pioneer the use of computers to perform such tasks. To read more, click here

Karen Spärck Jones×

Karen Spärck Jones was a pioneering British computer scientist responsible for the concept of inverse document frequency, a technology that underlies most modern search engines. She was a pioneer of computer science for her work in combining statistics and linguistics, and was an advocate for women in the field. To read more, click here

Sister Mary Kenneth Keller×

Sister Mary Kenneth Keller was a religious sister, an educator and a pioneer in computer science. She was the first female to earn a PhD in Computer Science and went on to help develop the programming language BASIC in order to make programming more accessible to those who were not in science-related fields. To read more, click here

Hedy Lamarr×

Hedy Lamarr was an Austrian-American actress, inventor, and film producer. She co-invented an early version of frequency-hopping spread spectrum along with creating improvements to traffic signals and a bouillon cube which turned still water into carbonated water. To read more, click here.

Ada Lovelace×

Born in 1815, Ada Lovelace recognized the potential of the machine to make more than pure calculations and she published the first algorithm to be carried out by it. She is mainly known for her work on the Analytical Engine (known as the first computer but was never built because of a lack of funding). To read more, click here.

Marissa Mayer×

Marissa Mayer is an American businesswoman and investor. She is an information technology executive, and co-founder of Lumi Labs, a technology studio focused on the intersection of consumer media and artificial intelligence. Mayer formerly served as the president and chief executive officer of Yahoo! To read more, click here

Radia Perlman×

Radia Perlman is an American computer programmer and network engineer. She is most famous for her invention of the spanning-tree protocol (STP), which is crucial to the operation of network bridges, while working for the Digital Equipment Corporation. To read more, click here

Melba Roy×

Melba Roy was a Black woman who served as Assistant Chief of Research Programs at NASA’s Trajectory and Geodynamics Division in the 1960s and headed a group of NASA mathematicians called “computers”. To read more, click here

Jean Sammet×

Jean Sammet was an American computer scientist who developed the FORMAC programming language in 1962. She was also one of the developers of the influential COBOL programming language. To read more, click here

Carol Shaw×

Carol Shaw is known to be one of the first professional female video game designers. She is most famous for her work on River Raid, which won multiple awards at Atari. She has inspired many female mathematicians and game designers and is considered an industry icon. To read more, click here

 

Gwynne Shotwell×

Gwynne Shotwell is an American businesswoman and engineer. She is the President and Chief Operating Officer of SpaceX, an American space transportation company. Shotwell is also responsible for monitoring day-to-day operations and company growth. To read more, click here

Mary Allen Wilkes×

Mary Allen Wilkes is a former computer programmer and logic designer, most known for her work with the LINC computer, now recognized by many as the world’s first “personal computer”. To read more, click here.

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This page is dedicated to women that have been influential in computing and data science.

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