Women have been fundamental to the growth of data science and computing 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 Katherine Jones have become well known beyond those in computer science for their contributions to the discipline. By the 21st century, women began to take on leading roles in many tech companies, such as Marissa Mayer, the first Google female engineer, vice president of Google Search Products and User Experience, and former president and CEO of Yahoo!.

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

 

Many women of color have made fundamental contributions to the data science field. 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.

A new medal was announced in July 2020, “The Allen Medal” sponsored by IBM, and will recognize innovative work in computing that has led to a lasting impact on the field of engineering, technology, or science.

The prize consists of a gold medal, a bronze replica, a certificate, and a cash prize.

More 

 

Gwen Barzey×

Gwen Barzey was among the first female programmers in Canada and lead a number of large computerization projects in the insurance industry as well as for the City of Toronto. More

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. More 

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. More

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. More 

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. More

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 pioneering the use of computers to perform such tasks. More 

Karen Spärck Jones×

Karen Spärck Jones was a 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. More

Sister Mary Kenneth Keller×

Sister Mary Kenneth Keller was an educator and pioneer in computer science. She was the first person to earn a PhD in Computer Science in the US 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. More

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 that turned still water into carbonated water. More

Ada Lovelace×

Born in 1815, Ada Lovelace recognized the potential of mathematical machines to make more than pure calculations, and she published the first algorithm to be carried out by one, making her the first computer programmer. She is mainly known for her work on the Analytical Engine, which is known as the first computer but was never built because of a lack of funding. More

Marissa Mayer×

Marissa Mayer is an American businesswoman and investor who was among the first employees at Google. 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! More

Melba Roy Mouton×

Melba Roy Mouton 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.” More

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. More 

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. More

Carol Shaw×

Carol Shaw is known to be one of the first professional female video game designers. Considered an industry icon, she is most famous for her work on River Raid, which won multiple awards at Atari. More 

 

Gwynne Shotwell×

Gwynne Shotwell, an American businesswoman and engineer, is the President and Chief Operating Officer of SpaceX, an American space transportation company. More 

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. More

No results were found.

This page is dedicated to women who have been instrumental in computing and data science.

Invite a woman in computing to your Zoom meeting! Click on the thumbnail images found in the profile dropdowns for a full size image that can be downloaded and used as a virtual conferencing background.

Click here to download a zip of all the background images (and a few extras)!