Sherly Sandberg. Marissa Mayer. Susan Kare. These names leap to mind when we think of women who have contributed to digital revolution and technology.
In recent weeks, we have also been reminded of mathematician Ada Lovelace, often regarded as the world’s first computer programmer; Grace Brewester Hopper, known for work that led to the creation of the programming language COBOL; and Reshma Saujani, founder of Girls Who Code. We might also have been reminded of Katherine Johnson, for her work on the Apollo 11 mission.
There are more, many more women who have helped shape the technological landscape without achieving fame. Like Katie Bouman, who was a key member of the team that created the first-ever image of a black hole in 2019. The project, called the Event Horizon Telescope, involved combining data from eight radio telescopes around the world to capture the image. Bouman developed the algorithm that made this feat possible.
And Mariéme Jamme. A technologist, and social entrepreneur, she is the founder of IAMTHECODE, a global movement that aims to teach one million young women and girls how to code by 2030. In addition to her work with IAMTHECODE, Jamme has also served as a digital advisor to several African governments and international organisations, advocating for the use of technology to drive economic growth and social progress. Jamme is on the board of the World Wide Web Foundation. She continues to inspire the next generation of technologists and entrepreneurs in Africa and around the world.
Ethel Cofie is another notable figure, who has made significant contributions to the development of technology in Africa. She is the founder and CEO of EDEL Technology Consulting, a company that provides technology solutions to businesses in Africa. She is an advocate for diversity in the technology industry, particularly for women and underrepresented groups. Cofie is a true pioneer in the African tech industry and has made remarkable contributions to its growth and development.
Hedy Lamarr was an Austrian-American actress and inventor who made significant contributions to the field of technology. In 1942, she co-invented a frequency-hopping spread spectrum technology with composer George Antheil, which was intended to prevent radio-controlled torpedoes from being jammed. This technology was later used by the military during World War II and has since been the basis for modern technologies such as Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and GPS.
Computer programmer and network engineer Radia Perlman helped develop the Spanning Tree Protocol (STP), which is a fundamental building block of modern computer networking. Throughout her career, she has been a vocal advocate for increasing the participation of women in STEM fields. She has supported women pursuing careers in computer science, and has been an active member of organisations that promote diversity and inclusion in the industry.
Another pioneer? British scientist Karen Spärck Jones. She was a self-taught programmer responsible for the concept of Inverse Document Frequency (IDF), a technology that underlies most modern search engines. Her work has transformed the way we search for and process information and has encouraged the development of countless digital systems and applications.
And in interactive storytelling, we have Brenda Laurel. A computer scientist, author, and game designer she explored the use of technology to create immersive, interactive narratives. She also co-founded Purple Moon, a company that produced video games for girls, promoting gender inclusivity in the gaming industry. Laurel’s work has influenced research and design in human-computer interaction, technology, and virtual reality.
The work of these women — and the many, many others like them — has helped shape the world we live in today, and serves as a reminder of the importance of diversity and inclusivity in the tech industry.
This is the Breaker’s first foray into creating a ‘hybrid feature’, which we co-created with AI. We used Chat GPT, Notion, and OPENAI to gather information on women who contributed to the digital revolution and technology. We began with broad prompts, then narrowed down to less-known women. The information produced by separate AI platforms were compiled and cross-checked to create a first full draft, which was then reworked by our reporters. The cover image was produced in DALL-E 2.