Me, thinking to myself, “March is Women’s History Month! What a great opportunity to showcase some incredible, inspiring female technologists.”
Hi, everyone! Welcome back to another week of Ask Trish! I hope you’ve all had a great March.
Speaking of March…as many of you will know, March is Women’s History Month here in the US. Women’s History Month is an opportunity to acknowledge, celebrate, and honor the many contributions women have made to our society. Too often, our ideas, inventions, stories, and advocacy are cast aside or forgotten…but in March (as it should be every month!) communities and organizations across the country come together to shine a light on the amazing impact women have made on our world. Last week, as I was thinking about this week’s blog post, I realized that it was a great opportunity to shine a light on some absolutely incredible female technologists that have contributed to modern technology and the Internet.
And so, this week, that’s exactly what I do! In this week’s post, I briefly introduce you to three amazing (lesser known) women for whom we have to thank for the tech we use today. I hope you find these women as inspiring as I do!
First is Annie Easley, an American computer scientist who was one of the first African Americans to work at NASA. Annie was born in Birmingham, Alabama, and was the valedictorian of her high school class. After receiving a Bachelor’s in Mathematics, Annie joined the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA), which later became NASA. Throughout her 34-year career, she worked on numerous problems in the energy and power spaces, studying everything from how to power rockets to the batteries used in hybrid cars. Annie lived during a time in which it was incredibly difficult for women, particularly Black women, to pursue a career, and indeed, she recounted many experiences of discrimination, including one incident in which her picture was cut out of NASA’s promotional photos. Even so, Annie persisted. Said Annie at one point, “Don’t give up on it. Just stick with it. Don’t listen to people who always tell you it is hard, and walk away from it.”
Next is Mary Wilkes, an American computer programmer and businesswoman who is widely known to have developed the first PC, or personal computer. Mary was born in Chicago, Illinois (whoo-hoo! Go fellow Chicago native!), and worked first as a computer programmer for many years before receiving a law degree from Harvard Law School, after which she practiced as an attorney. Later, she worked in a computing technology group at MIT, where she helped design and build LINC, the first minicomputer. Her contributions were invaluable. She was also the first person to use LINC in her home and thus thought to be the first person to use a personal computer. I love Mary’s background and story because it showcases how wide-ranging women’s talents are; Mary was both a successful technologist and lawyer!
Last, but certainly not least, is Adele Goldberg, an American computer scientist and researcher who developed a world-changing programming language, SmallTalk-80. Adele was born in Ohio but grew up in Chicago (whoo-hoo part 2!). In school, she loved math, and had teachers encourage her to pursue it; later, she earned a bachelor’s degree in Mathematics and a master’s and Ph.D. in Information Science. In the 1970s, Adele began working at PARC, a reputable research group based out of Palo Alto, where she developed SmallTalk-80, a programming language. SmallTalk-80 was game-changing because it was used to create one of the first modern graphical user interfaces, or GUIs, with all the icons we’re familiar with – menus, pointers, etc. In 1979, she gave a demo of SmallTalk-80 to Steve Jobs…who more or less “took” the technology when he developed the Macintosh. Adele’s ideas, then, were part of a device and company that would change the world. Said Adele in a talk, “Don’t ask whether you can do something, but how to do it.”
The message in these stories are clear: women are all-capable, creative, powerful people, with ideas that can change the world. By persisting, dreaming, and delivering, women have shaped and will continue to shape the future, in tech and beyond.
Thank you, once again, for tuning in this week! As always, before I sign off, I want to encourage you to share any Internet-related questions, thoughts, or perspectives here (and your topic might be featured in an upcoming TikTok/blog post!). Remember, anything you’re feeling or want some thoughts on is valid, and this community and I always are here to support you. 💙And speaking of support…don’t forget that any time you see an Ask Trish video you like, you should give it a like and share it on your social media. Let’s get that #AskTrish hype! Thank y’all in advance – you’re the best.
Have a great week,