Female Coders Who Defied all Odds and Changed the World

Female Coders Who Defied all Odds and Changed the World

Job Focus / January 29th, 2019

While more women are in the workforce today, data and statistics show they are also vastly underrepresented across the tech field. In terms of sheer numbers, the ‘Brogrammer’ Culture is a thing; computer programming is indeed a male-dominated field. Yet here are five female coders who made huge contributions to the field at a time where few women studied science or maths, and in doing so, helped change the world.

1. The ENIAC women

A group of six brilliant young women developed the ENIAC (Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer) – the first all-electronic, programmable computer, as part of the US Army’s World War Two effort. Yet despite their success and having learned to program using only logical diagrams (since programming languages and tools didn’t exist), the women remained invisible and received no recognition when the ENIAC was unveiled in 1946.

2. Margaret Hamilton

It might come as a surprise to today’s software engineers to learn that the founder of their discipline is a woman. Indeed, Margaret Hamilton is credited with having coined the term ‘software engineering’ while developing the guidance and navigation system for the Apollo spacecraft. Working as director of software engineering for the project that wrote the code for the Apollo Guide Computer, Hamilton and a group of programmers wrote the code for the first portable computer, making the Apollo 11 mission – the first moon landing – possible.

3. Grace Hopper

Described as the ‘Queen of Software’ by talk show host David Letterman, Dr Grace Murray Hopper was a computer scientist and US Navy rear admirable. At the time, established wisdom was that computers didn’t understand English, and it took years before her ideas were accepted. Through perseverance, Dr. Hopper popularised the idea of machine-independent programming languages, and also helped devise the first commercial electronic computer and naval applications for COBOL (Common Business Orientated Language), which used words rather than numbers.

4. Ada Lovelace

The idea that the 1840s saw the birth of computer science as we know it today may seem like a preposterous one, but long before any computer was actually built, came a remarkable woman whose understanding of computing remained unparalleled and unappreciated for a century.  She may sound like a character straight out of a Harry Potter book, but Ada Lovelace was a mathematician who is widely thought to be the founder of computing science and the world’s first computer programmer.

The daughter of British poet Lord Byron, the “Enchantress of numbers” worked with Charles Babbage on his calculating machines. Lovelace’s notes on a translation of an Italian description of a machine include what is considered as the very first algorithm designed for machine processing.

5. Joan Clarke

Immortalised by Keira Knightley in ‘The Imitation Game’, Joan Clarke is best known for working alongside Alan Turing on the project which broke the German Enigma codes during World War Two.

The Germans had successfully developed a device called an Enigma machine to encrypt their message. This electro-mechanical device scrambled plain text messages into jumbled ciphertext, for which their settings were changed daily across their military intelligence and civil services. This meant the chances of being able to decipher a message was an astonishing 150 million million million to one, leading the Germans to believe their code was unbreakable.

However, Joan Clarke and her colleagues were destined to prove him wrong. Indeed, it is frequently suggested that their efforts shortened the war by up to two years.

 

Massive respect to these inspirational women who worked against all odds and societal expectations to truly make ground-breaking changes to the world.

At Boston Link, we believe in the power of diversity in the workplace. Indeed, it has been proven that as soon as you get diversity on board, revenue increases. May the odds be ever in your favour!