Culture 8 min read

International Women's Day: Four Badass Women in Tech

MJgraphics | Shutterstock

MJgraphics | Shutterstock

Since it’s earliest days, women and girls have played a major role in the development of science and technology. This International Women’s Day, we pay tribute to these badass women in tech.

If it wasn’t for tech pioneers like Hedy Lamarr, the digital world would be a very different place.

Hedy was the true definition of a trailblazer. She challenged the status quo in all aspects of life as a Hollywood film-star by day and an inventor by night.

Women in Tech
Hedy Lamarr in “Ziegfeld Girl” featured in the documentary “Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story.” (Courtesy Everett Collection)

At the beginning of WWII, Lamarr helped to develop a radio guidance system using spread spectrum and frequency hopping technology to defeat the threat of radio jamming by the Axis powers.

Since then, the principles behind her work have been incorporated into the development of Bluetooth, CDMA, and Wifi.

Many exceptional women in tech have since followed, like Barabara Liskov; one of the first women to be granted a doctorate in computer sciences in the USA. Not being satisfied with this achievement, she then went on to discover the Liskov Substitution Principle, a vital aspect of the way we write code today.

Despite the admirable achievements of many women in tech, it is a world that has been traditionally dominated by men. From the beginning and until now, these women were and are outliers in their field.

Even in 2019, women and girls are still underrepresented in science, technology, engineering and math education and careers.

Read More: What Does a Lack of Diversity Mean for our Future of Technology?

In many aspects, the most forward-thinking industries can often be the most backward when it comes to gender equality.

The last year has seen more empowerment, more action, and a reinforced movement towards change not only in gender equality but every aspect of equality and opportunity.

Inequality and sexual harassment have been called out for example in the #metoo campaign. Finally, female voices are getting stronger and the call to action to progress forward with gender parity is being heard.

In the digital age we are living in, technology is about understanding the world and humanity. As it becomes increasingly more present in daily life, it is crucial that those creating it and working within the industry adequately represent those who are using it.

At Edgy, we celebrate the exceptional work of our amazing and intelligent female colleagues every day. But today, for International Women’s Day, let’s take a look at some other inspirational women in tech who are smashing down barriers and propelling us into a more gender equal future.

“Women challenge the status quo because

we are never it.”

 – Cindy Gallop

1. Reshma Saujani: Founder and CEO of Girls Who Code. 

Reshma Saujani started out as an attorney and activist. Despite getting rejected from Yale Law School three times, she ended up becoming the first Indian-American woman to run for Congress.

During her 2010 campaign in New York, she noticed the absence of girls in the computer rooms at the public schools she visited. Despite having no tech experience, she took a leap of faith and decided to teach girls to code.

Since then she has provided over 40,000 young women from all 50 US states with a computer-science education. She explains that:

“Our society is losing out because we’re not raising girls to be brave. The bravery deficit is the reason why women are underrepresented in STEM, in C-suites, in boardrooms, in Congress and pretty much everywhere you look

Her non-profit organization, Girls Who Code, is on a mission to close the gender gap in technology and empower young women to take risks and learn to program. Both skills which are necessary if we want society to move forward.

The overall goal for Saujana is to see one million women in computer science by 2020.

2.Rachel Armstrong: Sustainability Innovator

Venice is sinking. Luckily, Rachel Armstrong has come up with a way to potentially save it. That, and a way to build the structures we live, work, and learn in more sustainably.

She explains that we need to outgrow architecture made of inert materials and instead make architecture that grows, repairs, and maintains itself.

Armstrong explains that she is:

“generating metabolic materials as a counterpoise to Victorian technologies, and building architectures from a bottom-up approach.”

This pioneer and sustainability innovator creates new materials that possess some of the properties of living systems which can be manipulated to “grow” what she calls “living architecture”.

Her alternative approach to sustainability combines new technologies such as synthetic biology and smart chemistry to innovate and design sustainable solutions for our environments; both natural and human-made.

In addition to this, Rachel Armstrong creates open innovation platforms for academia and industry to address environmental challenges such as carbon capture & recycling, smart ‘living’ materials, and sustainable design.

Professor of Experimental Architecture at the Department of Architecture, Planning, and Landscape at Newcastle University and 2010 TED Fellow, Armstrong’s award-winning research boldly challenges traditional perceptions of society. She is also helping to establish principles related to scientific concepts and the way we view the world.

Her innovative approaches demonstrate that not only is she the very definition of thinking ‘outside the box’, but she has also established herself as one of the most forward-thinking tech leaders in her field.

3.Gwynne Shotwell: Rocket Scientist and President of SpaceX

Women in tech
SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell |

Gwynne Shotwell’s favorite pastimes seem to include shattering every stereotypical image that the word ‘rocket scientist’ may conjure up.

Shotwell, who holds a mechanical-engineering degree along with a masters in applied mathematics from Northwestern University, has been the president and chief operating officer of aerospace startup SpaceX since 2002.

SpaceX, as you may know, is now a $21 billion company after having a four-minute spur of the moment conversation with the founder, Elon Musk.

Since then, Shotwell has been responsible for SpaceX’s first commercial launch out of Kennedy Space Center in 2017 and the launch and landing of two rockets in two days, among countless other achievements.

So far, SpaceX has secured over $7 Billion in NASA and commercial contracts and successfully launched over 50 rockets. The company has also made leaps and bounds with the development of its Falcon 9 rockets and, hopefully in the future, the Starship Rocket which could bring us to Mars.

The development of its reusable rockets means that space exploration has become far more accessible and less costly. For example, SpaceX’s rocks cost around $62 million to launch, which may seem like a pricey figure. However, using rockets that incorporate reusable parts, they have cut these costs by $20 million.

This year, SpaceX already made history when it launched its test Dragon Capsule to the ISS earlier this week.

SpaceX is continuously pushing boundaries in Space exploration and, with a leader like Shotwell on board, even putting humans on Mars doesn’t seem so impossible.

Read More: Who Will Have the First Successful Manned Mission to Mars?

4. Imogen Heap: Using Technology to Revolutionise the Music Industry

Besides being a Grammy award-winning artist, Imogen Heap is also an innovator using blockchain technology to decentralize and democratize the music industry.

Since scoring a record deal at seventeen, the singer has got to know the music business inside out.

After witnessing it change with technology, she is now striving to develop a “fair trade” music industry that gives musicians more ownership over the money and data produced by their work rather than corporations like iTunes and Spotify.

Heap is the founder of the artist and musician collective called Mycelia. This group is examining how Blockchain technology can be used to change music economy ecosystems for the better. They are also striving to ensure that all the individuals involved in music creation are receiving fair pay and full acknowledgment.

Read More: Why We Love Imogen Heap

Heap put her words into action when she released her album “Tiny Human” in 2015 on a site called Ujo Music, where it could be bought using a cryptocurrency called Ether.

By allowing payment to go directly to the artist and producers, Heap also wants to use technology to enable musicians to have control over the data created by their songs.

For example, she maintains that the artist should have control of where songs are circulated, the song’s credits, and terms of usage along with the nature of all transactions.

This has all been made possible thanks to the Mycelia platform which tracks this information using blockchain technology.

In the future, this could lead to some exponential benefits for not only the musicians involved but also the fans who get a more in-depth and intimate interaction with their role models.

Just Four of Many Incredible Women in Tech

There you have it; four exceptional women in tech making things happen and paving the way by inspiring others.

These are just four of millions of women in tech who are revolutionizing and invigorating the world for us all. It’s time to empower each other and those around us to get involved and learn about technology, regardless of gender.

Read More: NASA Announces First All-Female Spacewalk

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