Most of you are aware that there are a lot of successful men who work as programmers in the world. But how many of you are aware of the unparalleled contributions made by female programmers to computer science and technology? A couple? A few? None?
Well, the first computer programmer was a woman!
In the history of computing, Ada Lovelace is regarded as the first programmer. There are many women who have contributed enormously to the rich history of computer programming, but they are not given enough credit by society today. In fact, early 20th-century women in computing were among the first programmers who made significant contributions to the field.1
Women have dominated the fields of programming and scientific computation since the 18th century. However, the gender gap prevented them from competing with their male counterparts for recognition.1 Despite this, women continue to make a great deal of progress and contribute significantly to the programming and IT sectors.
According to psychologist Penelope Lockwood’s research on role models of the same gender, women benefit from strong female role models who have managed to overcome gender barriers to succeed because most women are subjected to negative stereotypes about their abilities in the workplace. However, men may not necessarily share their female counterparts’ need for any such role models.2
Even today, a gender gap exists in the tech sector, and this is why strong female role models are needed.2 This article will introduce you to a few of these incredible women who significantly improved computer programming and, in doing so, altered the course of history.
- Augusta Ada Lovelace
Unofficially, Lady Ada Lovelace is called the “Grand Dame of Computer Programming,” though she held a real title. Although she was the Countess of Lovelace and the poet Lord Byron’s daughter, her main claim to fame was not her royal position. Lovelace is often referred to as a “prophet of the computer age” and was a significant pioneer in the fields of computer programming and research. She is best known for her contributions to Charles Babbage’s Analytical Engine, a mechanical general-purpose computer. Well… him, we all know, don’t we?
Fun fact: The U.S. Department of Defense honored Ada Lovelace by naming the programming language Ada after her.3
You can read more about the first person to invent computer programming here.
- Grace Hopper
The American computer scientist Grace Hopper, who was a rear admiral for the U.S. Navy, was a pioneer in the development of the Harvard Mark 1 computer. Hopper is best known for creating one of the first linkers and discovering bugs to solve technical and programming problems. She developed the first computer programming language compiler and popularized the notion of machine-independent programming. She developed the theory behind the FLOW-MATIC programming language and subsequently contributed to the creation of the high-level programming language COBOL.4
You can read the very interesting story of the world’s very first computer bug here.
- Joan Clarke
Cryptanalyst Joan Clarke rose to fame during World War II for her role in cracking codes. Along with Alan Turing, she was the only woman who contributed to the work of deciphering German Enigma messages. Together, they deciphered messages sent by the Germans to their U-boats as the Nazis searched for Allied ships. In recognition to her contributions to code-breaking, she is regarded as a genius of her era.1
Fun fact: In the 2014 film The Imitation Game, which is based on the life of Alan Turing, Keira Knightley played Joan Clarke.
More information on how the enigma code was cracked can be found here.
Even though these are only three among many, these remarkable women show that talent knows no boundaries. They have demonstrated to the world that women are capable of creating amazing software products and affecting global change through their perseverance and hard work. The gap between men and women receiving degrees widens as technology develops into a significant industry and as the number of people studying computer science rises.5 Therefore, in order for the gender gap in the tech sector to truly close, more women need to be represented in STEM fields like computer science, and children need to see this representation from a young age.6
If these women inspire you and you’re interested in learning about other incredible women in the programming/coding field, check out BYJU’S FutureSchool Blog.
- Top 10 Best Women Programmers of All Time. (n.d.). Retrieved June 23, 2022, from https://www.analyticsinsight.net/top-10-best-women-programmers-of-all-time/
- Lockwood, P. (2006). “Someone like me can be successful”: Do college students need same-gender role models? Psychology of Women Quarterly, 30(1), 36–46. https://doi.org/10.1111/J.1471-6402.2006.00260.X
- Ada Lovelace | Biography, Computer, & Facts | Britannica. (n.d.). Retrieved June 28, 2022, from https://www.britannica.com/biography/Ada-Lovelace
- Grace Murray Hopper (1906-1992): A legacy of innovation and service | YaleNews. (n.d.). Retrieved June 28, 2022, from https://news.yale.edu/2017/02/10/grace-murray-hopper-1906-1992-legacy-innovation-and-service
- How Women Created the Computer Programming Industry | Inc.com. (n.d.). Retrieved June 23, 2022, from https://www.inc.com/magazine/201710/maria-aspan/how-women-once-ruled-computing.html
- Why we need more women in tech by 2030 – and how to do it | World Economic Forum. (n.d.). Retrieved June 28, 2022, from https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2017/11/women-in-tech-engineering-ellen-stofan/