Quick. Name three things you know about Ava Lovelace. Okay then. How about three things about the ENIAC Team? What about Grace Cooper?
Hmmm. . . We thought so. It turns out that they were all pioneers of computer technology.
Let’s begin with Ada Lovelace. She was the daughter of Lord Byron. But that and the fact that she was beautiful are the least of her attributes. Lovelace was in fact an English mathematician who many people credit with being the first computer programmer, back in mid-nineteenth century. Lovelace’s ideas, working with Charles Babbage and his Analytical engine, created the foundation for scientific computing as we know it.
The ENIAC Team came later. In 1946 this team of six women programmed the first electronic computer. At the time, their accomplishments were somewhat overlooked ––the men who built the machine got all the attention (surprise!). But never mind. The team eventually had its day. In 1997 all six women were inducted into the Women in Technology International Hall of Fame.
Grace Hooper was also a force to be reckoned with. Hooper was both a computer scientist and a United States Naval officer. She is also famous for having created the first computer language compiler, which paved the way for languages such as COBOL. A true innovator in the field of computer science, Hooper lived up to her nickname, “Amazing Grace.”
In the spirit of celebrating modern-day women pioneers, a few colleagues and I—back in the 1990s––founded an organization called Women in Technology—or WIT, an acronym we were very pleased with. We were graduate students at Harvard who banded together to make sure women received the acclaim (and opportunities) we felt they deserved. The University supported us, including giving us funds to meet regularly and to throw big events in which we honored women in the high-tech industry for “Lifetime Achievement.”
When a few brave men asked if they could join WIT, we paused for about thirty seconds and then said “sure.” We believed it was all about being inclusive. Since we didn’t want to be excluded from any of the boys’ clubs that were supposedly extinct, we felt we had to set an example.
We had a great time being WITs. But more importantly, we made connections (many of which are still active today), shared edTech ideas, and networking beyond our academic microcosm—yes even in those primitive times before social media was even a gleam in anyone’s eye.
Today you can find the spirit of WIT in lots of places. Check out Women in Technology, an online organization with this cool mission: “Advancing Technology One Woman at a Time.” Here you can find news, events, networking opportunities, career development and more. Australia has its own Women in Technology website focused on three main areas: “Advance, Connect, and Empower.” Australian sisters, check this one out and get back to us!
If Twitter chat groups are more your thing, go to #Women in Education and connect with educational initiatives with women from near and far. Or follow Women in Technology, or WITWOMEN, on Twitter. This group provides a Washington, DC-based forum for powerful women in media. No admission fee. Just click on follow, like we did.
Once you’ve had a chance to suss out the landscape, ask yourself: In what way am I a WIT pioneer? What’s the best way for me to share my expertise with others? How can I reach out to young women who are just getting started and give them a boost?
We at TechnoTeachers are convinced that by joining forces, and being generous to each other with information and opportunities, we can help even more women realize their WIT dreams. “One woman at a time.”
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This is where Jules and Nic will post articles, links to interesting sites and things that we think our TechnoTeachers will like.