March is Women’s History Month and today we are celebrating International Women’s Day. International Women’s Day was created to honor women’s contributions to society, culture, economics, and politics. The theme for International Women’s Day 2023 is “DigitALL: Innovation and Technology for Gender Equality”’. This theme was created by the United Nations to bring awareness to the lack of women working in tech. As of 2022, women only make up 28 percent of the tech industry workforce. Only 15 percent of engineering jobs are held by women. Women that work in software engineering report a lack of equal pay. Women who pursue degrees in STEM related fields are on the decline with only 18 percent of them achieving these degrees.
These statistics are troubling because women have made many contributions to the world of technology. Their accomplishments have changed the digital world we live in. The persistent tech gender gap has historically kept women from unlocking their full career potential. Women are also underrepresented in STEM education and careers which remains a significant barrier to their participation in tech design and governance. Today we are hoping that the government, activists, and private sectors increase their efforts in making the technology field safer, more inclusive, and more equitable to women. To celebrate International Women’s Day, we are going to talk about some of the most influential women in tech.
Dr. Fei-Fei Li: co-director of Stanford’s Human Centered AI Institute
Dr. Fei Fei Li is considered to be a pioneer of artificial intelligence and one of today’s most influential women in technology. She was born in China and moved to the United States with her mother when she turned 16. She studied physics at Princeton and then received her Ph.D. in electrical engineering from Caltech.
She also co-founded AI4ALL, a nonprofit that works at improving diversity in the field of artificial intelligence. ImageNet Project is her most famous work; it is a database that helped train the first computer to recognize and understand what is within a picture. When she did a TED Talk on the project, she described AI:
“Little by little, we’re giving sight to the machines, first we teach them to see, then they help us see better.”
Dr. Sue Black OBE: Professor of Computer Science at Durham University
Dr. Black OBE is an avid women’s rights and social equality campaigner. She is considered to be one of the most inspirational women in information technology. Besides being a professor of computer science, she is also the founder of BCSWomen, an online network for women in tech, and TechMums. This social enterprise offers mothers free courses to build up their technology skills. She was awarded OBE award in 2016 for her services to technology and serves as an advisor to the Government Digital Service.
Reshma Saujani: CEO and Founder of Girls Who Code
Reshma Saujani is an American lawyer, politician, and civil servant. She is the founder of the nonprofit organization, Girls Who Code. Girls Who Code aims to increase the number of women in the computer science field as well as close the gender employment difference in that field. She is also the first Indian American woman to run for Congress.
While campaigning for congress, she noticed the distinct gender disparity in computing. Girls Who Code has taught over 300,000 girls through its education program. Its New York Times best selling book series has reached 500 million people worldwide.
Amy Hood: Chief Financial Officer at Microsoft
Amy Hood joined Microsoft in 2002. Her first positions were held in the investor relations group as well as serving as chief of staff and working in business development. In May 2013, Microsoft announced that Hood would be replacing Peter Klein as the company’s chief financial officer. This was the first time a woman was named Chief Financial Officer at Microsoft. In her time there, Hood has orchestrated over 57 deals, including the $7.5 billion acquisition of GitHub in 2018. In 2021 she was ranked number 28 on the Forbes list of the world’s 100 most powerful women.
Anne Marie Imafidon: CEO of STEMettes
Anne Marie Imafidon has dedicated her life to building a pipeline of young women going into STEM. Her mission with STEMettes is to encourage girls between 5 and 22 years old to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering, and math. STEMettes show the girls how to do this by teaching them how to approach scientific challenges with confidence.
Since its creation in 2013, forty thousand girls have attended the free events and workshops that STEMettes holds across the UK and Ireland. At only 27 years old, Anne-Marie earned an MBE in the 2017 New Year’s Honors List for young women in STEM sectors.
danah boyd: Partner Researcher at Microsoft
danah is the founder and president of the Data & Research Society Institute as well as a visiting professor at New York University. Her research is focused on making sure that society has an understanding of issues of inequity and bias. She is the author of It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens and has authored several other articles and essays.
Her awards include the 2011 Young Global Leader of the World Economic Forum and the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s Pioneer Award. A unique thing about danah is that she does not capitalize her first or last name. Her reasoning for this is to reflect her mother’s original balancing and satisfy her own political irritation at the importance of capitalization.