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Do You Know These Inspiring Women from Tech's Past?

It's no doubt true that the number of women in technology is much smaller than the number of men. I've seen that myself at the technology companies I've worked at. Yet we are not absent. In fact, we've been present from the time computers were housed in large rooms. (I can attest to that because my mother used to be a computer programmer, running around with punch cards in hand.)

Just to prove it, here are some fabulous women who have influenced communications technology throughout the years.

The Women Who Inspired Online Communication

Augusta Ada King, Countess of Lovelace (1815-1852) - In a time when women were not commonly viewed as mathematical visionaries, Ms. King was an exception. She worked closely with computer pioneer Charles Babbage, becoming known as the first programmer. She conceived of the idea of a machine that could manipulate symbols in accordance with rules and that numbers could represent entities other than quantity. This was a fundamental transition from calculation to computation.

Dr. Grace Murray Hopper (1906-1992) - Dr. Hopper worked for the Navy, becoming a rear admiral before retiring in 1986. She also led the team that created the first computer language compiler. It was the precursor to the broadly used Common Business Oriented Language (COBOL). Oh, and she led the team that invented COBOL. And received honorary degrees from thirty universities. And a number of awards. Yeah, she was a smart - and inspirational - woman.

Hedy Lemarr (1914-2000) - Ms. Lemarr is one of my favorites. She was best known for her wonderful acting abilities. But did you know she was also a pioneer in the realm of communications? I thought that was so awesome when I learned about it! She and fellow inventor (and composer) George Anthiel together developed the "spread spectrum" technology that helped form the technical backbone that makes cellular phones, fax machines and other wireless operations possible. How cool is that?!

Erna Schneider Hoover (1926-present) - Ms. Hoover worked for Bell Labs, becoming their first female supervisor of a technical department. While there, she created a computerized telephone switching system that used a computer to monitor incoming calls. The computer automatically adjusted a call’s acceptance rate. This minimized overloading problems. She was awarded one of the first software patents ever. Moreover, her designs are still used today.

We Still Have a Way to Go

Can't get enough of these wonderful women but want to learn more about some of today's inspirational women in tech? Check Inc.'s 30 Inspirational Women to Watch in Tech in 2017 or Forbe's article on the most powerful women in tech.

Even though we have a longer list of women in tech today than in days of yore, we still have a long way to go before there is true gender equality in the workplace. Looking to understand more about the disparity between men and women - and especially women of color - in the workplace? Check out this recent report on gender inequality in the workplace.

Looking for some guidance on how to improve gender equality within your own company? This article on improving gender equality contains some great tips to get you started.

What Are You Doing to Promote Women in Tech?

As a successful woman in the world of tech, I mentor other women, sharing my knowledge and confidence through speaking engagements, mentorships, and one-on-ones. I know it can be hard. I live it every day. But the more we help each other - men and women alike - the better off we will all be.

Do you have ideas for how to improve gender equality? What is your business doing to improve the situation? Let me know via email at or Tweet me up at @HollyChessman.

About the Author

Holly runs Holly Chessman Marketing, a premier marketing firm that provides strategic advice, digital services, and social media guidance and education. Named one of New England’s Top 40 Influencers in Content and Digital Marketing, Holly fully understands the power of online engagement. She is passionate about implementing marketing strategies that result in quick growth, rapid revenue and happy customers. Holly has worked for a variety of tech companies, as well as spearheaded her own marketing consulting firm. She is regularly quoted in a variety of major publications. Holly is also not afraid to embrace her nerdy side (as evidenced by her love of Neil Gaiman and her “talking” TARDIS).

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