We take a look at some of the women doing amazing things in the world of technology, as well as some of the unsung heroines of the past!
Stacy Brown-Philpot, CEO of TaskRabbit online freelance labor platform
Image source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/fortunempw/30414281435/
Growing up in Detroit as the daughter of a single mom, Stacy wanted to give those without permanent employment the chance to earn their own income. She started her tech career working for ten years at Google, and currently also serves as a member of the Board of Directors of IT company HP Inc and department store Nordstrom. TaskRabbit connects people in need of help with basic labor, such as moving, cleaning, yard work, deliveries, admin, laundry etc. with those seeking part time work in their area. It’s been described as the ‘Uber of services’, and was acquired by IKEA in 2017 – fitting, seeing that one of the common tasks advertised is helping to assemble furniture!
From history – Williamina Fleming and the Harvard “Computers”
When she and her child were abandoned by her husband, Williamina Paton Stevens Fleming (born 1857) took up work as a maid in the home of Professor Edward Charles Pickering, director of the Harvard College Observatory. Legend has it that Prof Pickering became frustrated by the poor performance of his male workers, at one point complaining, “My Scottish maid could do better!” It turns out she could.
Pickering hired her to perform part-time administrative work before formally inviting her to join the HCO in 1881, where he taught her how to analyze stellar spectra. She went on to develop a common designation system for stars and is noted particularly for her discovery of the Horsehead Nebula, as well as cataloging thousands of stars and other astronomical phenomena. She headed up the Harvard Computers, an all-woman group of ‘human computers’ dealing with mathematical classifications and editing the observatory’s publications.
Lynne Laube – COO, president, and co-founder of Cardlytics
Image source: https://www.cardlytics.com/about-us/leadership/
Lynne Laube is an entrepreneurial banker, who built the ground-breaking Payments business at Capital One where she worked for 13 years before going on to found Cardlytics. In collaboration with her co-founder Scott Grimes, she combined her technical expertise with her knowledge of the complex regulations associated with the finance industry to bring marketing and banking together. Her company now employs hundreds of people and has raised over $200 million to build better data for the banking sector. Deloitte Fast 500 and Inc. 5000 recognized her company as one of the fastest growing technology companies in the US.
From recent history – Annie Easley, computer scientist, mathematician, and rocket scientist at NASA
Image source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/117491163@N02/33093638420/
Annie Easley, born in Alabama in 1933, worked on countless NASA projects for over 30 years in a time when women, let alone African-American women, were a rarity in the STEM fields. Although she trained in pharmaceuticals, she turned her natural talent for mathematics into a role at NACA – the precursor to today’s NASA – as a ‘human computer’. When the opportunity arose to work with “real” computers, she turned her hand to programming – working on shuttle launches and helping to test and design NASA nuclear reactors. While she is most famous for the Centaur Rocket, which was pivotal in landing the first American space probe on the moon, her work also extended to designing batteries for hybrid cars. Easley also tutored and actively encouraged female and minority students to consider STEM careers, and later accepted a position as an equal employment opportunity counselor.
Susan Wojcicki, YouTube CEO – “The most important person in advertising”
Susan Diane Wojcicki, born in California in 1968, became the first ever marketing manager for Google in 1999. She went on to become their senior vice president of Advertising & Commerce, where she was in charge of such products as AdWords, AdSense, DoubleClick, and Google Analytics. When YouTube, then just a small startup, was found to be competing with Google’s own video service, she proposed and oversaw its acquisition in 2006. She was named one of Time‘s 100 most influential people in 2015, and later described by them as “the most powerful woman on the Internet”.
Her meteoric rise is an inspiration to women and girls interested in careers in tech around the world, and best explains why this is so important herself:
“Tech is as an incredible force that will change our world in ways we can’t anticipate. If that force is only 20 to 30% women, that is a problem.”