To kick off Women’s History Month, we want to recognize four amazing women who have helped changed the space for women in technology. These women inspire us as engineers, marketers, innovators and entrepreneurs. They have helped pave the way for more discussion and understanding of gender equality and professional/ personal balance in the 21st century.
Grace Hopper, Ursula Burns, Sheryl Sandberg and Marissa Mayer are not only pioneers within their industries, but self made success stories. They are some of the most powerful business leaders and thinkers in history.
“It is often easier to ask for forgiveness than to ask for permission.”
Often noted as the ‘Queen of Software’, Grace Hopper is one of the most iconic faces in the history of technology. Her quick wit and risk taking personality, complimented by her intelligence and powerful legacy of leadership, makes her a timeless role model innovators and entrepreneurs.
With her most notable achievement being the invention of the first compiler in 1952 for the A-0 programming language, Grace Hopper was at the forefront of the computing revolution. She was the primary designer of COBOL (Common Business-Oriented Language), one of the oldest programming languages, and worked on the first ever large-scale automatic digital computer in the United States, the Mark I at Harvard.
Interesting fact, Hopper is credited with coining the term “bug in the system” after one time in 1945 when, after a circuit malfunction, she discovered a 2 inch long moth in the Mark I machine.
The Tech Hustler
“I was raised by a wonderful mother in the rough and tumble public housing projects on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. Many people told me I had three strikes against me: I was black. I was a girl. And I was poor”
Ursula Burns represents much of what we hope to see in the future of women in technology and business. She is strong, self made and tried and tested proof that the American dream is a real for women and minorities of all social levels. In her excerpt on www.leanin.org, Burns discusses how taking risks at an early age was the make or break point in her career. Burns enrolled in a technical school in Brooklyn and completed her undergraduate degree in engineering before signing on to an internship at Xerox in upstate New York. Eventually she attended an ivy league school for her Masters and soon after got hired on full time with Xerox.
Now, Ursula Burns is the Chairman and CEO of Xerox and the first African-American woman to head a fortune 500 company. Starting as a summer internship 1980, Burns slowly worked her way up the ladder eventually taking the CEO position in 2009. She instigated major acquisitions that have led to the resurgence of the brand transforming Xerox from a printing company to a technology and services enterprise.
“The time is long overdue to encourage women to dream the possible dream”
Joining the billionaires club, Sheryl Sandberg is the COO of Facebook and the first ever woman to sit on the company’s board of directors. Before Facebook, Sandberg was VP of Global Online Sales and Operations at Google and held notable positions at both the World Bank and the U.S. Secretary of the Treasury.
Sandberg’s book “Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead” hit stores in 2013 and has been a hot topic in the tech and business world. During her book tour, Sandberg spread the message to women across the country to take leadership, be aggressive and fight workplace stereotypes of gender. Sandberg has taken big steps in starting the conversation about women, and helped bring to the table topics on balancing between personal fulfilment and professional success. Not only that, but she has started conversations on supportive marriage models and actively combats the myth that women must sacrifice either family life or career in order to ‘do it all’.
Sandberg is a leader not only in the technology and finance industries, but a role model for women all over the world.
“I love technology, and I don’t think it’s something that should divide along gender lines.”
Marissa Mayer is the President and CEO of Yahoo!, joining the company in 2012 after a long tenure at Google. In 1999, when Mayer joined Google, she was the company’s first female engineer. She later climbed the corporate ladder from engineer to designer, product manager and eventually into a high level executive position.
On the day Mayer was announced CEO of Yahoo!, she also shared that she was pregnant. For other women hustling in the business world, this signaled a turning point in our understanding women and the career. Not only did Yahoo! appoint a female CEO, but also knowingly hired a woman with a quickly growing family. Recently Mayer announced a parental leave policy for Yahoo! employees that includes eight weeks leave for both moms and dads plus $500, impressive compared to most policies across the United States.
Not only a admirable parent and professional, Mayer has been recognized for her fierce leadership skills and aggressive attitude towards product perfection. Since joining Yahoo!, she instigated a major overhaul to Flickr, redesigned the brand’s frontpage and lead the massive $1.1 billion acquisition of blogging service Tumblr.
Happy International Women’s Day to women across the globe. We want to know what women inspire you, Comment below.