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THE MOST INNOVATIVE WOMEN IN COMPUTER SCIENCE

There is one thing that not everyone knows: the first software engineers were women. Find out more about the great figures of IT

THE MOST INNOVATIVE WOMEN IN COMPUTER SCIENCE

Scopri gli articoli di Geeks Academy: coding, cyber sicurity, big data, uxd, digital innovation design, markeing e management

THE BEGINNINGs OF PROGRAMMING: ADA LOVELACE

The history of Computer Science begins with Ada Lovelace, an English mathematician daughter of Lord Byron, nowadays considered the first ever programmer. In 1843 Lovelace elaborated what is in every aspect the first structured algorithm to be executed by a mechanical brain. She illustrated its hypothetical functioning inside the legendary Babbage's Engine, the analytical engine whose construction will never be brought term, but whose legacy is still visible in modern personal computers.

WORLD WAR II: LAMARR, BARTIK AND HOPPER

About a century later, during the Second World War, many female figures stood out in the field of programming. In 1942, Hedy Lamarr, known to the general public as a film actress, was able to capitalize on her never completed engineering studies by working together with George Antheil on the project known as patent 2,292,387. However, in a time when transistors have not yet been invented and a movie star was not considered a model of intelligence, a study on frequency hopping fell into oblivion. It was only recovered decades later when the foundation of modern wi-fi technology.

Also in the same period, between 1945 and 1946, a group of six women led by Jean Bartik was responsible for coding most of the software of ENIAC, the first general purpose computer in history, mainly used for ballistic calculations and the measurement of several thousand sums per second. Like the other women who preceded them, the Bartik team did not see their efforts recognized, to the point of having to adapt to work in makeshift laboratories, such as deserted classrooms and salons.

Among the brilliant minds of the following decade we find Grace Hopper, admiral of the US Navy with a doctorate in mathematics from Yale, who will be responsible for drawing up a code of instructions based on the English language. From this project, realized in her spare time, COBOL was developed, a programming language still in use.

At this point we have to ask ourselves a question: why in a fundamentally patriarchal society, such as that of the first half of the 1900s, the great minds of programming were women, while today the work of geeks seems to be linked to a male stereotype? It is in the following decade that things begin to change.

SECOND HALF OF THE 20TH CENTURY: A TURNAROUND

Until the mid-1960s, software engineering was basically considered a women's job, while everything related to hardware manipulation was reserved for the so-called "stronger sex". Cosmopolitan magazine published in 1967 a historic article dedicated to Computer Girls, containing a statement by the aforementioned Hopper, according to which women have a natural talent for programming, having always grown and educated to be neat and precise people.

However, towards the end of the decade, men realize that programming is not at all easy, and consequently that programming can become a prestigious and very profitable job.

It is at this point that the marketing of the computer industry begins to discourage the hiring of female staff for programming jobs, and aptitude tests were drawn up to favor male candidates, to the point that the results were secretly circulating inside brotherhoods. Moreover, it was in the same period that, thanks also to the entertainment industry, the stereotype of the geek was born: a socially inept and strictly man nerd. The percentage of female employment in the world of computer science between the 1960s and 1980s went from around 50% to just over 35%.

Also, in the 80s it was decreed, more out of laziness than following actual market research, that the target audience of videogames was that of boy, an operation that involuntarily contributes to widening the increasingly consistent gender gap in the computer world.

In the recent years, American universities are witnessing an overwhelming decline in enrollment in computer science faculties by female students: from almost 40% in the 1980s it precipitated at 20% in 2010, which was not the case for other degree courses.

WOMEN AND IT TODAY

We are currently witnessing a rediscovery of computer science by the female gender, a trend that is however still seen as unconventional. Not in case, since the establishment of the Turing Prize, the Nobel Prize in computer science in 1966 only three women have been awarded: Francis Allen in 2006, Barbara Liskov in 2008 and Shafi Goldwasser in 2012.

We at Geeks Academy deeply believe in the rediscovery of female talent, and we have always strived to promote our study paths to everyone without distinction.

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