In honour of International Girls in ICT day, we’ve put together a list of some pretty cool women who have revolutionized the field of technology.
What is ICT?
Information and communication technology (ICT) is the field that encompasses a wide range of industries, including software development, telecommunications, cybersecurity, and data analysis. ICT and IT (Information Technology) are two terms that are often used interchangeably. While they are related and share similarities, there are some key differences between these terms. While IT focuses on the technical aspects of managing and processing information, ICT includes both the technical and social aspects of using technology to communicate and collaborate. An IT specialist may be responsible for maintaining a company’s servers and databases, while an ICT specialist may be responsible for developing a company’s website and managing its social media presence; IT is a subset of ICT.
In 2023, the demand for skilled ICT professionals continues to rise in our rapidly evolving digital world, and yet women remain underrepresented in this field. According to a report by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), women make up only 17% of ICT professionals globally. The reasons for this gender gap are complex and include factors such as societal stereotypes, lack of role models, and inadequate education and training opportunities. International Girls in ICT Day aims to address these issues by promoting girls’ participation in ICT and inspiring them to pursue careers in this field.
1936 – Present
Hamilton is a computer scientist, and was head of the MIT Instrumentation Laboratory. Hired by NASA to work on the Apollo programs guidance system, she was responsible for developing the flight software used for the first Apollo mission to the moon, which determined the path that the ship would take there and back to Earth. Her approach to developing software set the standard, and is what is known as ‘software engineering’ today.
1943 – Present
Having an interest in technology from a young age, Thomas is an American data scientist. She graduated from Morgan State University with a degree in physics and went on to work for NASA, and managed the image-processing units for Landsat, which was the first satellite capable of sending images of Earth from space. In 1980, she received a patent for the ‘illusion transmitter’, which uses two concave mirrors to make an optical illusion where the image appears real and outside of the mirror, as opposed to inside it. It is considered the earliest form of 3D technology, and today is used for medical procedures and television.
1906 – 1992
Hopper was an American computer scientist. She is best known for creating the first ever compiler while working on the Harvard Mark I computer. A compiler allows computer languages to be translated into another language (including Java, Python, and more). While working on the Mark II, the team continued to receive errors from the computer. After opening it they discovered a moth inside, and Hopper popularized the phrase ‘debugging’. As well, she assisted in the development of the first computer language, COBOL (Common Business Oriented Language), which is still being used by finance and HR businesses around the world today.
Dr. Shirley Jackson
1946 – Present
The creator of fiber-optic cables, Jackson revolutionized the way that we communicate today. Majoring in theoretical physics, she is the first black women to earn a doctorate from MIT. Committed to advancing women in science, she has been a social justice advocate her entire life (after creating MIT’s Black Student Union, in only 1 year the number of black students increased from 2 to 57). With a keen interest in electronic, magnetic, transport, and optic properties of semiconductor systems, she conducted multiple successful experiments that advanced telecommunications. Jacksons work lead others to the creation of portable fax, solar cells, and the tech behind caller ID.
1949 – 2003
Borg, founder of the Institute for Women and Technology, was a strong advocate for women in STEM. Borg spent most of her career developing user interfaces and programming tools. And in 1987, Borg was a part of the team who developed ‘Systers’, an email list designed for women working in systems. This gave a digital space for women in tech to discuss, problem solve, and build community.
1914 – 2000
No women in ICT list would be complete without mentioning Lamarr (after all, she is the reason that we have wi-fi). She was not just a pretty face in Hollywood’s’ Golden Age, but also had knowledge of weapons and technology, and was an inventor at heart. Along with George Antheil, another artist interested in inventing and tinkering, they developed a communications system designed to guide torpedoes in the second World War. The technology worked by frequency hopping, and was the first of its kind. Despite getting a patent and seeking military support, the US Navy rejected the implementation. Years later, after the expiration of her patent, developers utilized the technology in the creation of Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and GPS. Lamarr passed before she received any public recognition for the invention.