Reflecting on the Past to Prepare for the Future of Women in Tech
Women have always played an important role in the technology industry, unearthing new discoveries and developing unique approaches to solving the world’s challenges through innovation. Women’s History Month presents an opportunity to reflect on the history of female presence in technology and consider how women can take the technology sector to the next level for the next 50 years, and beyond.
The First 50: 1920-1970
Women have been disrupting the world through technology for quite some time. Even if we look back to a century ago, when we lived in a male-dominated world and women had to fight for their right to vote and receive the same civil liberties while simultaneously facing the impact of major world wars and civil unrest, women were still able to break through glass ceilings. Consider Hedy LaMarr – a famous actress in the 1940s who filed a patent for frequency-hopping technology, which laid the groundwork for Wi-Fi. LaMarr shocked her adoring fans by proving that her inventive mind could keep pace with her physical appearance and acting abilities. She is an impressive example of a women who pushed the limits of technology – and of how women were perceived at the time.
The Last 50: 1970-2020
The last 50 years are characterized by challenge and change. From the Civil Rights movement to the current global pandemic, women have demonstrated resiliency and the continued ability to create and leverage technology that has positively impacted the world.
In the 1970s, Adele Goldberg developed several templates and screen displays that helped lead to the development of computer desktops and interfaces. In 2014, Megan Smith made history by becoming the first Chief Technology Officer of the United States. Smith has since been an advocate for diversity in technology and net neutrality.
Both Goldberg and Smith are shining examples of the vital role that women play in the development and evolution of effective technology in the modern era.
The Next 50
Looking ahead to the next 50 years, we will see the female presence in technology continue to grow. Many organizations rightfully realize that women are vital to technological progression, bringing unique perspectives, backgrounds, and knowledge to the table. That said, it remains important that women feel empowered to utilize their knowledge and skills to continue to propel technology into the future.
In order to do so, women everywhere should utilize the following tools in order to claim their seat at the table in tech:
- Confidence: While it’s not always easy to feel and exude confidence, obtaining and leveraging knowledge and experience can help. The combination of education and real-world experience has set so many impressive women up for success in the past, and will no doubt continue to do so in the present and future.
- Mentors/Advocates: In many cases, individuals are their own greatest advocates. That said, having mentors both insides and outside of the workplace will help women earn opportunities and learn important skills that can position them for success.
- Leadership skills: Securing leadership positions at school, work, or otherwise will help create opportunities to support and foster collaboration among team members, and encourage both men and women to think innovatively. This ensures that technology will continue to improve and evolve, and that men and women alike will be at the center of it.
While we celebrate female empowerment this month, it’s important to reflect on the past in order to prepare for the future. Women everywhere should also remember that equality is fluid, and that we deserve to create and take advantage of all of the opportunities to succeed and continue to solve the world’s countless challenges through technology.