Blog Spot April
Celebrating Women’s History Month at the Computer History Museum
March is Women’s History Month, and Bay area is home to many impressive and accomplished women -both today and throughout history. One does not have to look far to see the influence women have had in medicine, politics, technology, literature and nearly every industry or aspect of society. This month is a time for reflection as much as it is an opportunity to look beyond the glass ceiling and into the future for women.
Keeping this in mind, the IEEE Santa Clara Valley Women in Engineering (SCV WIE) hosted a special tour at the Computer History Museum on March 18th, to bring together women in technology from the bay area. Women have played a crucial role in the history of computing at many levels, from programming and engineering to marketing, business and leadership. Indeed this museum would be an inspiring place to be for today’s women, hence the venue was a natural choice to celebrate it!
The event started with a gracious welcome speech from our peppy SCV-WIE vice chair Sneha, from Cisco and a light breakfast. This year over 30 women from different tech companies joined us for this tour. Some women engineers brought their daughters to inspire them, where the youngest participant was Deborah, age 13. Rox from Cisco mentioned it is her 4th participation in our women’s history month celebration in a row and she always blocks the day in advance every year to be part of this exciting event.
And the fun begins ….
Excited as a bunch of high school girls, we started the guided tour of the Computer History Museum at 11. The artifacts displayed were enriched with more than 500 audio and video renditions of both famous pioneers and unknown geniuses, and sparked our curiosity. The contributions of pioneers such as Ada Lovelace, and Grace Hopper were the first stops. Ada Lovelace is known as the world’s first computer programmer while Grace Hopper is famous for her involvement in the development of the COBOL programming language and is the recipient of the prestigious IEEE Emanuel R. Piore Award. As Sue from Equinix, mentioned “Grace Hopper was not only an excellent engineer she was a role model and women promoter”, which is reflected up to today in the most sought after annual conference called the Grace Hopper conference. Her most famous inspiring quotes were:
“If it’s a good idea, go ahead and do it. It’s much easier to apologize than it is to get permission.”Next stops were the contributions of Lynn Conway and Sophie Wilson. Liliane, from Ericsson mentioned that Lynn Conway was her role model when studying semiconductor technology and was happy that finally she was included in the IEEE Hall of Fame. Sophie Wilson along with her colleague Steven Furber, is well known for designing the ARM 1 microprocessor in 1985. We were awe-struck to know that this design had evolved into one of the most successful computer architectures of all time and had become the basis for thousands of electronic products.
Also highlighted in the tour were the contributions by women in the recent past like Adele Goldberg in the development of Smalltalk-80 programming language, Ginny Strazisar who co-wrote the first Internet router software for the then-new ARPANET network, and Donna Dubinsky who was the founding CEO of Palm Computing.
Oprah Winfrey once said “Forget about the fast lane. If you really want to fly, just harness your power to your passion”.
Time flew so fast, that when the guided tour was over we agreed to join again next year for another Women Celebration. A Sunday well spent acquainting ourselves with the history of women who have pioneered technology and engineering in its early days.