Can you name a better month than March? We have so much to be excited about! Not only is it Women's History Month, but it's also International Women's Day, and with this year's theme being #BreakTheBias, we thought it would be a perfect time to pause and highlight some of the most inspiring women in tech who have forever changed the landscape of what's possible for the industry.
Women, who are known for their tenacity and who helped shape history. Women, who are known for their vision and made remarkable inventions. Women, who continue to change the world today. They're diverse and yet all alike: groundbreaking, powerful, and pioneers in their own right. So this is our way of saying: 'You go, Girl!'. Let's break down some barriers and encourage more women to consider engineering as a career!
Buckle up, as we're going back in time to celebrate amazing women in tech.
Female Codebreakers: the women of Bletchley Park
Nestled in the beautiful countryside of an English country estate, is a place that most pass by without taking an interest. Little do they know, that this collection of buildings is home to some of the most important scientific, technological and military work the world has ever seen.
The work accomplished in Bletchley Park shortens WWII by an estimated 2-4 years, saving millions of lives in the process. Despite the fame that Alan Turing and Stuart Milner-Barry received for their efforts at Bletchley Park as codebreakers, more than 75% of those employed there were women, whose achievements still remain largely in the background.
These women filled extraordinary roles during their employment with the British cryptanalysis centre. They were excellent code breakers, bomb operators, indexers, messengers, amongst other roles. Bletchley Park valued its female workers for what they could do, fostering an environment where female workers felt comfortable voicing their opinions – something we still hold dearly today.
These are stories that should be told, an echo of a time when women pursued their passions and made remarkable discoveries, despite cultural restrictions. Bletchley's story is also one of female intelligence and ingenuity, as well as being a testament to how we can all succeed against overwhelming odds if determination is a strong enough motivator (as well as professional and societal support).
Margaret Hamilton, the woman who put the man on the moon
Ever wondered who coined the term Software Engineering? It might come as a surprise (but we hope it doesn't!) to many that the founder of this discipline is actually a woman. Who is she?
Meet Margaret Hamilton. In this famous picture – which has become an icon – you can see her standing next to the code that she and her team wrote to guide the Apollo spacecraft to the Moon. With an undergraduate degree in Mathematics, Margaret Hamilton got her first job working as a programmer at MIT. There she learned everything there was to know about computers, as computer science had not yet been recognised as a taught subject by universities at the time.
Margaret wasn't expected to invent the modern concept of software engineering or help a man land on the moon. The early 1960s was a time when women were encouraged to conform to social norms by embracing a traditional lifestyle which meant not working, least of all working in tech. Did this stop Margaret Hamilton from breaking the mould? Absolutely not.
Margaret was a self-taught computer programmer who made history in 1969 when she authored the code that would lead to the creation of the Apollo Guidance Computer, a chip-based computer with 64 kilobytes of memory. Had the software not functioned, the moon landing wouldn't have happened. Crazy, right?
Imagine how challenging it must have been: anyone who dared to delve into computers was treading relatively unknown territory. Today, you can learn computer science because people have worked on it before and today, we have access to a never-ending stream of learning opportunities. Back then, Hamilton was learning as she went along, laying the groundwork foundations for future generations and we thank her for it.
Advice For The Next Generation of Women In Tech from Current Women in Tech
Wouldn't it be great if we could travel back in time, knowing what we know now?
In our latest Women In Tech webinar, titled 'Driving the Future Of Inclusivity: Women Leading The Way in Tech', the female software engineers at LexisNexis® Risk Solutions Group, gave golden advice for future females looking to pursue a career in engineering. Ready to take notes? Here are the things they wish they knew when they started out:
Slow down, and enjoy the process...
Sophie Trerise, Senior Programme Manager at Cirium, reminded us to pace ourselves. She believes it's vital to remember that your career is a marathon, not a sprint:
‘It hasn’t all been completely smooth sailing, trying to navigate the tech industry as a young female. As a young analyst, I had no real idea in terms of how to answer the ‘where do you want to be in a year, five years, ten years time?’. I was extremely motivated and very hardworking, but I didn’t really have a plan. And at the time I thought that was to my detriment, but now looking back, I realise that is absolutely fine, that is okay.'
Don't be afraid to say YES to things!
Yes, is how you get your first job, and your next promotion and your next job. So many people believe that what they’re doing now is so different from tech that they can never make the switch. This could not be farther from the truth. Marcia Klingensmith, Solutions Consultant at LexisNexis® Risk Solutions Group, had a very unconventional career path; one that will truly inspire you.
Starting out as an art freelancer, while dabbling in translation services and web development in her spare time, she became curious when a job came up in the IT department. Marcia didn't hesitate in saying yes, and decided to go for it!
Through this, Marcia learned that to further your career, means stepping out of your comfort zone, building upon existing knowledge and learning new skills to land your next role or promotion. Here's what she had to say:
'We all have transferrable skills, just because you’re in one job today does not mean you have to stay in that job for the rest of your career. In every job, you’re learning and developing skills, and these skills can be applied in a different method, in a different industry, in a different job. You’re never trapped where you’re at!’
Nothing beats tenacity, persistence and the drive to succeed.
Everyone has talent; you only have to work hard enough to develop it. The reality is that most people don’t step into the world of computers being a natural computer whiz. If you’re willing to put in the time and effort, there’s no limit to what you can achieve in your profession.
During her talk, Angela Herzberg, Director Software Engineering at LexisNexis® Risk Solutions Group, reminded us that at the beginning of any career, your performance is less about talent, and more about effort and resilience:
‘As many of you would know, to work in technology you don’t really need a college degree, you can dive in with a certification or sometimes very little knowledge of technology. It’s really the problem-solving skills that can help you get started, and that curiosity to learn new things.’
Throughout history, women have been an integral part of shaping our future and it's important to carry on this legacy. While the journey may not be easy, it is vital to keep moving forward and smashing down those gender barriers! This Women’s History Month we encourage you to celebrate the fight against bias and all of the women who have excelled despite having had to break through glass ceilings to do so.