Helping More Women Become ‘Tech Pioneers’

History is overflowing with the names of men who have revolutionized computing and information technology: Babbage, Turing, Jobs, Wozniak, Gates, Hewlett, Packard and Berners-Lee, to name just a few. What is often missing is an acknowledgement of women who have contributed to the advancement of tech.

Since March is Women’s History Month, it’s a good time to mention two women who finally received the attention they deserve last November: Margaret Hamilton and Grace Hopper.

Hamilton, who is now 80 years old, played an instrumental role in writing the code that would become the onboard flight software guiding Apollo missions to the moon. In fact, the original code is visible at GitHub.

Hopper, who died in 1992, served in the Navy and developed the first machine-based speech systems. She also coined the term “computer bug” after an actual moth caused a Mark II computer malfunction in 1947.

On November 22, 2016, President Obama awarded both women the Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor possible in the United States. The award ceremony, which took place at the White House, represents “especially meritorious contributions” in a variety of fields, ranging from popular culture and the arts to the sciences.

Fortunately, the topic of women and their contributions to science, computing and IT is gaining greater attention. For example, October 11 is Ada Lovelace Day. The 19th century mathematician is considered the first computer programmer. She worked with Charles Babbage to develop an early mechanical general-purpose computer, the Analytical Engine.

Others, such as Jean Bartik, Betty Holberton, Anita Borg, Erna Hoover and Radia Perlman, have made various other contributions, ranging from research to developing mathematical algorithms and creating development standards for programming languages such as COBOL and FORTRAN.

One thing is certain: In an era when computing sciences and IT face chronic shortages for specific skill sets and knowledge, there must be a greater emphasis on helping girls and young women gain STEM proficiency and adopt careers that put this expertise to work. Not only is it important to make opportunities available to all, it’s also critical for businesses to tap into all available talent.

According to a report from staffing agency ManpowerGroup, which surveyed 42,300 employers worldwide, 40 percent of those employers have experienced difficulty filling jobs. This hovers around all-time highs.

Among the challenges: 24 percent of employers indicated a lack of available applicants or no applicants; 19 percent cited a lack of hard skills and technical competencies among applicants; and 19 percent mentioned a lack of experience among applicants.

Make no mistake: It’s time to think pink.