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Celebrating Women in Tech

Katherine Johnson

Seven Women Who Pioneered Information Technology 

Women in business are not celebrated enough, and one important way we can advance their success and raise awareness to the next generation is to celebrate them. The outstanding women at MSTS continue to drive innovation in the fintech space. In 2020, we celebrated significant company milestones like providing the B2B payment technology behind the world’s largest marketplace, Alibaba, and leading shipping marketplace, uShip. We could not have done it without our diverse leadership team at the helm – of which, we are proud to say, is nearly 50% women.  

Women in Business month 

October is a time to recognize the monumental role women play in the shaping the business landscape.  This year we thought we’d shine a spotlight on some outstanding women in technology throughout history who have paved the way for future generations of women to claim their seat at the table and garner the recognition they deserve in shaping the information technology industry.  

Ada Lovelace (1815–1852)— “Inventor” of Algorithms 

The daughter of famous poet Lord Byron and a writer herself, Ada is more known for working with Charles Babbage on his Analytical Engine, a kind of prototypical computer. In the 1840s, she wrote the first algorithm for this machine, realizing that it could do more than just straightforward calculation. This forward-thinking innovation earned her the title of the first computer programmer. 

Jean Sammet (1928–2017)—Pioneer Programmer 

An inventor of languages, in 1962, Jean developed the FORMAC language for programming and also worked with five other programmers, including Grace Hopper, to design and write the COBOL programming language, which became the official language of the U.S. Department of Defense computer operations. She is one of many great women whose technological advancements helped shape the defense of our nation.  

Radia Perlman (b. 1951)—Mother of the Internet 

Though Radia insisted the Internet was not invented by one person, she did develop the spanning-tree protocol (STP) in 1984. This algorithm prevents loops from occurring between networked devices, which laid the foundation for the modern Internet. Without the STP, our “series of tubes” never would have become what it is today. 

Dr. Shirley Ann Jackson – (b. 1946) – Communication Innovator 

Dr.  Jackson has had a distinguished career that includes senior leadership positions in academia, government, industry, and research. Dr. Jackson is the first African American woman to earn a Ph.D. from MIT (specializing in Physics). She leveraged her knowledge of physics to advance telecommunications research at Bell Laboratories which influenced the creation of the portable fax, touch tone phone, and the technology behind caller ID and call waiting. 

Katherine Johnson – (1918 – 2020) – A Prolific Human Calculator 

Johnson calculated the path for Freedom 7, the rocket that put the first US astronaut in space,, helped place the first three men on the Moon, in addition to organizing and orchestrating many of NASA’s space explorations in her time. In 2015, President Obama awarded Johnson the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and in 2016, NASA named the Katherine G. Johnson Computational Research Facility in her honor. Later in 2016, Margot Lee Shetterly published the book Hidden Figures: The American Dream and Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race, circling Katherine’s, and other female leaders, success at NASA on Project Mercury.  

Grace Hopper – (1906 – 1992) – Queen of Software  

Hopper worked on UNIVAC I, the first commercial computer produced in the U.S., and created the first compiler. She is also credited with coining the term “computer bug” when she found a real moth inside the massive UNIVAC I. Most notably, she invented FLOW-MATIC, the first English-like data processing language, which helped spark the development of COBOL and eventually became the standard operating language for the U.S. Navy. Late-night show host David Letterman once asked, “You know you’re the Queen of Software, right?” Her response? “More or less.” A tribute to her humble nature and statement that women do lead with prowess rather than emotion.  

Janese Swanson – (b. 1958) – STEM Superhero  

Interested in the nexus of technology and children’s education,  Swanson received a Computers in Education Certificate from Berkeley, while raising her daughter. After facing discrimination and sexism at work as a programmer and developer of kid’s games, she quit, got her Ph.D, and, started her own toy company, Girl Tech. She was constantly requested to “make it pink” and snubbed by investors who didn’t believe in her mission. Janese held firm, insisting that “this is what girls like”, starting a cultural conversation around harmful stereotyping and consumer practices creating barriers for girls in STEM.  

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