The technology sector hasn’t always been welcoming to women, and in many ways it still has a long way to go. However, more women are speaking up about the hardships they face, and other women are stepping in to help. Today’s modern tech woman builds others up, pioneers new ideas that will change the world, and paves the way for the generation of STEAM ladies to follow in her footsteps.
This month, we want to honor a few of the top women in tech. Here are 20 STEAM professionals who are inspiring us right now.
The current CEO of Girl Scouts of America, Sylvia Acevedo is a literal rocket scientist who started her career at the Jet Propulsion Labs working on the Voyager mission’s flyby of Jupiter and its moons. She went on to work at IBM and serve as an executive for Apple, Autodesk, and Dell. Acevedo is an activist who lobbies for universal access to education and is the author of “Path to the Stars,” a memoir of growing up in an underprivileged neighborhood and how she grew into the woman she is today.
It’s hard to get more cutting edge tech than SpaceX, and Gwynne Shotwell is leading the way as president and COO. Shotwell worked on Falcon 1, the company’s first rocket. Its first successful launch was in 2008, but there were three failed launch attempts over almost three years before Falcon 1 reached orbit. “You don’t learn anything from success, but you learn a lot from your failures,” Shotwell told Makers.
Danah Boyd founded Data & Society, a research institute that concentrates on the “social and cultural issues arising from data-centric technological development.” She is also a principal researcher at Microsoft Research. Boyd’s recent work focuses on how young people consume and use social media, which she compiled in her book It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens. She has also co-authored two other books that explore teenage relationships with technology.
The signature pink hair of Limor “Ladyada” Fried is unmistakable as she walks through Adafruit Industries, a manufacturer of DIY electronics and kits (and a great resource for hobbyist makers and electronics enthusiasts). Founded in 2005, her business now operates in a 50,000-plus square foot factory with more than 100 employees in New York City. Fried personally selects and tests the products before they are approved for sale. She was also the first female engineer on the cover of WIRED magazine.
Katie Moussouris is the founder of Luta Security, a company that specializes in identifying and handling cybersecurity vulnerabilities. Like Fried, she also rocks pink hair and is changing what the world of tech looks like. Moussouris was part of one of the first bioinformatics teams in the world at MIT in the mid-1990s, where she also managed IT for the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics. Her company works to launch bug bounties and provides consultations on whether or not that process would be effective. The MIT Sloan visiting scholar, New America Fellow, and Harvard Belfer affiliate wants cybersecurity teams to work smarter, not harder.
Dr. Rachel Haurwitz
Dr. Rachel Haurwitz is cofounder of Caribou Biosciences, a gene editing company at the forefront of the development of new medical therapies and bio-based products. The tools and processes developed by Dr. Haurwitz can help researchers and medical professionals across the globe create better treatment options for patients. The Association for Women in Science gave Dr. Haurwitz the Next Generation Award in 2018 for her work.
Technologist Erie Meyer is cofounder of the United States Digital Service, which is based in the Executive Office of the President of the United States and offers consultation services for federal agencies on information technology. The goal is to improve digital services and federal websites. Before developing the United States Digital Service, Meyer worked on then-President Obama’s Open Data Initiatives. Now, Meyer is a tech advisor for the FTC, helping the government navigate our new digital society.
Johnetta MacCalla, Ph.D., is the CEO of Zyrobotics, a company that specializes in STEAM-based educational games for kids. She has extensive experience in managing tech companies, having served as CEO of Automated Switching and Controls and Chairman of the LA Metropolitan Transit Authority Foundation before founding her own company. MacCalla is shaping the future of tech by inspiring the next generation, both as a professional guiding upcoming tech specialists and as leader of a company that excites kids about tech.
Anne Githuku-Shongwe is another successful businesswoman who has entered the tech world to help the next generation of learners. She is the founder of Afroes, short for “African heroes,” which creates game-based products that teach kids skills while preparing them to do better in school and life. By developing locally-relevant interactive digital media solutions, Githuku-Shongwe wants to change how kids learn in Africa. Before founding Afroes, she worked for more than 20 years as a senior advisor with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and continues to serve with the UN today.
Anne-Marie Imafidon cofounded Stemettes after attending the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing in 2012, where she was one of three women in a class of 70 students studying math and computer science in college. She wanted to create a program that encouraged and supported young women in STEAM. Since its inception, more than 40,000 students have participated in Stemettes programs in the UK and Ireland. Nearly all report a renewed interest in science, math, or computing sciences. Imafidon even met the Queen at Buckingham Palace when she was awarded an MBE in the 2017 New Years Honours for services to young women and STEM sectors.
Joy Buolamwini is founder of the Algorithmic Justice League, which works to identify and fight harmful bias in artificial intelligence. A coder, Buolamwini uses a combination of art and research in her work. Through her work with the MIT Media Lab and the Center on Privacy and Technology at Georgetown Law, Buolamwini has developed solutions that increase transparency and mitigate abuse in facial analysis. Her Gender Shades thesis work has been covered in more than 230 articles across 37 countries.
AI roboticist Carol Reiley is “saving the world, one robot at a time.” The youngest member elected to the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Robotics and Automation board, she has more than 18 years of experience in the field of AI and robotics. Reiley is a serial entrepreneur, too. In 2018, she founded a new healthcare company; prior to that, she cofounded drive.ai, a self-driving car startup, and Squishybots, an education company for kids to learn coding and engineering. Reiley is an advocate for underrepresented groups in tech, fights against bias in AI, and was the first female engineer on the cover of MAKE magazine.
Rana el Kaliouby
Rana el Kaliouby, Ph.D. is one of the cofounders of Affectiva, an AI tool for expression recognition (or the recognition of facial emotions) that also came out of MIT Media Lab. The software she developed is used by more than 1,400 brands, including Fortune 100 companies. She is a frequent speaker on topics related to AI and ethics, and is an advocate for the inclusion of women in STEAM.
Media and tech entrepreneur Morgan DeBaun is founder and CEO of Blavity, a media outlet geared toward black millennials where she shares her journey through the tech world and what it is like as an entrepreneur. In addition to being an advisory board member at the Black Economic Alliance, DeBaun serves as a consultant to enterprises regarding how they can reach low income and minority communities, with a focus on financial literacy and empowerment.
It is impossible to list out the most influential women in tech without mentioning Kathryn Finney. Through Digitalundivided, Finney supports diverse female entrepreneurs and startups. Her company has supported more than 52 companies with $25 million in investments raised and 2000 Founders reached. Finney was named a “White House Champion of Change” in 2013 and is a past member of the National Advisory Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship. She also executive produced “#ReWriteTheCode,” a documentary about the intersection of race and gender in tech.
Not only is Mona Sedky leading technological innovation, but she is also working to make our high-tech environments safer places for everyone. Sedky was a federal prosecutor for more than a decade and has led investigations related to cybercrimes, particularly in the field of “sextortion” and data theft. She has also worked with the FTC and consults with the U.S. Department of Justice as an expert on computer crime and intellectual property violations.
Shaherose Charania is cofounder of Women 2.0, an organization that promotes inclusivity in the workplace and creates a resource for female entrepreneurs to close the gender gap. Women 2.0 was developed when Charania saw that the majority of startups were developed by white men, while “the dominant users of many of these companies–women–were not being included in the development of these products.” She wondered how these developers could meet the needs of end-users without including them in the design process. As of 2016, Women 2.0 has reached more than 55,000 people across more than 500 events.
Computer programmer and social entrepreneur Vanessa Hurst is founder of Girl Develop It, a company that provides judgement-free opportunities for women interested in software development. As of 2018, the nonprofit organization has empowered more than 100,000 learners in their 50-plus chapters nationwide. Hurst also launched the CodeMontage platform, which ran for three years. During its operation, it enabled coders to develop solutions for communities around the world. Her products and services focus on helping others build their skills.
Rachel Haot is the executive director of the Transit Innovation Partnership, which is working to improve and modernize the New York City bus and metro systems. Her job is to collaborate with tech entrepreneurs and develop strategies to modernize the 100-year-old transportation system. New York City is such a major influence that these solutions will likely be considered by other cities across the globe, making Haot an essential tech pioneer.
Social psychologist Sherry Turkle has more than 30 years of experience exploring the relationship between people and technology. Her current focus is on helping people and businesses reclaim conversation, using the power of communication to connect. In addition to her book Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age, Turkle has written Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other.