Technically, It Is A Woman’s World

The perception in the realm of science appears to be that it’s jobs for the boys. Often the subject of women in the technological world is pitched at an angle that implies this is an unusual occurrence and should be viewed like a curiosity exhibit. History shows that there are significant female contributors to the development of the modern world – and curiously there is a new exhibition celebrating the fact at the The National Museum Of Computing (TNMOC).

The gallery was opened by technology entrepreneur Dame Stephanie Shirley, who ironically built her business using a male pseudonym to bid for contracts and at the time of launching her own company, in the early 1960s, needed her husband’s permission to open a bank account.

Some statistics do bear out the anomaly – TNMOC’s own research shows that only 10% of students enrolling in its own Learning Program are female. This celebration aims to address that statistic, by raising awareness of those women who were significant in this most recent industrial revolution.

A Who’s Who of CPU

The initiative is part of a greater ‘Heroines in Computing’ event which includes references to influential figures such as:

  • Kathleen Booth – who created the first Assembly Language.
  • Sophie Wilson – co-designer of the BBC (Acorn) Microcomputer and the ARM architecture chip.
  • Joyce Wheeler – one of the first academics to perform research using a computer called EDSAC (Electronic Delay Storage Automatic Calculator). She talks about her pioneering activity here.
  • Mary Coombs – the first female commercial programmer (using LEO; the Lyons Electronic Office).
  • And also a Miss IP Williams – who worked on the early 20th Century Powers-Samas tabulating machines and also may be the earliest reference to the term “IP” in this context!

Continuing to Lead

There is no shortage of modern day women who are leading the way in areas of business, science and technology, even if the percentage overall in these industries is low; clearly a case of quality over quantity. An impressive list of these important women includes CEOs, founders and a healthy dose of “Head Ofs”.

Fictitious Favourites

The role of the woman scientist has long been a favourite of mine in the world of fiction. I am currently catching up with several of these; through the wonders of on-demand digital broadband television (this is one package choice). Here are two heroines taken from the screen of my very own TV:


Claudia from Warehouse 13 (Allison Scagliotti)

Claudia is the young tech-savvy member of the team which reclaims mystical and dangerous historical artefacts and saves the world on a regular basis.


Willow from Buffy the Vampire Slayer (Alyson Hannigan)

Coincidentally, TNMOC also houses the world’s oldest working digital computer, which goes by the name of WITCH. I’m sure it’s not a spoiler to reveal that Willow is also a witch…

Also coincidentally, both of these actresses are red-heads and go by the same first name, however neither have had a scene in which they remove their glasses and shake their hair out of a bun to be told they are beautiful.

TNMOC will expand the women in computing theme throughout its entire content in such a way that eventually the concept of a separate gallery will effectively dissolve.

And indeed, why should this still be a subject that stands out? Let this be that last word on the matter!