Women like Ada Lovelace, the world’s first computer programmer, and Annie Easley, computer scientist and rocket scientist at NASA, paved a road for women in tech that would advance into the 21st century. Today, women-owned tech companies with innovative products and services are blazing an exciting trail.
Women in Tech
We’ve come a long way since Ada Lovelace concluded in the mid-nineteenth century that Charles Babbage’s computing machine had implications beyond basic calculations. Yet, women make up less than a quarter of the computing workforce. The international non-profit Women in Tech strives to empower women and girls to embrace roles in technology.
Their mission combines advocacy, education, and mentorship to attempt to close the gender gap in technology fields. By addressing issues of inequality, and with a presence on six continents, Women in Tech is making great strides to help women achieve positions of influence in technology.
The Emergence of FemTech
Only 28% of tech start-ups are female-founded. Paving the way for female entrepreneurs in the tech world, Ida Tin has demonstrated how technology can serve to improve female health. Tin coined the term “FemTech” in 2016, in reference to tech created to support various issues of women’s health. Tin’s aim was to legitimize the market of female-focused tech—helping to drive innovation while normalizing open conversations about female health.
Today, FemTech is one of the fastest-growing sectors in the industry. As Tin says, this marks significant progress toward “a more equal and healthy society, not only for women, but for all.”
Tech and Motherhood
Motherhood is, without question, one of the most important and rewarding times in many women’s lives. Taking just a bit of encumbrance off of new motherhood is Elvie, the world’s first silent wearable breast pump. Founded in 2013 by internationally renowned women’s health expert Tania Boler, Elvie has since become a market leader in the emerging FemTech space.
Wire-free, hands-free, and hassle-free, the Elvie smart breast pump enables new breastfeeding mothers to pump on their own terms—whether returning to work, out running errands, or meeting with friends.
Tech and Dating
In today’s hyper-connected world, the prevalence of dating apps has made quite a splash in the dating pool as one of the most (if not the most) popular approaches. Female-founded innovations within the realm of tech and dating are worthy of recognition.
Founded by Whitney Wolfe Herd in 2014, Bumble is a dating app created with women at the core. By empowering women to make the first move, Wolfe Herd’s goal was to challenge the antiquated gender dynamics of dating. Giving women the opportunity to set the tone of the initial interaction allows them an increased sense of safety and control over creating a more mutually respectful relationship from the start. On a larger scale, Wolfe Herd’s mission with Bumble is to “work toward a world free of misogyny where all relationships are equal.”
Women Leading in AI
AI forms the frontline of technology at the moment. The conversations and advancements around this powerful, exciting tech are being driven, in part, by two women: Kate Crawford and Joanna Shields.
Crawford is a professor at USC Annenberg and leading scholar on the social and political implications of AI. She’s also a senior principal researcher at Microsoft. The intersections of big data, humanities, and gender are at the heart of her research. She is the author of Atlas of AI; has contributed articles to The Wall Street Journal, Time, and The Boston Review; and curated an art exhibition, Training Humans (Milan, Italy, 2019-20), which was the first major photography exhibition to focus on images used by scientists to train AI systems how to “see” and categorize the world. Her approach contextualizes the impact of large-scale data systems within the spheres of politics, history, and the environment.
On the other end of the spectrum, Joanna Shields is the CEO of BenevolentAI, a pharma company using cutting-edge tech in the service of science. AI is used to add to our knowledge and understanding of a disease. For example, in the case of therapy-resistant brain tumors, BenevolentAI has used AI technology to explore genes that might make tumors resistant to treatment and identify patients who could respond positively to certain treatments.
The Female Future of Tech
Innovative technology enhances life. As advances within tech rapidly increase, representation within this industry becomes increasingly important. From creating products specifically geared toward supporting women in various areas of their lives to, while also making significant contributions to the greater tech landscape, these women are opening doors for others already working in or looking to get into an otherwise male-dominated industry.
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