Changing the Curve

Women in Computing

Women have been involved with computers science since the very beginning, and have contributed to some of the biggest technological advances in the last century. Here is a look at some of the industry’s biggest names.

1842 - Ada Lovelace expands on Charles Babbage’s Analytical Engine. She is widely considered the first computer programmer.

1938 - Gertrude Blanch becomes technical director of the Mathematical Tables Project, a WPA human computer group.

1941 - Actress Hedy Lamarr receives a patent for “spread spectrum” wireless communications.

1943 - The Wives of Los Alamos Scientists form a central computing pool on the manhattan Project.

1946 - Kay McNulty, Betty Jennings, Betty Snyder, Marlyn  Wescoff, Fran Bilas, and Ruth Lichterman program from the first general-purpose Turing-complete computer, the Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer (ENIAC).

1947 - United States Navy Officer Grace Hopper programs the Harvard Mark I computer and goes on to work on the first large-scale commercial computer (Univac). She later leads the team that invents the COBOL computer language and coins the term “computer bug”.

1961 - Jean E. Sammet directs the development of FORMAC programming language.

1965 - Sister Mary Kenneth Keller becomes the first American woman to earn a Ph. D. in computer science.

1971 - Erna Schneider Hoover is awarded one of the first computer software patents for her computerized telephone switching system.

1979 - Carol Shaw becomes the first female video game designer (3-D Tic-Tac-Toe and River Raid)

1984 - Roberta Williams writes, designs, and develops the original king’s Quest graphical adventure game.

1985 - Radia Perlman the “Mother of the Internet,” Invents the Spanning Tree Protocol (STP).

1993 - Shafi Goldwasser co-invents zero-knowledge proofs, which are the building blocks of all computer cryptology protocols.

1997 - Anita Borg founds the Institute for Women and Technology.

1999 - Marissa mayer becomes the first female engineer hired at Google. She later takes the helm as president and CEO of Yahoo!.

2005 - Ruchi Sanghvi becomes Facebook's first female engineer.

2006 - Frances E. Allen becomes the first female recipient of the Turing Award.

Despite these contributions, gender equality in computer and information sciences is still lagging.

“Women now outnumber men at elite colleges, law schools, medical schools and in the overall work force. Yet stark imbalance of the sexes persists in the high-tech world.” - The New York Times

There’s room for improvement in high school

In 2013, women comprised:

56% Advanced Placement (AP) test takers

46% AP calculus takers

19% AP computer science test takers

There’s room for improvement in college

In 1985, women made up:

37% computer science undergraduate degree recipients.

In 2012, women comprised:

18% Computer and information sciences undergraduate degree recipients.

12% computer science undergraduate degree recipients at major research universities.

2000 - 2012 64% decline in the number of first-year undergraduate women interested in majoring in computer science.

At the 2013 Intel Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF):

25% of finalists in mathematics were female.

14% of finalists in computer science were female.

There’s room for improvement in the workforce, too

The number of women in computing- related occupations is declining:

1991 - Women Only made up 37% of all computing-related occupations in the United States.

2012 - Women occupied 26% of the 3,816,000 computing related jobs in the United States.

Who are we now?

Women comprise:

Web developers 34%

Programmers 23%

Database administrators 37%

Software developers 20%

Information security analysts 15%

Women in leadership make up:

19% of CIO positions at Fortune 250 companies.

11% of executive technical roles at privately held, venture-backed companies.

7% of tech company founders.

And yet, startups led by women are more capital-efficient than the norm, with 12% higher revenues using 33% less capital.

There’s good news, though:

The gender pay gap for computer programmers is smaller than it is for other professional occupations.

Computer programmer: Women make 7% less than men.

Attorney: Women make 13% less than men.

Accountant: Women make 24% less than men.

According to the Anita Borg Institute for Women in technology (ABI), the top attributes for success for senior technical women include:



Unafraid to Question/ Desire to Learn


Hard-Working/ Work Long Hours


“I think it’s very important to get more women into computing. My slogan is: Computing is too important to be left to men.” - Karen Sparck Jones, Cambridge Computer Laboratory



UC Berkeley School of Information

Phone Number: 855-678-6437
Email Address:


© UC Berkeley School of Information.