Women who paved the way for Internet of Things

In the past decade, there has been a revolution in the way we live, the way we work and the way we communicate. We are a part of “smarter” world, with a large number of ubiquitous “connected devices” surrounding us. They are everywhere, from fire alarms at home, smartphones, cars, ATM machines, healthcare to defense equipment, aircraft and satellites. They have become a part of our day to day activities and even their brief disruption puts us to a great inconvenience. In fact, it is hard to imagine a life without them. They all form “Internet of things”.

The Internet of Things (IoT) is a collection of objects, whether man-made or found in the natural world, which can be embedded with Internet-connected sensors to enable them to talk to each other, gather information and analysis, and share that data with us. It’s the machine to machine communication (M2M), that has made our lives better and smarter, by enabling a large number of devices from home appliances to the devices in the corporate world. Every industry and individual company stands to gain and prosper by implementing IoT objects into their business model and, as a consequence, uncover newer and better ways of doing business. The phenomenon of IoT is unique because it allows the forward-thinking company to prepare, adapt, and thrive in this new economic age.

Breakthrough technology requires pioneers. People who combine brilliance with courage, even during tough situations. Women who made profound contributions to the computing world exemplify this spirit. Their contributions have made a significant impact on the world through the internet of things. They were leaders in building early foundation to the modern programming. They unveiled the structure of modern programming language. They were the trailblazers, who inspired many young women, by breaking the gender barriers. They were the women, who broke the glass ceiling, and fought many challenges and paved the way for “The internet of things”. There have been several women behind these important advancements. The present article makes an effort to list a few of them. This list is by no means comprehensive. If you dig deeper, you will find many more amazing women.

Decades ago,Ada Lovelace, the countess of Lovelace, envisioned that a computer can do anything that can be noted logically, words, pictures and music, not just numbers. She demonstrated how to take an instruction set, load it into the machine, by programming Bernoulli numbers, an incredibly complicated sequence of numbers. This was one of the greatest innovations in the computing history, the invention of programming. She was the first programmer!

Historically, women played a crucial role in the evolution of computing, with many of the first programmers during the early 20th century being female. The woman who paved the way for machine independent programming was Grace Hopper, an American computer scientist. She was at the forefront of computer and programming language development from the 1930s through the 1980s. One of the crowning achievements of her 44-year career was the development of computer languages written in English, rather than mathematical notation, most notably, the common business computing language known as COBOL, which is still in use today. She also is credited with popularizing the term “debugging” for fixing computer glitches.

In 1946 six brilliant young women programmed the first all electronic, programmable computer, the ENIAC, a project run by the U.S. Army in Philadelphia as part of a secret World War II project. They learned to program without programming languages or tools (for none existed)—only logical diagrams. By the time they were finished, ENIAC ran a ballistics trajectory—a differential calculus equation—in seconds! Yet when the ENIAC was unveiled to the press and the public in 1946, the women were never introduced; they remained invisible.[10]

An important milestone in the internet world was incorporation of Google in 1998. Marissa Mayer was the first female engineer and 20th employee at Google. Her tenure at Google involved work on some of the company’s most recognizable and successful products, including Google Maps, Google Earth, Street View, Google News and Gmail. She was appointed as the CEO of yahoo at the age of 37. In September of 2013, Mayer was ranked number one by Fortune magazine in its annual “40 Under 40” list of business leaders.

One of the most successful women entrepreneurs in the world of computing is Poornima Vijayshankar. She was an engineer at Mint.com and was pinnacle in building out the product from scratch that eventually lead to the acquisition for $170M by Intuit. She decided to leave Mint and launch her own start-up, BizeeBee. She was awarded Inc Magazine’s 10 Women to Watch in Tech in 2013. She motivates and mentors large number of women entrepreneurs through her education company, Femgineer.

More than ever before, girls are studying and excelling at colleges and universities. Yet the dramatic increase in girls’ educational achievements has not been matched by similar increase in the representation of women working as computing professionals. Recruitment bias, complete isolation in the boardroom and poor mentor-ship are some of challenges that women face today. Women do not negotiate for themselves in the workforce. A study in last two years, of the people entering the workforce after college showed that 57% of men entering are negotiating for salary, and only 7% are women. Women still lack the ability to pitch themselves aptly in the interviews, as they underestimate their own abilities. Women need to be more confident, believe in their abilities and negotiate for themselves at the workforce. They also need to make their presence felt in the boardrooms, and negotiate for salary hikes and promotions[9]. Organizations need to be aware of maintaining gender diversity during recruitment. They can come up with maternity policies that are more flexible to encourage women to stay in the workforce.

We also find very few women entrepreneurs today. “When women apply for funds, they are often mocked and not taken seriously. Venture capital firms and angel investors mistakenly think women don’t have the foresight and business acumen to manage technology start-ups. While the mindset is slowly changing, we still have a long way to go. I have learned That the right mentors can make all the difference. Women need to come together to encourage and motivate one another in the field”, says Anita Gupta, Director, National Science and Technology Entrepreneurship Board, Department of Science and Technology, Government of India[9]. Government and other organizations can make additional efforts to help them in networking , applying for funds and entrepreneurship.

The contributions of successful women in Internet of Things, have shaped our lives, society and industry. It is imperative that we constantly remember their great works. They are role models who paved the way for future generations to become tomorrow’s leaders. Their success stories motivate a large number of young women who want to become leaders, innovators, entrepreneurs and computer scientists. It will help them to be more ambitious, fight against obstacles and emerge as great leaders.

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About Bhavani A B

DSP Engineer, Embedded Systems Engineer, VLSI designer, Guitarist, Pianist, Artist
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