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Tech’s gender gap: Exploring women’s forgotten contributions

Rochester, New York (March 8, 2024) - A dimension within the Digital Divide is the digital gender gap. The International Telecommunication Union reports that women are less likely to have access to the internet than men, and the GMSA has found that women are less likely to own a smartphone.

This digital disparity also affects the number of women who end up in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) careers. As of 2023, only 28% of the current STEM workforce is made up of women. One of the major reasons for this gap is the lack of female role models. That’s why drawing attention to women leaders in the field is so critical.

From the 1800s to the present day, women have been instrumental in computing and the development of modern-day connectivity. In fact, they have been in the background of creation and innovation since the beginning of civilization. Unfortunately, many of their contributions and efforts were overlooked and, in some cases, awarded to others.

So, who are the women who built our modern-day connectivity and networking infrastructure?


Ada Lovelace (1815-1852)

Lovelace is the namesake of the Ada programming language. In 1843, her translation and notation on the Luigi Menabrea Analytical Engine paper led to a revolutionary mathematical sequence. This sequence is the first-ever computer program with the capability to calculate Bernoulli numbers.

Ada Lovelace

Grace Hopper (1906-1992)

Hopper has been honored by the USS Hopper and Grace’s Place at the University of Missouri. After working with Mark II and Mark III computers at Harvard University and in the U.S. Navy, she oversaw programming for the UNIVAC (Universal Automatic Computer). She is primarily known for developing of the first compiler for computer languages, a major building block of the Common Business Oriented Language (COBOL).

Grace Hopper

Dorothy Vaughan (1910-2008)

Vaughn led the West Area Computing Unit for NASA, known at the time as NACA. She is heralded for her advocacy for her unit and other women, as well as her exemplary work. She was often personally requested to handle challenging assignments. She became a key contributor to FORTRAN programming and the Scout Launch Vehicle Program.

Dorothy Vaughn

Hedy Lamarr (1914-2000)

Considered the mother of Wi-Fi and wireless communications at large, Lamarr, alongside George Antheil, invented a new communication system that utilized frequency hopping. Initially, it was intended for use on torpedoes for war; it grew to become the primary way wireless communication developed and functions today.

Hedy Lamarr

Betty Snyder (1917-2001) and Jean Bartik (1924-2011)

Snyder and Bartik were two of the six women across all of NASA to be selected to program the ENIAC (Electronic Numerical Integrator and Calculation), the first all-electronic digital computer. Using analog technology, their team worked on calculating ballistic trajectory equations, and the six of them were the only generation to program the ENIAC. Bartik and Snyder both helped create BINAC, the first commercial digital computer, and the UNIVAC. Snyder worked on FORTRAN revisions FORTRAN77 and FORTRAN90, and wrote the analysis package used in the 1950 U.S. Census.

Betty Snyder

Jean Bartik

Jean Sammet (1928-2017)

Sammet worked on a series of projects for the Army Signal Corps, including software development for MOBIDIC, the development of COBOL for business applications, and FORMAC’s development at IBM. She also led work on the Ada programming language while with IBM.

Jean Sammet

Elizabeth Feinler (born 1931)

Feinler was the editor of the ARPANET Resource Handbook and became the premiere expert on all things ARPANET, an experimental computer network, including access issues, a directory of computers, and developed standards for usage. She, and her team, ran a 24/7 user hotline for troubleshooting and help.

Elizabeth Feinler

Ida Holz (born 1935)

Holz was a key driver of Uruguay's digital connection to the world, including helping to implement email and internet services. She was instrumental in adding the domain “.uy”, connections to Uunet and Dcfcen nodes for traffic, and establishing and developing the Uruguayan Academic Network. She also opposed the imposition of American and European authority on Latin American global networking in the Rio de Janeiro congressional hearings.

Ida Holz

Elise Gerich

Gerich worked on the NSFNET T-1 expansion that functioned as the backbone of the internet. She continued to work on the T-3 backbone migration and then the retirement of NSFNET to commercial internet service providers (ISPs). Gerich co-founded the first North American Network Operator’s Group (NANOG), which led to the creation of NOGs globally. She also worked on one of the earliest high-speed ISPs, Excite@Home Network, and the first internet-over-cable infrastructure.

Elise Gerich

Jean Armour Polly

A Liverpool, N.Y., librarian, Polly was one of the first to offer computer access at public libraries and connect her computer lab to the Nascent network. This led to the establishment of one of the first and earliest points for public access to the internet. She also co-founded PUBLIB, a listserv for librarians to collaborate and share information globally.

Jean Armour Polly

Yvonne Marie Andrés

Andrés worked with fellow teacher, Al Rogers, to create the email program FrEDMail (Free Education Mail) that allowed kids to write stories and send messages using floppy disks. The data was then transported to other schools overnight using phone lines. The two worked together on a book, and shared their work and ideas on connected collaborative learning. Eventually, the FrEDMail project, renamed the Global SchoolNet Foundation, reached 400 schools and 12,000 students.

Yvonne Marie

Stacy Horn (born 1956)

Horn founded ECHO (East Coast Hang Out), one of the earliest social networks, launched before browsers existed when the worldwide web was in its infancy. This platform became the blueprint for the social networks we know today.


Anne-Marie Eklund Löwinder (born 1957)

Löwinder was a key contributor to implementing the Domain Name System Security Extensions (DNSSEC). The DNSSEC ensures that users are visiting legitimate websites – a cornerstone of online security. She drove the development of the technology and the inclusion of “.se” as the first top-level domain in DNSSEC.


Jaime Levy (born 1966)

Levy is a multimedia artist who has been described as an early web designer before websites existed. She garnered this reputation through her work with floppy disks and ’zines. Her work has ranged from the first interactive press kit for Billy Idol to a dystopian chat room for Samsung. She saw the internet as her playground, utilizing a 28k internet connection to provide many of her clients and local artists with a “first look” at the web.

Jaime Levy

In addition to these amazing women, there are many more women working right now in the wireless infrastructure industry. From satellites to networking hardware to cellular and internet service providers, women in every corner of the industry are improving technology and making a difference.

There are hundreds of names we could not fit in this article, and many more who aren’t publicly known. It is an understatement to say that women’s contributions in tech are important; they are essential to the world we live in now.

As we celebrate Women’s History Month, we encourage you to remember and acknowledge the women who make our daily connectivity possible.

About the Author: Myren Bobryk-Ozaki is a Connected Nation Communications and Marketing Intern. Myren provides support to the Communications division of Connected Nation. In addition, Myren assists with writing, company blog and social media posting, website editing, bringing creativity to new and existing communications materials.

This years other Women's History Month blogs: