Help Me Make A List Of The Most Important Women In Tech

Following from the recent discussions about women in tech, I’ve been charged with putting together a list of the “Most Important Women” in tech for the magazine I work for. The measure of who is important comes down to several factors. Notability is a big one, but also a personal actions/activities or influence in the tech world. Women spearheading promising start ups, women involved in research and development of important technologies, even women who work within systems to make them more accessible or friendly to those outside of the majority.

Obviously there are a lot of women who fit these descriptions, and I’m sure there are other criteria for what makes a woman “important” in tech. Which is why I’ve come to you.

I have a preliminary list, but I welcome any suggestions from the GeekFeminism community. I spend a lot of time working with consumer electronics, so I don’t always know who the superstars in the Linux community are, for instance, or who is working on tech projects that haven’t yet made it to the consumer level.

Please leave your suggestions in the comments with links, if you have them, to pertinent information about the women you’re suggesting. The only overarching criteria I have is that the women have to be current — so no Ada Lovelace, even though she deserves to be on the list!

20 thoughts on “Help Me Make A List Of The Most Important Women In Tech

  1. Terri

    Re: open source. I’m assuming you’ve already trolled the list on the wiki:

    and that the problem with that list is that if you don’t know people, it’s hard to figure out who’s really exceptionally top-50 noteworthy. Here’s one who’s usually a top pick:

    Stormy Peters, formerly the GNOME Foundation executive director (she’s just moving to a new position with Mozilla)

    1. Mary

      Other top picks in Open Source would be:
      Jane Silber, CEO of Canonical Ltd (the corporation that sponsors Ubuntu), if business leader-y is what you want, likewise Mitchell Baker of the Mozilla Foundation.
      For technical work, there’s Allison Randal, Ubuntu’s technical architect, who has also been very prominent in Perl development for a long time.

      1. Eivind Kjørstad

        If hardcore kernel-development seems “important” to you, you’ll want to include Valerie Aurora who’s done an awful lot with filesystems over many years.

  2. Mary

    For computer science, here’s some widely cited and/or well-known women still working (so leaving out, for example, Frances Allen, who retired in 2002, Anita Borg, who died in 2003, Karen Spärck Jones, who died in 2007, and Sally Floyd who retired in 2009, to mention some big names I left out):

    Lixia Zhang, networking researcher, who has done work with caching, IPv6, security and routing.

    Elisa Bertino, database researcher.

    Sara Kiesler, HCI researcher, including topics like human-robot interaction, and Internet use and health.

    Barbara Liskov, programming language specialist, including fundamental work on object orientation, and distributed computing.

  3. pfctdayelise

    Danese Cooper is the Chief Technical Officer of the Wikimedia Foundation, ie “the only female CTO of a Top-10 website”. And actually the Executive Director of the Wikimedia Foundation is Sue Gardner, I guess she would be in the business leader-y category.

  4. Rebecca

    I’m in high-performance computing, and some of the big names in that field include Nan Boden, co-founder of Myricom ; Barbara Chapman, professor at the University of Houston and one of the folks leading the effort on OpenMP (shared memory parallel programming paradigm) ; Xiaoye Sherry Li, a developer of numerical linear algebra libraries ; and Theresa Windus, a computational chemist of great reknown .

  5. pfctdayelise

    Judging importance is hard, but Australian Senator Kate Lundy might make your cut off too. She was awarded for “her active and forward-thinking work toward building Open Government culture and practice in Australia.” (think Gov 2.0)

  6. Roberta Guise

    Kati London has been getting a lot of attention for her big scale interactive game projects, and her novel way of bridging interactive and real-world to influence how people behave. She’s Vice President and Senior Producer at Area/Code, an interactive game developer; I believe she’s on track to become an acknowledged thought leader.

  7. Lukas

    Constanze Kurz, speaker of the Chaos Computer Club, has gained lots of notoriety and respect in recent years for her engagement in security and privacy issues. In the past, the highest legislative and jurisdictional institutions in Germany – the federal parliament and the consitutional court – have turned to her for advice on topics such as election computers and data protection.

  8. Francesca Coppa

    Naomi Novik! The OTW’s Archive of Our Own project not only is the largest, all-female, open source coding project on the web, but the friendly, supportive atmosphere Naomi established for coders has drawn a lot of women into coding and sysadmining. Moreover, OTW is turning into a network where female coders are using the experience and network to get jobs or promotions!

  9. John

    Pattie Maes is perhaps not as prominent as she was earlier, but still:

    Newsweek magazine named her one of the “100 Americans to watch for” in the year 2000; TIME Digital selected her as a member of the Cyber-Elite, the top 50 technological pioneers of the high-tech world; the World Economic Forum honored her with the title “Global Leader for Tomorrow”; Ars Electronica awarded her the 1995 World Wide Web category prize; and in 2000 she was recognized with the “Lifetime Achievement Award” by the Massachusetts Interactive Media Council.

  10. Ann

    I am a geologist and this is one of the few blogs I read. I can not assist you in your “Women in Tech” search, but I am THRILLED you are compiling it. I have been trying to do the same for the geosciences. There are many geoscientists who are “tech” – GIS and industry software programmers- for example. I am deeply involved in women (lack of) in geoscience – why, where, how issues- and it is exceedly frustrating to collect valid data.
    I did not think to solicit social networks for contributes to my list, so thank you for the example (probably because I am”old” and social networking is not innate or practiced!)
    Thank- you again, and I will be watching the names come up.

  11. jon

    Great idea asking for suggestions … here’s a couple:

    – Jeannette Wing, department head of Carnegie Mellon University’s Computer Science Department (who recently returned there after a few years at NSF), also known for her research in security, formal methods, and much more

    – Shaherose Charania and Angie Chang of Women 2.0

    – Allyson Kapin, who organizes the Women Who Tech teleconference

    – danah boyd of Microsoft Research; for years, her blog and keynotes are incredibly influential in how people think about social networks.

  12. Moose

    Some of the women who I think have been or are critical to the field of System Administration:

    AEleen Frisch — author of one of the Bibles of system administration, consultant, lecturer, has also done work in the HPC field

    Evi Nemith — co-author of one of the Bibles of system administration, teacher, lecturer, used to bring her students to LISA [the biggest sysadmin conference]. Now retired.

    Amy Rich — for years wrote the Q&A column for the now-defunct Sysadmin Magazine, which many thought the best part of the mag.

    Elizabeth Zwicky — security expert, speaker, lecturer, writer.

    & a 2nd for Radia Perlman

  13. spz

    Sabine Dolderer, CEO of DeNIC
    Mirjam Kühne, of RIPE
    Vera Heinau of Freie Universität Berlin, ex president of Individual Network eV in Germany

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