Historically, the world of IT and computer science has been — and remains — male-dominated. While an exact source of the gender gap remains a mystery, theories abound. For example, common misconceptions about the field, such as the suggestion that it’s career-limiting or promotes an antisocial lifestyle, tend to deter women who might otherwise be drawn to it. Regardless of the cause, the statistics tell the story. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, despite the high job demand, women earn only 18% of computer science bachelor’s degrees in the United States. As of 2022, 78.8% of computer scientists are men. But that isn’t to suggest that the female talent pool isn’t out there, and it hasn’t stopped these six trailblazing women in technology from leaving an indelible mark on the industry.

Only 21.2% of computer scientists are women.

Marissa Mayer

Marissa Ann Mayer, an American software engineer and businesswoman, influenced Google Inc.’s development and went on to serve as CEO and president of Yahoo! Inc. Born in 1975 in Wisconsin, she graduated from Stanford University, where she studied computer science with an emphasis on artificial intelligence. 

Google Inc.

The first female engineer at Google Inc., Mayer got in on the ground floor of the company’s expansion and success. In fact, she joined the company in 1999 as its twentieth employee. Her role extended to product manager, designer, and executive, and her notable achievements include designing the home page for Google’s search interface. In fact, she is credited with boosting the daily search volume from several hundred thousand to over a billion. Additionally, Mayer had a hand in such esteemed Google projects as Gmail, Chrome, and Google Earth, and she helped patent inventions pertaining to some of the company’s web-browsing software and customized search methods.

Yahoo! Inc.

Named CEO and President of Yahoo! Inc. in 2012, Mayer was brought in to breathe new life into the company, which had been experiencing an extended period of financial trouble. As with her position at Google, Mayer oversaw the Yahoo! home page redesign. However, her efforts to revitalize the company did not go to plan, and Yahoo! announced the sale of its core assets to Verizon Communications in 2016. When the transition became official in 2017, Mayer resigned from her position.

Sunshine

In 2018, Mayer shifted to a slightly different career path, co-founding Lumi Labs — a tech incubator that centers around artificial intelligence-driven applications. In 2020, Mayer rebranded the company to Sunshine and launched its inaugural product, Sunshine Contacts, an organization-focused contact management software. She continues to lead the company in its endeavors.

Other Noteworthy Accomplishments

Mayer was the first woman to take the number one slot in Fortune’s “40 Under 40” and also ranked on their “50 Most Powerful Women in Business” list for seven years in a row. Additionally, she has made Forbes “100 Most Powerful Women” and became the first CEO of a Fortune 500 to appear in a Vogue magazine spread. Beyond the media attention, Mayer introduced innovative programs to each company she has been with. She initiated Google’s Associate Product Manager program, which offered mentorship for talent recruitment and groomed the participants for leadership roles. At Yahoo!, she strengthened the maternity leave policy, helping to transform the company’s culture into a more female-friendly workspace.

Shafrira Goldwasser

Shafrira Goldwasser, an Israeli-American computer scientist, was born in New York City in 1959. She attended Carnegie Mellon University, where she received a Bachelor of Science degree in mathematics and science, then earned a Master of Science degree and Ph.D. in computer science at the University of California, Berkeley. Goldwasser’s notable achievements include the high distinction of being a co-recipient of the Turing Award in 2012 for her groundbreaking work in the field of cryptography.

Her immense contributions to cryptography, computational number theory, computational complexity, and probabilistic algorithms have led to revolutionary strides in data encryption security and cryptographic protocols. Several of her articles and publications have even prompted distinct computer science subfields. She continues to lend her expertise through her professorships at MIT and the Weizmann Institute of Science, Israel. She is also co-founder and chief scientist of Duality Technologies, and director of California’s Simons Institute for the Theory of Computing.

MIT ( Massachusetts Institute of Technology)

Goldwasser has been part of the MIT faculty since 1983. Fourteen years later, she became the inaugural RSA Professor, a position she continues to hold, and she is currently a member of MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory’s theory of computation group.

Duality Technologies

In 2016, Goldwasser co-founded — and began serving as chief scientist of — Duality Technologies, a privately held, New Jersey-based software company that applies advanced cryptographic algorithms to deliver safe data analytics.

Other Noteworthy Accomplishments

Goldwasser was named director of the Simons Institute for the Theory of Computing at the University of California, Berkeley in 2018, and she is the co-inventor of zero-knowledge proofs. Additionally, Goldwasser provides scientific consultation for quite a few security-related technology startups, including QED-it and Algorand. Her extensive roster of honors includes the Turing Award, the Gödel Prize in Theoretical Computer Science, the ACM Grace Murray Hopper Award, and an honorary doctorate from the University of Oxford.

Barbara Liskov

Born Barbara Jane Huberman, Barbara Liskov was one of the first U.S. women to receive a computer science doctorate. Best-known for her pioneering contributions to the areas of programming language and distributed computing, Liskov notably created the Liskov Substitution Principle (an object-oriented programming principle). This work was honored in 2008 when she received the Turing Award.

MIT

In 2007, Liskov joined MIT as Associate Professor for Faculty Equity after performing duties as Associate Head for Computer Science. She was designated an Institute Professor at MIT in 2008, one of the highest distinctions bestowed on a faculty member. Aside from developing the “Liskov Substitution principle” along with Jeannette Wing, for which she made headlines, she also directed the development and implementation of the CLU programming language at MIT. 

At present, Liskov is the Ford Professor of Engineering at MIT. She is the lead member of MIT’s Programming Methodology Group, and her current research interests include distributed computing and Byzantine fault tolerance.

Other Noteworthy Accomplishments

Liskov is a member of the National Academy of Engineering and the National Academy of Sciences. She is also a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the Association for Computing Machinery. She has been honored as one of the top women faculty members at MIT, and Discover magazine once touted her as one of the 50 most important women in science. In 2021, she was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame.

Adele Goldberg

As a researcher at the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center in the 1970s, Adele Goldberg forged a successful career, eventually becoming manager of the System Concepts Laboratory where she co-developed Smalltalk-80 — a programming language that made major waves. Born in 1945, Goldberg officially began her career by working at IBM during summer breaks in her college years. This piqued her interest in computer science and, being a mathematics graduate and a self-learner, she taught herself coding during her free time. Her motivation to excel led her to complete her postgraduate work and Ph.D. in Information Science from the University of Chicago.

Xerox PARC

Beginning as a laboratory and research assistant at Xerox PARC in 1973, Goldberg worked her way up to manager of the System Concepts Laboratory, where she and her coworkers developed Smalltalk-80, the programming language used to develop one of the first contemporary GUI (graphical user interfaces) with windows, menus, icons, and pointers. She and her colleagues revolutionized the concept of using hardware with the aid of system software.

ParcPlace Systems

In 1988, Goldberg co-founded ParcPlace Systems and assumed the role of CEO, building a corporation that provided tools for Smalltalk-based applications. She remained chairperson until 1995 when the company merged with DigiTalk.

Other Noteworthy Accomplishments

Goldberg received the ACM Software Systems Award in 1987, and was listed on Forbes‘ “Twenty Who Matter.” She was inducted as an Association for Computing Machinery fellow in 1994, and her work was commemorated with PC magazine’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 1996.

Along with Alan Kay, with whom she also developed Smalltalk-80, Goldberg wrote the influential article “Personal Dynamic Media,” predicting a scenario in which ordinary individuals would use notebook computers for personal media. In 1999, she also co-founded Neometron, Inc., an Internet support provider.

Ruchi Sanghvi

Ruchi Sanghvi, a renowned IT engineer, graduated from Carnegie Mellon University with a Masters in electrical computer engineering. In a field dominated by men, India-born Sanghvi became the first female engineer at Facebook Inc. in 2005. She went on to co-found Cove, which was later acquired by Dropbox, where she served as Vice President of Operations.

Facebook Inc.

Sanghvi is among a few key contributors to the initial versions of Facebook’s News Feed. Debuting in September 2006, the original design was a continually updated (algorithmically generated) summary of updates about one’s friends’ activity. At the time, the notion was relatively fresh, with Twitter having been released not long before. However, the concept was criticized greatly as it pertained to privacy. The backlash was addressed by the implementation of new privacy controls to limit the appearance of personal information in news feeds, which Sanghvi and other Facebook engineers built in a marathon 48-hour coding session.

In 2010, Sanghvi left Facebook to co-create Cove, a startup that was later sold to Dropbox.

Cove/Dropbox

After Cove folded into Dropbox, Sanghvi served as Dropbox’s Vice President of Operations, where she aided in product design, marketing, and communications. She resigned in October 2013. 

Other Noteworthy Accomplishments

Sanghvi co-founded South Park Commons in 2016 — a residential-meets-tech workspace located in San Francisco that can accommodate 26 to 30 people at once.

At present, she serves as an adviser and investor for many Silicon Valley startups, including Path, a privacy-focused photo-sharing service, and Asana, a workplace collaboration tool. She now serves on the board of UCSF and formerly served on the Paytm board of directors.

In 2011, Sanghvi obtained the TechFellow “Best Engineering Leadership Award” for her work at Facebook. She was also a featured speaker at HackMIT in 2018.

Grace Murray Hopper

A United States Navy Admiral and American computer scientist, Grace Murray Hopper is credited with developing the theory of machine-independent programming languages, which was the foundation for COBOL, an early high-level programming language that’s still widely used today.

Before she joined the Navy, Hopper attended Yale University, where she obtained a Ph.D. in mathematics. She was also a professor of mathematics at Vassar College. Though her efforts to enlist in the Navy during World War II failed due to her age, she joined the Navy Reserves, where she launched her computing career. She worked on the Harvard Mark I team in 1944, and in 1949, she was part of the team at Eckert-Mauchly that developed the UNIVAC I computer.

Eckert–Mauchly Computer Corporation

In 1954, Eckert-Mauchly tapped Hopper to head their automatic programming department, leading to the development of one of the first COBOL compilers. Her belief that an English-based programming language was not only feasible but attainable was vital to the program’s success, and her compiler converted English terms into computer-recognized machine code. During her wartime service, she co-authored three papers based on her work on the Harvard Mark 1.

Other Noteworthy Accomplishments

During her wartime Naval service, Hopper co-authored three papers based on her work on the Harvard Mark 1. A U.S. Navy guided-missile destroyer was named in her honor (the USS Hopper) as was the NERSC Cray XE6 “Hopper” supercomputer. She was presented with 40 honorary degrees from universities across the world, and a Yale University college was also renamed for her. She received the National Medal of Technology in 1991, and she was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2016.

Change is Gonna Come

Despite the ever-growing nature of the computer science and technology field — the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that computer science research jobs will grow by 19% as of 2026 — women only hold a small percentage of the roles available. With that said, women continue to infuse the industry with innovation. From tech giants like Google and Apple to niche security companies and software development, women are moving the needle on groundbreaking research and technological advances that will resonate for centuries to come. The narrative has only just begun!

Looking for even more inspiration? Learn about one of the most well-known women in technology, American Mathematician Katherine Johnson, whose work was essential for the success of several major NASA missions.

  • U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Available here: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/computer-and-information-research-scientists.htm
  • Britannica Available here: https://www.britannica.com/biography/Marissa-Mayer
  • Wikipedia Available here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shafi_Goldwasser
  • Wikipedia Available here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grace_Hopper