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Past and present: women leading digital transformation

The past and present of digital transformation have been led by a key group of women – who are they?
Past and present: women leading digital transformation

With more people than ever online, we are currently living in a period of accelerated modernity. While this process involves a wealth of knowledge from all corners of the globe, we must not overlook the role of female leaders in digital transformation.

Digital transformation can trace its origins back to the beginning of computer programming, wherein applications and software receive instructions from meticulously-crafted code. History’s first computer program is recognized as having been written in 1843 by Ada Lovelace, an English mathematician and writer.

Although a woman was a key pioneer of this fundamental pillar of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), women leaders in these fields still do not receive the recognition that their efforts merit. What’s more, women account for a mere 19.9% of professional roles in science and engineering. This lack of representation is also reflected in positions of leadership, with women occupying one third of these influential roles at the world’s 20 largest technology companies.

At Kyocera, innovation fueled by a pioneering spirit is what motivates us. In order to inspire a greater number of future pioneers and close the gender gap in digital transformation, we feel it’s important to share the contributions that women in the past and present have made and are making towards our advancements in technology and innovation.

Female pioneers in computer science

The success of digital transformation relies on computer-based technology, meaning computer scientists are an invaluable resource for organizations seeking to make the seamless switch to digital. Many of history’s most prominent computer scientists have been women who can continue to inspire future generations.

One example of such a computer programmer is Admiral Grace Murray Hopper. Born in 1906, Hopper studied mathematics and physics and received a master’s degree and a Ph.D. in mathematics from Yale. After joining the U.S. Naval Reserve, she began to work on the United States’ first electromechanical computer. In the early 1950s, she developed software that was capable of translating mathematical code into code a machine could read, a turning point in the history of modern computer programming. Hopper was also influential in making computers accessible to a wider portion of the population by creating the first computer programing language that could use word commands. A pioneer in computer programming languages and increasing the accessibility of this vital field, Hopper was a leader of digital transformation.

The field of computer science also owes a debt to Sister Mary Kenneth Keller, who was born in 1913. The first American woman to receive a Ph.D. in computer science, she developed the high-level BASIC programming language. Similar to Hopper, her contributions to the field of computer science included making this field more accessible. She was also enthusiastic about the importance computers would have in a digital centric future, making her work a key step towards the digital transformation we are experiencing in the present.

These are women that inspire new generations of pioneers.”

The women leaders of NASA

As a leading institution of science and technology, it is unsurprising that women leaders of digital transformation have also made their mark at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

One such figure was Katherine Johnson, an American mathematician who calculated the trajectories for NASA’s first human spaceflight in 1961. Born as the first World War was coming to a close in 1918, Johnson was one of the key minds behind NASA’s early endeavors. As one of the first African American women employed as a NASA scientist, Johnson is a clear and inspirational role model for young women and girls considering a career in STEM and digital transformation.

Another woman to whom NASA and modern science are indebted is Annie Easley, a rocket scientist, mathematician, and computer scientist born in 1933. Similar to Katherine Johnson, she was a human computer completing calculations by hand at NASA. As digital transformation began to accelerate and machines were being used for calculations, Easley transferred her skills to the field of computer programming. Towards the end of her career, she became an Equal Employment Opportunity Counselor, helping to eliminate gender, race and age discrimination, and boost equality. Her efforts to make technology a more diverse and welcoming space for people of all backgrounds laid the foundations for today’s women leaders of digital transformation, and continue to inspire the leaders and technological minds of today.

Female figureheads of modern digital transformation

As well as recognizing the leaps made by women in the past, we can also highlight the successes of women pushing digital transformation to new limits in the present.

One of the core elements of digital transformation in recent years has been an increase in the use and development of mobile applications. One of these applications is Bumble, where Kyra Seay is a Project Leader and Head of Innovation. Through her work as part of the Diversity and Inclusion Committee, she is one of the leaders who is creating a more inclusive online experience for women. If women have more access to safe spaces online, their role in digital transformation and involvement in technology will increase. It's thanks to the work of women such as Kyra Seay that the next generation of women leaders will have role models to whom they can look up when considering a career in digital innovation.

These future leaders of technology will be able to find support at Girls Who Code, an organization founded by Reshma Saujani that is dedicated to closing the digital gender gap. By encouraging more young women to study computer science, this organization aims to achieve gender parity in entry-level technology jobs by 2030. Through engaging online resources and campaigns, and by creating a welcoming community that values diversity, Saujani’s organization is making bold strides in the present to boost gender equality in the future of digital transformation.

The digital world needs more women leaders

The world of digital transformation is on its way to becoming a more balanced, diverse field that will bring great change in the future. By granting greater recognition to the women in both the past and present who have made a difference in digital transformation, we can inspire future leaders and bring gender equality closer to the present.

Championing women in tech

Let’s educate ourselves to create a more inclusive and fairer world where women can thrive.

  • Kyocera’s commitment to supporting women in tech

    Read about Kyocera’s philosophy and its various initiatives for promoting women’s inclusion and empowerment in the workplace.

  • Now is the time to get more women into tech

    Find out what are the challenges for women in tech and how to create more opportunities for women in the digital era.

  • Creating a safe space for women in tech

    Discover how management teams can help to forge a gender equal and inclusive work culture.

  • Kyocera is a great place to work

    We’ve been certified as a Great Place to Work for a second consecutive year. Kyocera always puts it people first.

  • Motivating the next generation of women leaders

    Find out how to involve more women in STEM and the importance of boosting female representation.

  • Why digital transformation needs more women

    Discover how to achieve a more inclusive digital transformation and the benefits of more women joining STEM.

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