HERstory: Grace Hopper

Have you ever thought about beginning of the computer era? What was the origin idea? Who was the creator of technology we use nowadays? Have you ever thought that some women could be co-creators of this very big idea of computers and programming? Here is a story of one of them.

HERstory 1A great example of women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) space is Grace Hopper. Grace was an American computer scientist and US Navy rear admiral. She was born in 1906 and died in 1992 at age 85. She had always been a very curious child. Maybe that’s why she applied for an early admission to Vassar university, but at that time was rejected. However, she was admitted the next year and graduated with a degree in Math and Physics. After that, she proceeded to Yale University, where in 1934 she earned a PH.D, becoming one of the first few women with such a degree. She helped to develop multiple computer languages. She was teaching at Vassar University until the II World War, when she joined U.S. Naval Reserve. With her mathematical background, she was assigned the Bureau of Ordnance Computation Project at Harvard University, where she learned to program a Mark I computer. After the war, she was still a researcher at Harvard University, but she wanted to try herself in private industry. That led her to Eckert-Mauchly Computer Corporation and then to Remington Rand, where, together with her team, created first compiler for computer languages. Her idea of translating mathematical notation into machine code hadn’t been approved at the beginning. She needed to wait 3 years until her idea could be established and it happened. In 1952, COBOL, a computer language for data processors, used today in data processing had it own very big start. She highly contributed to the world of programming and computer technology.

She was awarded by many honoured institutions and organization. Her name is a symbol of new technology and she is considered as one of the first programmers of the modern computing age.

alexander-andrews-fsH1KjbdjE8-unsplashGrace Hopper is absolutely amazing example of human curiosity and potential. In fact, she is a symbol of many more women in science, who were not marked enough in the history. She is also an icon for many women in STEM nowadays and many more who cannot contribute to this field because of some social prejudices and stereotypes. Although there have been decades of fighting for gender equality in workplaces, we still observe some absence of women in the field of science. According to UN database, only 30% of the world’s researchers are women. Only 17% of people working in STEM across Europe are female and only 5% of leadership positions in the tech industry are held by women. Explanations for low representation of women in STEM are many. Firstly, discrimination in the science or engineering field is still present. Males are still considered as more competent and hirable than females, despite the same preparation and skills. According to researches. Secondly, there are still many stereotypes about typical men and women job preferences and predispositions. The stereotypical scientist or individual in another STEM profession is usually thought to be male.

Women also miss a role model in this field. It is still surprising, especially while we are observing a big increase of women performance on academic level. Visible inequality was observed by United Nations and one of the very big global projects of UNESCO is SAGA (The STEM and Gender Advancement). There are also many organizations who fight for gender equality in STEM field, because, as they’ve noticed, there is a huge need of this particular women performance. “Boys club” image should be stopped, because technology sector plays a huge role in designing our future. That’s why diversity and equality are essential if we want to make it comprehensively and consciously.

Grace Hopper used to say: “People have an enormous tendency to resist change. They love to say, ‘We’ve always done it this way.’ I try to fight that.”. Let’s try to make it in a new way then.

Wiktoria Moritz




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