12 Famous Female Programmers & Women in Tech (Who Will Inspire You)

Are you interested in programming and the exceptional achievements of women in the tech industry? In this blog post, we’ll introduce you to some of the most famous female programmers of all time and highlight their groundbreaking contributions to the field of computer science.   

Programming is a complex and fascinating field that has revolutionized our world. Even though they don’t dominate it now, many female programmers have significantly contributed to it. Did you know that the first programmer was a woman? Or that a woman developed the first compiler, a program that turns code into instructions for a computer? There are more exciting firsts waiting for you in this blog. Now, let’s meet some of the most fascinating female programmers.

Ada Lovelace

No list of the most famous female programmers is complete without Ada Lovelace. Born in 1815, she was a mathematician and writer considered the world’s first computer programmer 

She worked closely with Charles Babbage on his Analytical Engine and is credited with writing the first algorithm intended to be processed by a machine. This made her one of the most important female programmers in history.   

Grace Hopper

Grace Hopper was a computer scientist and United States Navy Rear Admiral, born in 1906. She is known for her work on developing the first compiler, which translated source code into machine code. Her work paved the way for modern programming languages. That’s why her nickname is “Amazing Grace.”  

One famous story about Hopper involves her work on the Mark II computer, one of the first large-scale electronic computers. One day in 1947, the Mark II computer stopped working. The operators discovered a moth trapped in one of the machine’s relays, causing it to malfunction. Hopper and her team removed the moth, and she is credited with coining the term “debugging” to refer to finding and fixing computer code errors.

Grace Jean Jennings Bartik

When Jean Jennings Bartik was hired as a human computer at the University of Pennsylvania, she decided to work smarter, not harder. She saw programming as a way to automate and streamline the calculations she had been completing by hand. And so, she worked tirelessly to make programming more efficient and accessible. The result? The ENIAC computer – one of the very first electronic computers built in the 1940s.

Bartik was responsible for programming the Ballistic Research Laboratory’s trajectory calculations for the United States Army during World War II. Her work proved critical to the war effort. So much so that it cemented her place as one of the most famous female programmers in history! 

In 2018, Bartik was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor in the United States. The award recognized her contributions to computing and pioneering work as a woman in a male-dominated field.

Mary Allen Wilkes

Mary Allen Wilkes was a computer programmer at MIT in the 1960s and one of the pioneers of personal computing. She and her team worked on the LINC personal computer and recognized the potential of personal computers for the masses. While big by today’s standards, its refrigerator-like size was groundbreaking back then. 

When the LINC team eventually relocated from MIT to St Luis, Wilkes asked if she could have one LINC computer shipped to her house. Her odd request was granted, so she became the world’s first remote employee. Later, she decided to go to Harvard Law School and become a lawyer. 

Annie Easley

Annie Easley was a mathematician and computer scientist who significantly contributed to aerospace engineering. Her groundbreaking work helped pave the way for future generations of women and people of color in STEM fields. 

Easley was born in Alabama in 1933 and grew up during a time of deep segregation and racial inequality. Despite these obstacles, she was determined to pursue her love of mathematics and science. First, she earned a degree in pharmacy. However, she soon realized her true passion was mathematics and computer programming. 

Easley began working at NASA‘s Lewis Research Center in Cleveland in 1955 when few women and people of color held technical roles. She quickly became an expert in computer programming. Then, she worked on various projects, including the Centaur rocket, which launched satellites into space. 

Radia Perlman

Radia Perlman, a computer scientist and network engineer, has made profound contributions to the structure of the internet through her invention of the Spanning Tree Protocol (STP). This protocol is vital for network bridges’ operation, enabling large networks like the internet to avoid loop problems and efficiently manage data paths. Dubbed the “Mother of the Internet,” Perlman’s work has been instrumental in the development of modern networking.

Beyond STP, she has contributed to many other areas of network design and standardization, such as link-state protocols. With over 100 issued patents, Perlman’s innovations continue to influence the foundational technologies that keep the internet running smoothly. Her dedication to simplifying complex systems and making technology more accessible makes her one of the most inspiring women in tech.

Lenore Blum

Lenore Blum is a visionary in the world of computer science and mathematics. Born in New York City to a family of educators, she earned her Bachelor of Science in mathematics at Simmons College and her Ph.D. in mathematics at MIT. Eventually, she worked as a professor of computer science at Carnegie Mellon University and the University of California, Berkeley. 

Blum is known for her pioneering contributions to real number computation, cryptography, and pseudorandom number generation theories. But her accomplishments go beyond these contributions to computer science and mathematics. She also: 

  • Founded the mathematics and computer science department at Mills College 
  • Served as the third president of the Association for Women in Mathematics 
  • Founded the Women@SCS program at Carnegie Mellon University to help increase the number of women majoring in computer science 

Last but not least, she was awarded the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Mentoring in 2005 and inducted into the inaugural class of the Association for Women in Mathematics Fellows in 2017.

Carol Shaw

Carol Shaw remains a titan in the world of video game programming. She started in the industry in the late 1970s when she joined Atari as one of the first female game developers.  

She went on to create some of the most popular and groundbreaking games of the era, including River Raid and Video Checkers. Her work helped pave the way for other women in tech and inspired a generation of game designers. 

The next time you pick up a video game, take a moment to appreciate the groundbreaking work of Carol Shaw and other women who helped shape the industry we know today. 

Hedy Lamarr

Born in Vienna, Austria, in 1914, Hedy Lamarr was not only a renowned Hollywood actress but also a brilliant inventor. While she gained fame on the silver screen in the 1930s and 1940s, her most significant contribution to technology was her co-invention with composer George Antheil of a frequency-hopping spread spectrum technology.

This invention was initially designed to prevent the jamming of radio-controlled torpedoes during World War II. Though the U.S. Navy did not adopt the technology until later, its principles became foundational for the development of modern wireless communications, including Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and GPS.

Kimberly Bryant

As a young girl, Kimberly Bryant didn’t see many people who looked like her in the world of technology. But instead of letting that discourage her, she did something about it. She founded Black Girls Code, a non-profit organization that empowers young girls from underrepresented communities to become the next generation of tech leaders. 

Since its founding in 2011, Black Girls Code has become a force for change in the tech industry. Through workshops, summer camps, and after-school programs, the organization has introduced thousands of girls to programming, robotics, and other technical skills.  

In addition to her work with Black Girls Code, Bryant is also a biotech engineer who has also worked in various technical roles in the corporate world. She has a background in electrical engineering and computer science. 

Bryant’s work is making a real difference in young girls’ lives, inspiring a new generation of female programmers to follow in her footsteps. 

Bukola Ayodele

Bukola Ayodele is a software developer and content creator making waves in the tech industry. With experience working for companies like Kensho Technologies and Google, she’s proven to be a top-notch engineer with a creative side. Besides writing code, she’s also passionate about sharing her insights on personal finance and her experiences as a tech worker through social media platforms like YouTube, TikTok, and Instagram. 

With an audience of over 300,000 people, Bukola’s unique perspective on these topics clearly resonates with others. Whether she’s sharing tips on budgeting or giving a behind-the-scenes look at life as a developer, Bukola is helping to demystify the tech world and make it more accessible to everyone. 

But it’s not just her content that’s inspiring – it’s also her achievements as a programmer. Bukola is a force to be reckoned with in software development, with skills in Python, Java, and other key technologies. Her work at Google Cloud as a Developer Relations Engineer proves she’s an exceptional engineer and an advocate for the power of technology.

Megan Smith

Megan Smith has been a formidable force in the tech industry, serving as the United States’ third Chief Technology Officer (CTO) under President Barack Obama from 2014 to 2017. Before her tenure as CTO, Smith was a vice president at Google. She has also been a part of the team at General Magic, which created early precursors to the modern smartphone. As CTO of the United States, Smith focused on technology policy, data science, and innovation for the nation, promoting inclusivity and diversity in STEM fields. Her work emphasized the importance of bringing a broader array of voices and perspectives into the tech industry to drive better outcomes for society.

Maya Bello 

Maya Bello is a woman of many talents. Not only is she a software engineer at companies like Intuit, but she’s also a passionate YouTuber and coding instructor. With a degree in computer science from the University of California, Maya has dedicated herself to explaining the world of programming to laypeople. Her work at Intuit on the QuickBooks Live service is just one example of how she’s using her technical skills to make a real difference. 

But what sets Maya apart is her commitment to teaching and inspiring others. Whether volunteering at non-profits like StreetCode or creating online communities for Black programmers, Maya is always looking for ways to give back and help others  begin their coding journeys. Her YouTube channel is a treasure trove of educational and motivational videos, and her infectious enthusiasm for tech will surely inspire anyone interested in programming. 

A Recap on the Most Famous Female Programmers

The women programmers in this blog have all contributed to computer science. Their work has paved the way for future generations of women in tech. It reminds us that gender should not be a barrier to success in computer science.  

It’s important to continue to recognize and celebrate the work of female programmers and advocate for diversity in the tech industry. By doing so, we can help create a more inclusive and innovative tech community that will benefit everyone.  

So, let’s continue supporting the work of female programmers and encourage more women to pursue careers in tech!