When asked about diversity in STEM fields, Radia Perlman, the sensational computer scientist behind the STP algorithm (which paved the way for the Internet), said, "The kind of diversity that I think really matters isn’t skin shade and body shape, but different ways of thinking."
During her time at MIT, only around 5 percent of people in her 1000-strong class were women, with places limited by the size of the women’s dorm.
Today, such arbitrary restrictions are no longer an obstacle to women entering STEM skill sets, yet there remains a pervasive sentiment that women are still underrepresented in these industries.
Whether this is due to a lack of opportunity, direct opposition, or even preconceptions about the controversy itself is a point of considerable debate, and certainly all of these factors play a part.
Nevertheless, despite absurd suggestions that it is against their nature to pursue such careers, the women of STEM continue to pioneer, shaping the futures of their respective fields, and inspiring the rest of us to get out there and find our own path in the ever-expanding world of 21st century tech.
Here’s a brief introduction to six high-flying scientists, mathematicians, engineers, and innovators making their mark on every corner of the globe.
Formerly Assistant Professor of Computer Science at Vrije Universiteit, and a pioneer of research into RFID security, Dr. Melanie Rieback went on to become Co-Founder and CEO of Radically Open Security, heralded as the world’s first non-profit computer security consultancy company.
During her career, she has overseen the development of numerous ambitious technologies including ING Bank’s Core Threat Intelligence Project, and is widely seen as one of the most successful and inspiring women in tech in the Netherlands.
As with many of her peers, Dr. Rieback has also played her part in encouraging more women to get involved in STEM fields. In 2008 she co-founded the Girl Geek Dinner NL, a networking organisation that helps women learn more about all areas of science and technology, and meet others who share their interests.
Based in New York, entrepreneur and tech maven Helen Situ has been described as a “visionary leader in strategic marketing and product design”. After becoming the fourth employee of leading virtual reality enterprise, NextVR, she has become one of the most ardent champions of AR and VR technologies, with her breadth of knowledge and passion for the subject making her an incredibly influential figure within her industry.
In 2016, she founded Virtual Reality Pop, a growing publication exploring developing VR technologies and celebrating breakthroughs within the field. She also sits on the advisory board for SXSW Accelerator, helping them find the latest AR and VR startups to participate in exhibitions and conferences around the world.
Director of Hong Kong Computer Society Foundation, Candy Liu began her tech career working for international giants, such as BT, HP, and EMC, after graduating from a degree in Electronic Engineering. She now works as General Manager for HKC Technology. and is a member of the Steering Committee for The Women’s Foundation, Hong Kong.
In 2015, TWFHK launched its Girls Go Tech programme, which aims to provide more opportunities for girls in Hong Kong to learn about and pursue a future in STEM fields. Candy is also Vice-Chairlady of the Hong Kong Computer Society’s FACE Club, an ICT club for women, which is the first of its kind in the region, and now has around 2,000 members.
So when she’s not busy influencing business development throughout East Asia, Candy devotes her knowledge and experience to helping other women find their place in STEM industries.
Based in Melbourne, Australia, Vanessa Doake and Ally Watson are the co-founders of Code Like a Girl, an organisation dedicated to providing advice, education, and support to women with an interest in coding and technology. Their team of 15 women, from a variety of STEM backgrounds, work to bring together women of all levels of experience at a variety of workshops and events throughout Australia.
Ally has been named by the Sydney Morning Herald as “one of Australia’s nine most influential female entrepreneurs of 2017”, and she and her team have received a range of awards celebrating their impact on Tech Diversity.
Vanessa also champions the cause of gender equality as a committee member for the Diversity Network of the Australian Human Resource Institute, and heads HR and Operations at the Women's Legal Service, Victoria.
With an MEng in Electrical and Computer Engineering, an MSc in Robotics, and a PhD in Medical Robotics, Dr. Antonia Tzemanaki is one of the leading authorities in her field.
Based at UWE and the Bristol Robotics Laboratory, where she lectures in Mechatronics, her work focuses on the development of wearable human robot interaction systems, for the facilitation of robot-assisted surgery.
In her spare time, she also runs the Bristol Women In Robotics group, a local branch of the global Women In Robotics organisation. This group aims to improve networking and learning opportunities for women interested in robotics, and to help increase the visibility of these women and their work within the industry.
As more women enter STEM fields, and those already working in related industries begin to pave the way for the next generation, the future looks bright. In the meantime, it’s important to continue promoting equality of opportunity within all areas of education and employment.
A large part of this will hinge on conducting qualitative research on the reasons individuals choose to enter STEM fields or not, and on the recruitment strategies that can help new talent find their niche, regardless of their background.
How does your firm measure up? Have you noticed a lack of gender diversity within your industry? Please take a few moments to participate in our gender diversity in STEM survey, and check back in the future to see the results.