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Courtesy of NPR:

It’s perhaps the unlikeliest symphony orchestra in the world — an all-female ensemble from a strict Muslim society where it’s often dangerous for young women to step outside of their homes unescorted. It’s called Zohra — the name of a music goddess in Persian literature, according to its founder. Watch the video below and read the rest of the article here.

Those of us with careers in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM fields, in today’s common parlance) know the importance of truths revealed by numbers. How can it be, then, that so many people in our numbers-based fields are inured to the deep disappointment I feel regarding statistics on gender disparities in STEM-related jobs?

Read the rest of the article by clicking here.

It goes without saying that women are a rarity in tech. If you look at the list of the greatest programmers of all time, they are almost entirely filled with white men.

Most of us don’t realise that beginning with Ada Lovelace, the daughter of Lord Byron and the founder of scientific computing as we know it, women have been part of the tech industry ever since its inception. In fact, there have been many women who made extraordinary careers in the field and pushed the tech industry forward, but whose stories never made it to the public and their achievements have been undermined due to sexism.

Here are three great pioneers that clearly demonstrate the importance of women in tech and its history.

Radia Perlman

Known as the ‘Mother of the Internet’, Radia Perlman is one of the people without whose work the Internet as we know it wouldn’t exist. She is responsible for inventing the spanning tree protocol (STP) which is key to the functioning of network bridges.

The protocol prevents repeating information and action when the network is shared by one or more machines. That problem is also known as bridge looping.

Perlman doesn’t like her nickname because she believes that the Internet couldn’t have been created by a single individual, but rather by the collective effort of dispersed groups of people who looked for similar solutions at the same time.

But Perlman’s upbringing certainly played a role in her contributions to the tech industry – her mother was a programmer. An MIT graduate, Perelman registered more than a hundred patents for all kinds of technologies.

Hedy Lamarr

A look at Hedy Lamarr would never make you think that she could be the inventor behind the spread spectrum technology. Lamarr was a movie star and beauty icon in the 1930s. But that’s just one side of her public persona. The other was hidden from sight for many years.

Not many people know that there was more to Lamarr than amazing looks.

She was also an inventor and engineer. In fact, one of her inventions allowed to create an unbreakable code that would prevent classified messages from being intercepted by the enemy.

The machine regulated radiofrequency at irregular intervals between the transmission and reception, helping the US military at the time and building the foundation of the modern spread spectrum communication technologies (think Bluetooth), the CNDA (used in wireless telephones), or COFDM (used in Wi-Fi network connections).

But Lamarr wasn’t recognized for her achievement until much later and even today her inventions are casually dismissed even if they are widely used.

Betty Holberton and the ENIAC Six

The ENIAC (Electronic Numerical Integrator And Computer) might not sound familiar but it was in fact the very first general-purpose digital computer. It was built for a project carried out by the US Army as part of the secret World War II project.

The computer was developed at a time when the field has not been masculinized yet and women were welcomed to assist with the war efforts. In fact, they often served as the so-called operating calculating machines.

That’s how a group of six women later called the ENIAC girls was recruited by a male engineers to assist in the programming of the computer. These women learned how to program without any kind of tools or books on the subject. By the time they finished their work, the machine was able to run ballistics tragic story in mere seconds.

One of the ENIAC programmers, Betty Holberton, insisted that they introduce a stop instruction in the machine. It was initially dismissed, but she managed to convince the supervising engineer that the programmer needs such an instruction. Today we know she was right.

When the computer was unveiled to the public in 1946, the female programmers remained in the background, invisible.

Considering the long history of women in technology, it’s hard to believe that female engineers still make up for the minor part in today’s workforce. Even if they manage to rise to executive positions or create breathtaking inventions, their achievements are often still undervalued.

Luckily, the involvement of female programmers and other specialists in technological development expands proportionately to the scientific progress. For example, many women are active in cutting-edge areas such as VR or artificial intelligence. It is our obligation to support the presence of women in tech and keep a close eye on the activities of those who are now leading the tech industry toward its future.

©2017, Thomas Raynott.

Thomas is an app developer at Ready4s and a fan of everything tech-related. He is also interested in the correspondences between technological history and gender bias. When he isn’t working on new apps he likes to share his views by writing articles.

If you think of racing drivers down the ages, they are invariably male. Fangio, Moss, Clark, Senna, Schumacher are names that spring to mind, but perhaps one of the most scintillating drivers of the 20th century was a French lady by the name of Hellé Nice. While Nice was a very successful racing driver, her extraordinary life covered much more than just pushing herself to the limit in a Bugatti, and the story of this illustrious woman’s life reads like the most colourful of stories.

Born to Be a Celebrity

Mariette Hélène Delangle was born in a small village outside Paris in 1900. She changed her name to Hellé Nice at the age of sixteen when she moved to the city and made a living selling saucy photographs to tourists. It didn’t take long for Hellé to move on to the theatre and by 1920 she was one of the best known acts in Paris. She partnered a renowned male dancer called Robert Lisset and her dancing career bloomed, bringing her a substantial income and a celebrity lifestyle.

It was while she was a celebrity dancer that she really got the motor racing bug. Hellé had loved the sport ever since her father had taken her to meetings as a girl of three, and she found the thrill of racing intoxicating. As a household name, Hellé had friends who helped introduce her to the racing world and she embraced it with an aggressive vitality.

A Racing Certainty

While still a celebrated dancer, she started entering celebrity races, which were popular in France at that time. The “Championnat des Artistes“, held every year at Parc des Princes, was the biggest of these and attracted celebrities. Hellé entered and found a new thrill to pursue. She had her first experience in mainstream motorsport in 1928, when she entered the Journée Féminine de l’Automobile at Montlhéry, driving a Citroen, and soon moved on to Bugattis and Alfa Romeos.

That lifestyle also brought her to the attention of European nobility, including the Rothschild family. Hellé famously had an affair with Philippe de Rothschild and, unmarried and essentially a free spirit, she made the most of life by taking a string of lovers. Whether her lovers were married or not didn’t concern her; it was all about fun and the thrill of the chase! At the onset of war, she moved to the South for France and enjoyed life as much as she could under occupation.

Decline and Fall

Her downfall was abrupt, and may well have been centered on jealousy at her luxurious wartime lifestyle from those in her extensive social group, but probably also driven by the fear that some in the racing world had for her enviable skills behind the wheel. In 1949, fellow racing driver, Louis Chiron, publicly accused her of being a wartime Nazi collaborator and possible even a Gestapo agent and, though now considered unfounded, it effectively destroyed her career. Disgraced, she spent the next few years of her life destitute and living under an assumed name in a charity-provided flat in the southern city of Nice. She died, penniless and without friends in 1984, forgotten by her former lovers and peers, a shadow of the woman who had so much zest for life.

Hellé Nice led an extraordinary life, but made it all the more remarkable by the fact that she didn’t necessarily covet fame and fortune; she simply existed in her own interminable way and fame and fortune sought her out. With a personality larger than the glittering life she led, Hellé Nice was a true force in the extravagant world she was part of, and an intrepid venturer into men’s realm. Unlike the girls from today’s Pirelli Calendar, she more than looked well next to a car: she had a power over it. Her figure still inspires women today and provides an excellent counter argument in the biased discussion on the superiority of male driving. The conviction that men are more skilled drivers than women have been present in the public awareness for decades. Hellé Nice was definitely one of these women who prove how wrong this stereotype is.

About The Author

Giles Kirkland is a car tyres expert at Oponeo, as well as a motorization fan and a committed writer. He is also interested in the problems of masculinity and femininity, and in gender studies. He enjoys sharing his views with Internet readers.

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Once again, we are celebrating the event that inspired us to start this website “Women’s History Month”.  The Library of Congress, National Archives and Records Administration, National Endowment for the Humanities, National Gallery of Art, National Park Service, Smithsonian Institution and United States Holocaust Memorial Museum join in commemorating and encouraging the study, observance and celebration of the vital role of women in American history.

The Women’s History Month website has a new photographic exhibit that you must see.  It’s called “Women of Protest: Photographs from the Records of the National Woman’s Party “.

Take a look and let us know what you think!