How Female Coders Are Making Waves in the Software Development World
The software development world is still largely a male-dominated environment, with a higher percentage of men than women pursuing careers in programming. Still, that doesn’t mean that women don’t have – and have had – a significant impact on the software industry.
The mother of programming
You may not be aware that the very first computer programmer is widely considered to be a lady by the name of Ada Lovelace. She was the first person to create an algorithm for Charles Babbage’s Analytical Engine back in 1842 when calculators were still mechanical, and the programming language “Ada” was named after her.
Women are shaking up the IT industry
We’ve since seen many breakthrough achievements in IT, driven by female coders and engineers. Examples include the software for the Apollo programme, computerised telephone exchanges, the first computer dating system, the fore-runner of the DNS (Domain Name System), C64 Direct-to-TV, Blue Pill root kit and many more.
These days, many IT employers are shifting from a simple view of “improving the gender balance” by spot-recruiting women, and instead understanding the true meaning of inclusion and natural diversity. Here at One Beyond, we have a growing community of female testers and coders and are actively recruiting for more women with complementing skillsets to enhance our team.
There are certain areas where we are seeing women play a particularly strong part in transforming the IT industry and the way we look at female coders and developers. We have listed some of the most notable areas and contributors here.
- Jade Raymond, once the production driver behind the first Assassin’s Creed game at Ubisoft, is now a VP at Electronic Arts. She headed up the team that introduced Sims Online and is now responsible for several high profile games, including Star Wars, and is a highly regarded industry authority.
- Another professional games programmer, Corrinne Yu, was involved in creating the legendary King’s Quest series of computer games. She was responsible for building the code behind Quake 2, and developed groundbreaking dynamic lighting algorithms for Halo which were later patented by Microsoft. (Beyond working on games, Yu was also involved in space shuttle programming, and did research into nuclear physics which won her an award from the US Department of Energy.)
- In the gaming world, Amanda Wixted is also a familiar name. Her team at Skilljam created 10 multiplayer games before she went on to work at Namco, resurrecting several classic games like PacMan and Dig-Dug by making them available on mobile devices. She later became a developer at Zynga and developed part of the server gameplay for PetVille. Her games legacy also includes titles like LivePoker, Farmville and Mafia wars – all of which helped to drive the huge success of gaming communities on social media.
If you use software for graphics and design, you will most likely be familiar with names like Adobe’s Shockwave Server, Flash Video and Flash Media Server, all titles which have featured Sarah Allen on the development team. She eventually founded the company that created Adobe After Effects.
Sarah was also a key driving force in building OpenLazlo, which is a framework for developing web apps. She now devotes some of her time to boosting the representation of women in technology through her role as president of Railsbridge.
Similarly, Linda Liukas from Helsinki, Finland, is an active champion for female developers. She was the co-founder of an initiative to encourage more women into coding, which is now active in 227 countries. She believes that women make gifted coders because they are “creative and brilliant communicators”. She also founded Rails Girls, a non-profit organisation run by volunteers who teach women how to build web apps.
After being introduced to the programming language Ruby at Stanford University, Linda began to creatively visualise coding principles as an aid to understanding code by drawing pictures. This eventually became the “Hello Ruby” book series – helping young people learn to script.
- Tracy Chou from New York is a highly regarded software engineer with experience of working with heavyweight social platforms like Quora, Google, Facebook – and Pinterest, where she became Technical Lead. In her own words she says “Most of the time I drink coffee and I write code.” Beyond her own development career, Tracy dedicated some of her time to evaluate statistics about women in technology and became a founding member of Project Include. She has been featured in Vogue and Wired because of her advocacy to increase the ratio of women in technology companies.
- Gina Trapani is another example of a coder who has made an impact on social media. She founded the LifeHacker blog and wrote A Guide to Google Wave. She is the creator of the popular task list app ToDo, and also developed an app called ThinkUp which helps people analyse their online posts and review how they navigate social networks through mindfulness, awareness and behavioural change. Gina is currently working on developing Think Tank, a web-based platform dealing with crowdsourcing.
- The “Twitter culture” is a phenomenon where another woman, Sarah Haider is often mentioned as a key figure. She spent several years as Staff Software Engineer at Twitter, developing Twitter and Vine for Android. She’s made a solid impact on the uptake of Android through Java development for Android and various mobile platforms.
Open Source Software
- In the Open Source world, Danese Cooper holds a special position. After being the CTO of Wikimedia and a massive advocate of Open Source, she was nicknamed the “Open Source Diva”. She serves as a member of the Apache Software Foundation and was the chief evangelist for Open Source at Sun Microsystems. She has held multiple key leadership roles in computer science and led teams at Symantec and Apple, eventually becoming a Senior Director at Intel. She now works with Open Source at PayPal, as a Distinguished Member of Technical Staff.
- Laura Thomson, a Senior Software Engineer at Mozilla, is another strong advocate for Free and Open Source Software. She wrote the book “PHP and MySQL Web Development” which went on to become the best-selling Open Source book of all time. She has been a powerful inspiration for many aspiring developers in the Open Source community.
These few examples are just a snapshot of all the women developers we now see driving a strong gender shift in the IT industry. One Beyond and many other software vendors like us want to be part of supporting this movement in order to improve the workplaces, the solutions and – ultimately – the customer experience.