Famous Women in Computer Science (revised)

An updated and expanded web resource based on this was published on 8 March 2012 (International Women’s Day): “Famous Women in Computer Science”.

My original Famous Women in Computer Science list was getting messy with all of the late additions, so I put it into surname alphabetical order and am re-posting it here. This list started in 19 November 2009 but with so many additions in email and comments, it keeps growing.

One purpose of this list is to encourage readers to go to awards web sites (like that of the RAISE Project), think about women who should be considered, and then organize a nomination. Awards often go begging for lack of good nominations and a great woman is often overlooked because no one mentioned her name or took the time to build her case. Increased focus is needed on awards going to great technical women at every stage in their careers.

Read more about The Value of Awards in my 1 October 2009 blog entry
about our Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing (GHC09) panel by that name.

The following list is uneven and I am sure there are many more who should be added but here is what I have so far. Additions and edits are very welcome.

Criteria for inclusion:

  • Must be a woman working in Computer Science with a remarkable history both of success and of public acknowledgment beyond her home organization.
  • Pioneers and originators get extra credit and may have much-delayed public acknowledgment.
  • Extra credit for being a CTO, CEO, President, or founder of a technical company.

Famous Women in Computer Science

  • Frances E. Allen, 1st female IBM Fellow, 1st female recipient of ACM’s A. M. Turing Award 2006, WITI Hall of Fame 1997, IEEE Fellow 1991, ACM Fellow 1994
  • Betsy Ancker-Johnson, 1st observation of microwave emission without the presence of an external field (1967), Fellow American Physical Society, Fellow American Association for the Advancement of Science, Fellow Society of Automotive Engineers, IEEE Fellow, Member National Academy of Engineering
  • Carol Bartz, President and CEO of Yahoo! (starting in 2009), previously
    Chairman, President, and CEO at Autodesk (1992-2009), WITI Hall of Fame 1997
  • Lenore Blum, Distinguished Career Professor of Computer Science, Carnegie Mellon University
  • Anita Borg, founding director of the Institute for Women and Technology (IWT), which became the Anita Borg Institute, EFF Pioneer Award 1995, WITI Hall of Fame 1998, ACM Fellow 1996
  • Cynthia Breazeal, pioneer of social robotics at MIT Media Lab, US Office of Naval Research (ONR) Young Investigators Award
  • Safra A. Catz, President Oracle Corporation since 2004, CFO Oracle since 2005, Member Oracle Board since 2001
  • Lynn Conway, Mead & Conway revolution in VLSI design, invention of generalised dynamic instruction handling, IEEE Fellow 1985, Society of Women Engineers Achievement Award 1990
  • Susan Dumais, leadership in bridging the fields of information retrieval and human computer interaction, ACM Fellow 2006, ACM SIGIR Salton Award 2009-lifetime achievement in IR
  • Carly Fiorina, CEO Hewlett-Packard 1999-2005
  • Adele Goldberg, co-developer of Smalltalk at Xerox Palo Alto Research Center, ACM President 1984, ACM Fellow 1994
  • Adele Goldstine, authored the Manual for the ENIAC in 1946
  • Shafi Goldwasser, RSA Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at MIT, and of computer science and applied mathematics at Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel, ACM Grace Murray Hopper Award 1996
  • Diane Greene, VMWare co-founder and CEO (1998-2008)
  • Irene Greif, IBM Fellow, 1st woman to earn a PhD in computer science at MIT, MIT Professor of electrical engineering and computer science, ACM Fellow, Association for the Advancement of Science Fellow, WITI Hall of Fame 2000
  • Helen Greiner, 1990-2008 Co-founder, Board Chair of iRobot, Anita Borg Institute Woman of Vision – Innovation award winner 2008, WITI Hall of Fame 2007
  • Wendy Hall, Professor of Computer Science, University of Southampton, UK, 2008 ACM President, 2009 Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE), 2009 elected a Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS)
  • Erna Schneider Hoover, as a researcher at Bell Laboratories, created a computerized switching system for telephone call traffic and earned one of the 1st software patents ever issued (1971), 1st first female supervisor of a technical department at Bell Labs
  • Grace Murray Hopper, developed the 1st compiler for a computer programming language, US Navy Rear Admiral, in 1973 became the 1st person from the USA and the 1st woman of any nationality to be made a Distinguished Fellow of the British Computer Society, IEEE Fellow 1962 (1st woman awarded), Society of Women Engineers Achievement Award 1964
  • Mary Jane Irwin, Evan Pugh Professorship Pennsylvania State University, ACM Distinguished Service Award, IEEE Fellow 1995, ACM Fellow 1996, National Academy of Engineering member 2003, 2005 ACM Distinguished Service Award, 2006 Computing Research Association Distinguished Service Award, 2007 Anita Borg Technical Leadership Award, American Academy of Arts and Sciences member 2009
  • Leah Jamieson, Anita Borg Institute Women of Vision Award – Social Impact 2007, IEEE Fellow 1993, Purdue University Dean of Engineering, IEEE President 2007
  • Mary Lou Jepsen, Founding Chief Technology Officer of One Laptop per Child (OLPC), Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Pixel Qi, WITI Hall of Fame 2008
  • Katherine Johnson, research mathematician and scientist who worked at NASA’s Langley Research Center 1953 to 1986, calculated the trajectory of the early space launches
  • Karen Spärck Jones, pioneer of the science behind information retrieval, ACM SIGIR Salton Award 1988, BCS Lovelace Medal 2007, the ACM-AAAI Allen Newell Award 2007
  • Augusta Ada King (Countess of Lovelace), 1843 wrote a description of Charles Babbage’s early mechanical general-purpose computer, the analytical engine. She is credited with being the 1st computer programmer.
  • Maria Klawe, 5th president of Harvey Mudd College (1st woman in that role), previously Dean of the School of Engineering and Applied Science at Princeton University, 2002 ACM President, ACM Fellow 1996
  • Sandra Kurtzig, founder and CEO of ASK computers (1972-1991)
  • Hedy Lamarr, co-invention of spread-spectrum broadcast communications technologies 1940, EFF Special Pioneer Award 1997
  • Susan Landau, Sun Microsystems Distinguished Engineer, Anita Borg Institute Woman of Vision – Social Impact award winner 2008, Fellow, American Association for the Advancement of Science, Distinguished Engineer Association for Computing Machinery
  • Barbara H. Liskov, Ford Professor of Engineering in the MIT School of Engineering’s Electrical Engineering and Computer Science department, Society of Women Engineers Achievement Award 1996, IEEE John von Neumann Medal 2004, 2nd woman to win ACM’s A. M. Turing Award 2008, 1st US woman to be awarded a PhD from a computer science department in 1968, ACM Fellow 1996
  • Kay McNulty, Betty Snyder, Marlyn Wescoff, Ruth Lichterman, Betty Jennings, and Fran Bilas, original programmers of the ENIAC starting in 1946, WITI Hall of Fame 1997
  • Evi Nemeth, Associate Professor Emeritus of Computer Science, University of Colorado, Co-author of the best-selling UNIX System Administration Handbook (Prentice Hall, 1995)
  • Ellen Ochoa, Dr. Ochoa has logged over 978 hours in space, earning the US Distinguished Service Medal, Exceptional Service Medal, Outstanding Leadership Medal, and four NASA Space Flight Medals. 1st Hispanic woman in space. She designed optical systems for Sandia National Laboratory and at NASA’s Ames Research Center developed computer systems designed for aeronautical expeditions. Deputy Director of the Johnson Space Center (Houston, TX)
  • Radia Perlman, the ‘Mother of the Internet’, 1st Sun Microsystems female Fellow, 1st Anita Borg Institute Woman of Vision – Innovation award winner 2005, IEEE Fellow 2008
  • Rosalind W. Picard, credited with starting the entire field of Affective Computing, MIT Director of Affective Computing Research, IEEE Fellow 2005
  • Jean E. Sammet, IBM computer languages FORMAC and COBOL, 1st woman ACM President 1974, ACM Fellow 1994
  • Lucy Sanders, CEO and Co-founder of the National Center for Women & Information Technology, Bell Labs Fellow Award (1996), WITI Hall of Fame (2007)
  • Barbara Simons, 1st woman to receive the Distinguished Engineering Alumni Award from the College of Engineering of U.C. Berkeley 2005, ACM Fellow 1993, EFF Pioneer Award 1998, ACM President 1998
  • Eva Tardos, Professor and Chair of Computer Science at Cornell University, ACM Fellow 1998
  • Janie Tsao Co-Founder of Linksys (1988-2003), 1st Anita Borg Institute Woman of Vision – Leadership award winner 2005
  • Sophie Vandebroek, Xerox Chief Technology Officer, IEEE Fellow 2005
  • Manuela Veloso, Portuguese Computer Scientist and Roboticist, Herbert A. Simon Professor, School of Computer Science, Carnegie Mellon University, President of the International RoboCup Federation. Fellow of the American Association for Artificial Intelligence, National Science Foundation CAREER award (1995), CMU Allen Newell Medal for Excellence in Research (1997)
  • Padmasree Warrior, Cisco Chief Technology Officer, former Motorola Chief Technology Officer (Semiconductor Products), Motorola’s 1st female executive, Distinguished Alumni Award from Indian Institute of Technology Delhi 2004, WITI Hall of Fame 2007
  • Meg Whitman, CEO eBay 1998-2008
  • Jeanette Wing, President’s Professor of Computer Science (former CS Department Head), Carnegie Mellon University, Assistant Director, Computer and Information Science and Engineering Directorate, National Science Foundation, IEEE Fellow 2003, ACM Fellow 1998
  • Beatrice Helen Worsley, Canada’s Female Computer Pioneer, a witness to several great moments in computing history, one of the first women to earn a doctorate in Computer Science in 1951


Blog entry by Katy Dickinson


Filed under Hopper - Anita Borg Institute, News & Reviews

3 responses to “Famous Women in Computer Science (revised)

  1. Pingback: Famous Women in Computer Science « KatysBlog

  2. I’ll recomment over here.

    I can see being a CEO as extra credit, but CEO experience alone does not make you a computer scientist. If you told Lou Platt he was a computer scientist, I bet he’d laugh and point you to Martin Griss or Rose O’Donnell.

    Might add Rose, if I remember correctly, the Computer Group CTO position at HP was created just for her, after the Apollo acquisition.

    Note, not “Rosie O’Donnell”. Rose.


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