- Radia Perlman (pictured above at a 2012 IEEE meeting) is a good mentor, and has been a role model, and hero to many for her remarkable contributions to network design and standardization. She was one of the six highlighted in “Award-winning Career Timelines in Computer Science and Engineering” web resource my ABI Advisory Board committee published in 2010. All of the six profiled (Frances Allen, Helen Greiner, Mary Jane Irwin, Radia Perlman, Lucy Sanders, Jeanette Wing) are remarkable role models.
- 2013 ACM Turing Award Winners Shafi Goldwasser and Silvio Micali for their pioneering work in the fields of cryptography and complexity theory. The Turing Award is the Nobel Prize of computing – given each year for major contributions of lasting importance to computing. Shafi Goldwasser and the six listed above are in the Famous Women in Computer Science web resource.
- Vinod Khosla for being a Silicon Valley icon, co-founder and employee #1 of Sun Microsystems, co-founder of TiE and other game-changing organizations. I worked for Vinod many years ago at Sun and continue to follow his career with admiration.
While thinking of these high-profile technical stars, whose fame is so well deserved, I came across the quieter but deeply impressive story of Dorothy of Camaroon who was given a modest Systers Pass-It-On award in 2010. Rita Thissen sent out an update to the Systers community last week about what Dorothy had accomplished so far with her award funding. I first noticed the story because Cameroon is one of the new Sub-Saharan Africa countries included in the 2013 TechWomen mentoring program. I consider Dorothy both a hero and a role model.
With Rita’s permission, here is Dorothy’s story:
What can one woman do to make a difference?
Dorothy lives in Bamenda, in the Northwest Region of Cameroon. In 2010 she applied for and received one of the Anita Borg Institute’s “Pass-It-On” awards, a program founded and funded by an international group of women and dedicated to assisting other women to advance in computing. Dorothy asked for help to buy computers and supplies so that she could run a small educational office, teaching computing skills to young women who lacked family ties or any hope of advancement on their own.
As a bit of context, there is extremely high unemployment in Cameroon. Many people do all right by growing their own food, building their own houses from handmade bricks, and selling food or services (like sewing) to others in their own town. The educational system and literacy rate are good, but once out of school, people find themselves back selling things in the marketplace again unless they have a skill that is in demand. Teaching, government positions, and lately some kinds of office work are the best jobs available.
Dorothy, a woman with a passion for helping others, helps run a small non-profit organization. Here is the background on Dorothy’s 2010 award for “Empowering unprivileged girls to meet the 21st Century challenges in Computer literacy”, at the time she began (from Systers Pass-It-On Awards 2010):
Dorothy will use the award to fund the tuition for two orphan girls to attend computer courses for six months at a computer training facility and then provide them with a six-month internship at a documentation center owned by a not-for-profit organization. Both girls will be given a computer and printer as compensation for their six-month internship at the documentation center. These girls will pass it on by training at least one underprivileged girl in the future.
Three years later, Dorothy reports that she has successfully taught her first group, and one of the students has started work in a money-transfer organization. The computer literacy this young woman achieved under Dorothy’s tutelage made her employment possible. Each of Dorothy’s students also promises to “pass along” the gift of learning to one or more other women who are in need of a helping hand. In this way, a small amount of help can make a real difference in many people’s lives.
Image Copyright 2012 by Katy Dickinson