People in Computing #6: Women in Security and Entrepreneurship

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March 15, 2021
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omen have long and always been pivotal in the history of technology. From the earliest days of computing, where rooms of women performed manual calculations for research, to their roles in the development of technologies that shape our reality.

In security, women pioneered key advancement such as the creation of virtual machines and zero knowledge proofs. Last month, Bubble's IPO minted the youngest self-made woman billionaire: Whitney Wolfe Herd.  In this week's Select, we provide a snapshot of women whose contributions have shaped cybersecurity and the tech business landscape.

We invite you to consider participating in ACM’s activities on these topics, be it through our professional community,​ global policy​ activities​, ongoing work in ​professional ethics​, and/or through our ​chapters, ​SIGs​, ​local meetups and/or ​conferences​

If you are interested in learning more about women in computing or are keen to participate in our activities, we highly encourage you to check out your ACM-W, which supports, celebrates and advocates for women in computing. We also invite you to join a local ACM-W professional chapter and/or participate in the "Celebrating Technology Leaders" series, ACM-W's webinar sessions highlighting successful women leading a diverse range of careers in computing.

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Joan Clarke

Why her? Joan's contributions in Bletchley Park as a Mathematician and Cryptanalyst supported the Allie's victory in WWII.

Joan Clarke is best known for her work, along with colleague and friend Alan Turing, in the Enigma Project to decode German ciphered communication. Despite being recruited for her exceptional Maths talent, Clark started off being assigned clerical work and earning only £2 a week. Her intellect soon won over her colleagues and she quickly rose to the highest, most mission-critical positions in Bletchley Park such as breaking German navy ciphers in real time. Clarke also developed a bayesian approach to solving the enigma code. Because of the secretive nature of Bletchley Park, and Joan’s general avoidance of the limelight, we may never know the full extent of Joan’s contributions.

BBC: Joan Clarke, woman who cracked Enigma cyphers with Alan Turing 

AMS: 100 Years Ago: Joan Clarke  

Maths History: Joan Elisabeth Lowther Clarke Murray 

Nature: The code-breakers who led the rise of computing

The Computer Girls

Why The Computer Girls? These Women were behind the computations leading to the advancements in aerospace, astrophysics and national security for almost a century

The computations behind everything the space race, aerospace advancements, ballistic weapons trajectories, and more from the late 19th century to the 1970s was done by highly skilled women sitting at tables and solving physics and math problems  by hand. Despite their skills they were referred to as "girls" and paid half as much as men with comparable qualifications.  Recently, their skills and contributions are receiving the recognition they deserve.


Smithsonian Magazine: The Gendered History of Human Computers

Computer History: Human Computers

Women@NASA: Human Computers

Shafi Goldwasser

Why her? She invented techniques in Cryptography and her seminal papers and contributions spawned entire fields of theoretical Computer Science.

Shafi Goldwasser is a professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at MIT, and of Mathematical Sciences at the Weizmann Institute. Shafi is the co-inventor of zero-knowledge proofs, a key tool in the design of cryptographic protocols. Her research areas include computational complexity theory, cryptography, and computational number theory. For her contributions to cryptography and Computer Science theory, Shafi won the ACM Turing award in 2012 and Gödel Prize  for outstanding papers in theoretical computer science in 1993.


Simons Institute Profile: Shafi Goldwasser 

A. M. Turing Award Winner: Shafi Goldwasser

History of Scientific Women: Shafi Goldwasser

Elisa Bertino

Why her? As the inventor of context based access (augmenting user authentication with factors such as location and time for determining access) Elisa influenced mobile security.

Elisa Bertino is a professor at Purdue university and a Fellow of ACM, IEEE and AAAS. In 2019 Elisa was recognized by the ACM for her contributions to Data Management, Security, and Privacy with the ACM Athena Lecturer Award. Elisa has served on the editorial boards of several security journals and as program chair on databases conferences.


Elisa Bertino Named ACM Athena Lecturer for Contributions to Data Management, Security and Privacy

Purdue University Profile: Elisa Bertino

People of ACM - Elisa Bertino

Dianne Green

Why her? As a cofounder and the CEO of VMware and CEO of Google Cloud, Dianne has had one of the most profound influences on security and how computation is run securely on the cloud.

Diane Greene is a founder of VMware and served as the CEO from 1998 until 2008. Diane also served on the board of Alphabet and as the CEO of Google Cloud from 2015 until early 2019. Diane also co-founded and was the CEO of two startups, both of which were successfully acquired. Diane is a key figure in the development of virtual machines and containers - which powers cloud compute, and is of great importance to security - enabling key applications such as sandboxes and honey pots. In 2018, Dianne became a member of the US National Academy of Engineering.


National Academy of Engineering: Diane Greene

The Technical Leadership Abie Award Winner: Diane Greene

Entrepreneurship and Business

Whitney Wolfe Herd 

Why her? She’s the youngest self-made female billionaire

After hours, Herd and a small team of colleagues founded the dating app, Tinder. During her tenure, she left the organisation as vice president of marketing and co-founded a rival organisation known as Bumble. It was founded on the premise of empowering women and aimed at generating a more ‘modern’ way of dating. This year the company went public- making the 31-year-old the youngest, self-made female billionaire in history. She hopes that ‘this will not be a rare headline’. 


Bloomberg: Bumble's 31-year-old CEO Becomes a Rare Female Billionaire

Forbes: Bumble Cofounder Becomes Youngest Self-Made Female Billionaire

Cher Wang

Why her? She’s the co-founder and CEO of one of the largest smart phone companies in the world

She is the co-founder, chairperson and now CEO of the HTC Corporation, and is considered the most formidable woman in technology. Wang was born and raised in Taiwan and later earned her bachelors in economics at UC Berkeley in the United State. Shortly after she worked with her sister in selling large and often cumbersome pieces of hardware. She notes that this experience was what inspired her to help create and trade simpler, more portable computing technology. She also co-founded Via-technologies- a CPU, motherboard and chip manufacturing company.


CNBC Profile: Cher Wang

Techtimes: Meet HTC's CEO Cher Wang and Her Return to Save the Declining Smartphone Brand

Susan Diane Wojcicki

Why her? She helped shape Silicon Valley

Wojcicki was working at Intel while she began renting out her garage to Larry Page and Sergey Brin, the founders of Google. She later joined the company as their marketing manager and made landmark contributions at the company. She is credited for contributing to the development of various Google products including, Google Books, Google Analytics, Google Ads and Google Images. She proposed the acquisition of YouTube in 2008 and has since served as its CEO. She is also a mother of 5 and actively advocates the importance of paid maternity leave.  


The Business Insider: The career rise of Susan Wojcicki

Bloomberg Profile: Susan Wojcicki

Megan Smith

Why her? She is the third and first ever female CTO of the United States of America and continuously uses tech for the betterment of humanity

Meghan Smith is an award-winning entrepreneur and engineer. She was the third CTO of the United States of America under the Obama administration. She curated and collaborated on a range of challenges within data, AI, criminal justice reform and inclusive economic growth. Moreover, Smith was the Vice President at Google for eleven years, CEO of Planet Out and worked on early smartphone technologies at Apple Japan and General Magic. She sits on the board of MIT, Vital Voices and the Malala Fund-which she co-founded. Today she serves as CEO of SHift7 which “scouts and scales promising solutions and solution-makers, and applies sustainable models for investing resources, talent, tech and capital, especially across under-resourced spaces.”


MIT Media Lab People: Megan Smith

The Office of Science and Technology Policy Archives: Megan Smith

Nneka Mobisson

Why her? Her technology is not only saving countless lives, but she is also improving and altering the infrastructure her country of origin... and beyond

After the tragic loss of her father, Mobisson identified a critical healthcare gap in Nigeria- affordable access to healthcare professionals for those living with chronic diseases. This prompted her to launch the revolutionary digital healthcare company, mDoc- which provides people with 24/7 hour passage to virtual doctors, nurses and healthcare providers via SMS, voice and video platforms. Amongst her already impressive achievements, she is also a trained pediatrician with a masters in public health and a bachelors in mechanical engineering, and is a 2017 Cartier Awards Finalist, a 2014 World Economic Forum Young Global Leader, and a Yale Associate World Fellow.


Cartier Women's Initiative Fellow: Nneka Mobisson

Maurice R. Greenberg World Fellow: Nneka Mobisson

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