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International Women’s Day: Reflecting on the women who’ve shaped the tech landscape

On March 8th women across the globe take centre stage as we observe International Women's Day (IWD.) The day reflects on the progress made, calls for change, and celebrates the achievements of women internationally. With this year's focus on gender equality, and calls for a #PledgeforParity, Feria Kazemi, who writes for Broadband Genie, highlights influential women who have left their mark on the technology landscape.

Although perceived as a male-dominated industry, women have been leading the way in tech for decades. It was six women who programmed the first all-electronic, programmable computer; Grace Hooper who coined the terms ‘bug’ and ‘debugging’ in 1944; and, Ada Lovelace is often credited with writing the first ever algorithm specifically tailored for a computer.

These are just a few examples of women who have pioneered a path for other women in technology.

Recognized as a tough industry to crack, many know that working in the tech sector can be ruthless. Although there’s allure of the expansive Silicon Valley campuses and the growing start-up culture, the tech industry is also known to be synonymous with long work hours, cutting competition, tight-lipped secrets, and intense work pressures, making for a male-dominated industry. However, many women have broken through the old boys’ club and written the rules.

If the names Sheryl Sandberg, Marissa Mayer, or Angela Ahrendts sound familiar, it’s unsurprising. Each of these women leads in a tech company you likely interact with daily, whether it’s Facebook, Yahoo, or Apple. They are also just a few in a long list of women in tech who have helped change the landscape and shape it into what it is today.

For any women starting out, or looking to make a transition into tech, doing so may have its challenges, but it is not as difficult as perceived. While women make up 30 per cent of the average tech workforce, there are many more examples of strong women who have made their mark in the tech industry, paving the way for others to do the same.

Xerox’s Ursula Burns joined the company as a summer intern in 1980 and worked her way to CEO. Apple’s Angela Ahrendts honed her skills with a long list of big name fashion brands, including Burberry, before joining Apple’s senior executive team to focus on Apple retail. Lucy Peng co-founded Alibaba and spearheads the company’s financial service unit. Meg Whitman can be credited with establishing eBay as a billion dollar corporation. Sheryl Sandberg has been a driving force behind much of Facebook’s success with her unique understanding of enterprise and helping the company go public. Marissa Mayer now leads Yahoo, following a successful career at Google leadings projects like Google Maps and Google Earth.

These are some of the most successful women in technology and the tech landscape is undoubtedly filled with many others. For women looking for a career in tech, these women have demonstrated success is achievable. Focus on strengths, build your expertise, carve out a niche and start with one opportunity, it will lead to so much more.