HP stretches International Women's Day into a week of events
By Warren Volkmann, Editor
HP Developers Portal
On Wednesday, March 8, the world observed International Women's Day. HP isn't satisfied with a day devoted to women, so HP is stretching the day into a full week of events that highlight the contributions of women to technology and society.
Here on the HP Developers Portal, we highlight the contributions of three women who pioneered computer technology and coding. Two won the Congressional Medal of Honor.
- Grace Hopper, a math whiz who was present at the creation of the early Mark series of computers at Harvard. In the U.S. Navy she rose to the rank of Admiral, and as the oldest woman in the Navy, she taught a generation of military leaders about computers. See how she explained a nanosecond to generals in a profile by the news broacast 60-Minutes: Grace Hopper: She taught computers to talk. [Editor's note: The video file seems to have a "bug" in it, a term Hopper coined when a small moth was found in the circuitry.]
- Margaret Hamilton, who worked on computers that guided the Apollo space missions in the 1960s. Margaret coined the term "software."
- Dorothy Vaughan, a black woman working as a manager for NASA in Alabama in the 1960s. She was portrayed in the hit movie Hidden Figures by actress Octavia Spencer.
The movie Hidden Figures makes it plain to see how discrimination harms not only the victims of prejudice, but also the society around them, as human potential is squandered. In order to retrain her team of black women, Vaughan had to sneak a book about Fortran out of the public library. First she taught herself, and then she taught her team how to translate the formulas that they calculated by hand into punch cards that the IBM computer could process.
Hewlett-Packard consistently valued its women employees and the contributions they made to the company’s success. But HP also operated within a national culture that afforded women fewer opportunities, created formal and informal barriers to their advancement and offered them less recognition than their male counterparts. As a result, HP’s efforts to create a more equitable environment were a continuing work in progress. This collection in the HP official archives recognizes some of the people who contributed to that work, through both their achievements and their efforts to help the company do better.