7 women who are making history in software engineering right now

By Brittany Anas

Throughout history, women have played monumental roles in the evolving field of software engineering. Though it hasn’t been until recently that famous women coders have received the recognition they deserve for their contributions, and, in some cases, it’s been Hollywood that’s helped draw attention to their stories.

Take for instance Joan Clarke, who harnessed her mathematical expertise to crack German Enigma ciphers during World War II, a high-pressure job that saved countless lives. Her career inspired the 2014 historical drama “The Imitation Game.” As another example, NASA recently named its headquarters building after “Hidden Figure” Mary W. Jackson, the agency’s first black female engineer. Jackson played a pivotal role in getting American astronauts into space.

Now, looking forward, and to honor Women’s History Month this March, we’re spotlighting the next generation of women who are making coding history.

Which stories will go down in history books? Which breakthroughs will inspire movies or documentaries? Which are deserving of profiles in magazines?

(If, of course, you feel inspired by their stories, you can enroll in a coding bootcamp and launch a career in software engineering or, take your existing career to the next level.)

Here are seven women who are making history in software engineering right now.

Tracy Chou, Founder & CEO of Block Party
"TRACY CHOU [SECOND DAY AT INSPIREFEST 2017]-130278" by infomatique is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

As a Silicon Valley software engineer, Tracy Chou has an impressive resume, writing code from the start-up ground floor at Facebook, Pinterest, and Quora. During the Obama administration, she was on reserve as a technical consultant with the U.S. Digital Service. In 2013, she helped spur the wave of tech company diversity data disclosures with a Github repository that collected data on women in engineering and an article calling on Silicon Valley to be open about how few women are in tech. Over the years, Chou has experienced quite a bit of harassment and abuse online as she’s been a leading diversity advocate. Now, her latest project is Block Party, which tackles the issue of online bullying head-on by allowing users to filter out harassing messages like a spam filter, all the while collecting threatening messages should they need to report the messages to the police (even if the sender hits the delete button). Chou has appeared on covers of “The Atlantic” and “WIRED” and has been on a number of great lists, including “Forbes Tech 30 under 30” and “Fast Company’s Most Creative People in Business.”

Image credit: Tracy Chou by infomatique, licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Kimberly Bryant, Founder of Black Girls Code
"Kimberly Bryant, Black Girls Code @ SXSW 2016" by nrkbeta is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

When Kimberly Bryant was a freshman engineering student, she recalls feeling culturally isolated as few of her classmates looked like her. Bryant—who went on to have a successful 25-plus year career as an engineering manager in pharmaceutical and biotech industries, with roles at Merck, Pfizer, and Genentech—launched Black Girls Code. The mission is to provide young and pre-teen girls of color opportunities to learn computer programming at a time when they’re thinking about what they want to be when they grow up.

Image credit: Kimberly Bryant by nrkbeta, licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Poornima Vijayashanker, Founder of Femgineer
"Poornima Vijayashanker" by Frontiers Conferences is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

As the founding engineer at Mint—a personal finance site and app—Vijayashanker helped build, launch, and scale the product until it was acquired by Intuit. She then went on to launch Femgineer, which is an education company for tech professionals and entrepreneurs. Vijayashanker is also the author of the book “How to Transform Your Ideas into Software Products.” The guide includes interviews with successful startup founders and case studies on companies like Mint.com, Airbnb, and Zappos.

Image credit: Poornima Vijayashanker by Frontiers Conferences, licensed under CC BY 2.0


Mina Markham, Staff Engineer at Slack
"Mina Markham – Styling Hillary – A Design System for all Americanserrand 2017" by andreasdantz is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Mina Markham built Pantsuit, the UI library for the Hillary Clinton campaign (you can read her Medium article on building a presidential design system here), and she is now working as an engineer at Slack. Markham is a leader in the coding community, teaching for Black Girls Code and presenting at conferences including Front-End Design Conference, Midwest.io, and Distill.

Image credit: Mina Markham by andreasdantz, licensed under CC BY 2.0


Elissa Murphy, Vice President of Engineering for Google
Elissa Murphy, Vice President of Engineering for Google.

In fourth grade, Elissa Murphy took a computer programming course that was being offered as a pilot program at her school. Today, she’s one of the top names in tech, and is responsible for GSuite’s Enterprise Platform and Application Developer Platform, with previous experience at Yahoo and Microsoft. She also led GoDaddy through its IPO. She holds more than 30 patents in distributed systems, machine learning, and security and has been named among Business Insider’s “Most Powerful Engineers.

Image credit: Elissa Murphy via about.me

Jade Raymond, Game Producer
Jade Raymond, Game Producer .

Canadian game producer Jade Raymond is behind some of the most popular video games you’ve probably played, including The Sims Online, Assassin’s Creed, Assassin’s Creed II, and Assassin’s Creed: Bloodlines, Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell: Blacklist and Watchdogs. She’s held posts at Electronic Arts and Ubisoft Montreal. Most recently, she was with Stadia, but Google announced it was closing its internal game development studios. We’re curious to see where she takes her talent next.

Image credit: Jade Raymond by ZCooperstown, licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

Jennifer Dewalt, Founder of Zube
Jennifer Dewalt, Founder of Zube.

Fine artist-turned-coder, Jennifer Dewalt took a total immersion approach to learning web development. In her early days, she built 180 websites over the course of 180 days, documenting her project on her blog. (You can see all of the websites she built here). She made toys and games like the Sushi Jiggler and Minesweeper. But she also made apps to connect people. Her favorite was How We’re Feeling, which tracks the emotions of people on Twitter. She’s the founder of Zube, a project management platform for development teams that are integrated with Github.

Image credit: Jennifer Dewalt via LinkedIn




Who else do you think belongs on this list of women who are big names in the software engineering world today?

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