In honor of Women’s History Month, it’s time to take a look at the leading ladies of the technology and security industries. Currently, women compromise only 11% of the global information security workforce, but that hasn’t stopped the following women from mastering their craft throughout the ages. (Make sure you read all the way to the end to learn more about one of our 2020 Secure360 Keynote Speakers, Shannon Polson.)
First and foremost is Agnes Meyer Driscoll. She was a lead cryptanalyst for the U.S. Navy during World War II and helped to co-develop one of the first cipher machines, the “CM”. Upon entry into the Navy, she was recruited to the highest possible rank of Chief Yeoman and was assigned to the Code & Signal Section of the Director of Naval Communications. In addition to her innovative machinery, she was also able to break the Japanese Navy manual codes (Red Book, Blue Book and J-25) which the U.S. Navy exploited after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Driscoll died in 1971, but her legacy lives on in the National Security Agency’s Hall of Honor, which she was inducted into in 2000.
From cybersecurity to human computers, the next IT wonder woman is Grace Murray Hopper. After the bombing of World War II, Hopper decided to join the U.S. Naval Reserve in 1943 and was assigned to the Bureau of Ships Computation Project at Harvard. She worked closely with Howard Aiken to develop the IBM Automatic Sequence Controlled Calculator (better known as Mark I), one of the earliest electromechanical computers. Due to this work, she is recognized as one of the first three computer “programmers”. In addition, Grace later worked computing rocket trajectories, creating range tables for aircraft and even completed calculations that were later used in developing the plutonium bomb dropped on Japan. Due to her impressive accomplishments, she was the recipient of over 40 honorary degrees, awards, scholarships, etc. throughout her lifetime.
It wouldn’t be right to go on without mentioning the women that were the inspiration behind the movie, Hidden Figures. Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson were the trio who calculated by hand, the complex equations that allowed space heroes like Neil Armstrong, to travel safely into space. Their first large project was to compute the trajectories for Freedom 7’s exact path from liftoff to splashdown. Following a parabola, the team was able to successfully compute and NASA immediately looked to their first orbital mission in the 1960’s. That’s one small step for woman, one giant leap for women leaders!
Moving ahead to the ’90s & 2000s is an American inventor and software developer, Janese Swanson. Swanson is responsible for co-developing educational videogames and get this, founded the company Girl Tech, which aims to get girls engaged in technology. Talk about a pioneer! Throughout her career, Swanson earned a total of 7 academic degrees and worked as a model, teacher and flight attendant. She now spends her days teaching in Del Mar, Calif.
Finally, we would be remised if we didn’t include one of our keynote speakers for this year’s Secure 360 conference, Shannon Polson. As an author, writer & speaker, Shannon focuses on leadership & courage, drawing from years of experience as a 2LT in Army Aviation. At Secure 360, she will speak on the importance of overcoming resistance & how to succeed in times of change. Not only has Shannon been a technology leader, but also a spokesperson for women in a male-dominated field.
These women, among many others, are the true change-makers when it comes to technology & security. Help UMSA & Secure360 celebrate them this March, and we hope to see you on May 5th & 6th for the conference!