Women in Coding: An overview of some of the women that changed the coding world!

During June we had the pleasure of celebrating Pride Month by drawing attention to some great LGBT coders throughout history who have changed the world for the better. This week, we’ve decided to do a similar sort of thing, to focus on another group of coders who have contributed just as much through history – women!

Women in Coding

Hey there, Coders! During June we had the pleasure of celebrating Pride Month by drawing attention to some great LGBT coders throughout history who have changed the world for the better. This week, we’ve decided to do a similar sort of thing, to focus on another group of coders who have contributed just as much through history – women!

Coding, computer science, and STEM in general have always been areas disproportionately populated by men and boys. It’s awesome that people of any gender are driving computer science forwards, and here at The Code Zone we’ll always love to encourage boys to keep coding – after all, the more the merrier! But we also strongly believe that making coding only accessible to boys is a remarkably silly (not to mention unfair!!) move. Think about how many amazing coders we’d be missing out on if we didn’t have all the super-clever girls in our Game Dev Clubs!

But that’s just the problem: last week, the Guardian published an article showing that the number of girls in England taking GCSE Computing has more than halved in the last 8 years, which is a terrible shame. In such a male-dominated field, it can be tricky for young girls and women to feel like they have a place, and sadly they may even find that there are barriers put in their way, just because they’re girls! It’s ridiculous, but true. This culture desperately needs to change – the sooner both boys and girls are equally welcomed into coding, the better for all of us!

But don’t worry, friends – there’s still hope! We can show our support and commitment to gender equality in computer science in lots of different ways. But one of the best is of course making people – especially girls who are interested in starting coding – aware of all the fantastic women who have coded their way into the history books, despite all the challenges they faced in a time where things were even harder for women than they are now. Women and girls have always been able to work in computer science just as well as men and boys, and the historical record certainly proves it! Hopefully more girls can get involved with coding after they see that they can change the world too.


  1. Carol Shaw

First up on our list of awesome women in coding is Carol Shaw! Carol Shaw is considered one of the first women to ever work as a designer and programmer of video games, which are of course very close to our hearts here at The Code Zone. Here’s some of her best feats:

  • - Carol Shaw worked at Atari, an early video game developer well known for their state-of-the-art technology and games. She was one of only a few women in the field at the time, in the whole world!
  • - She developed the game River Raid, that went on to sell over a million copies, and was a smash-hit when it released. It featured remarkably smooth scrolling animations for a game created in the 1980s, and was generally considered to be a ton of fun!
  • - Shaw was such a great programmer that she was often called in to help with confusing parts of code that others couldn’t figure out how to implement. - What’s more, those bits of code were typically in games she wasn’t part of the development team for – but she was such an expert that she helped them anyway.


  1.          Margaret Hamilton

Next up is Margaret Hamilton! Margaret is a computer scientist who is out-of-this-world when it comes to her impact… quite literally! She was the director of the Software Engineering Division in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology – better known of course as MIT! But what she’s really known for is spearheading the flight software used in NASA’s Apollo mission; yes, that’s right, the one that put the first person on THE MOON! Here’s a little more about that:

  • - She’s credited as having expertise in TWENTY different areas of computer science and engineering – ranging from quality assurance to ‘system-oriented objects for systems modelling and development’! Try saying that one three times as fast as you can…
  • - During the landing sequence of Apollo 11’s Lunar Lander, there was an unexpected – and potentially catastrophic – set of errors that could have led to the mission being aborted. But Margaret had planned years in advance for this possibility and built in a last-resort failsafe. If she hadn’t, then possibly the most significant achievement in history may never have happened!
  • - She coined the term ‘software engineering’, which is now a widespread profession and term.


  1. Adele Goldberg

Dr Adele Goldberg is another fantastic woman in computer science. Her work was particularly important in making coding accessible to more people, and as coding mentors, we have a similar goal! What’s more, The Code Zone even focuses on the same people she did – children! After all, they are the coders of the future.

  • - She created a new programming language called ‘Smalltalk’ that expertly simplified coding to make it more understandable and gave it a visual aspect – in many ways, this was one of the first ancestors of Scratch, the coding language used in our Hackers clubs. Many important coding languages like Java and C also used aspects of Smalltalk as a foundation.
  • - Steve Jobs took an early version of Smalltalk to use in the first Apple Mac, which started their trend of simplistic interfaces for easier usage in their devices.
  • - Goldberg believed that humanity’s future would be reliant on technology – in 1976 she suggested the eventual existence of something called the ‘Dynabook’, a portable device that could be taken anywhere and give accessible information and media, as well as exchange it with others and modify it at will. Sounds familiar, right?


  1.               Judith Love Cohen

Judith Love Cohen was another amazing coder who just like Margaret Hamilton worked on the Apollo missions at NASA, as well as the Hubble Telescope. She achieved a bachelor’s and master’s degree in aerospace engineering, though notably said she never saw a single other female engineering student in her time there! All the more reason to highlight her achievements then, and to encourage other women and girls into STEM so they can follow in her footsteps.

  • - Cohen is best known for her role in saving the astronauts of the Apollo 13 mission, when a catastrophic explosion of an oxygen tank occurred. She designed the Abort Guidance system that kept the astronauts safe as they returned to earth, and considered it her best achievement.
  • - Cohen was so committed to her work that she was solving mathematical problems for the Apollo 13 systems even as she was giving birth! What’s more – that baby grew up to become the endlessly-funny actor, Jack Black!
  • - Cohen worked at a time where around 0.05% of engineers were women. As a child, she was told to give up on mathematics and ‘be a lady’ by a school councillor. She went on to publish a series of books that were focused on encouraging girls to get into STEM, despite all the difficulties they might face, a message we couldn’t agree more with – rock on, Judith!!


  1.   Mary Kenneth Keller

And last but certainly not least, we have Mary Keller! Keller was the first ever woman to achieve a PhD in Computer Science in the USA; and perhaps unexpectedly, she was also a Catholic Nun! She worked tirelessly to not only develop our understanding of computers, but also to make them more accessible to all.

  • - She was instrumental in increasing education about computers in US schools and collages, to help get more people into the field and also to help people understand how computers would dominate daily life in the future; Keller predicted that “cybernation” (as she put it) would quickly and quietly make huge changes to the world.
  • - She also developed one of the approaches to making algorithms that is now the primary approach used by deep-learning AI models! Talk about having a long-term impact!


There we have it – five amazing women who proved many times that in all aspects of coding, computing, and STEM, girls absolutely do have a place. If we push away around half of all humanity from something as important as coding, then we are missing out on potentially BILLIONS of people who could make incredible changes like these women did! What a spectacular waste of talent and ability that would be – all just because coding has stereotypically been ‘boyish’. We’re committed to getting rid of such a silly perception, and to make sure our field is open and accepting to all people regardless of gender. In a science dedicated to the technology of the future, let’s make that future a bright one!

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