12 Pioneering Women in Tech: EFF Celebrates Ada Lovelace Day
Today marks Ada Lovelace Day, when members of the tech community celebrate the role that women have played in technology. But of course, it’s not enough to do that just once a year. For the past 20 years, as we've honored leaders in our community with our annual EFF Pioneer Awards—prominent technologists, advocates for freedom of expression, and innovators of all stripes—we’ve also had the privilege of recognizing the talented and dedicated women who have pushed our community forward. So on Ada Lovelace Day, we’re taking a special moment to look back and acknowledge the important contributions from the following women, who have won Pioneer Awards.
1994 Starr Roxanne Hiltz and her husband Murrary Turoff are key innovators and the premier theorists of computer-mediated communications. Hiltz and Turoff wrote the seminal book that helped define the electronic frontier: The Network Nation. Hiltz's notion that computer conferencing could form the basis of communities is a concept that increasingly dominates popular discussion of online conferencing systems. Hiltz and Turoff forecast most of the common uses and conventions of online conferencing systems that we see today.
1995 Anita Borg (1949-2003) was the founder and keeper of Systers, an electronic mailing list for women in computer science. As the result of Borg's efforts, her list has become a major force for increasing the numbers and improving the position of women in the computer science field. Although she was also known for a number of technical contributions to the field of computer science in the areas of fault-tolerant operating systems and cache performance analysis, she remains particularly well known among women in computing for the Systers list. Prior to that list, women in this field tended to be physically isolated from each other and rarely able to find even a few role models or others with whom to share common experiences.
1997 Actress Hedy Lamarr (1913-2000), along with composer George Antheil, were honored with a special award for their trail-blazing development of a technology that has become a key component of wireless data systems. In 1942 Lamarr, once named the "most beautiful woman in the world" and Antheil, dubbed "the bad boy of music" patented the concept of "frequency-hopping" that is now the basis for the spread spectrum radio systems used in the products of over 40 companies manufacturing items ranging from cell phones to wireless networking systems.
1998 Barbara Simons received a Pioneer Award for her leadership in technology-policy issues. Simons founded and chaired the Association for Computing Machinery's U.S. Technology Policy Committee and served as ACM secretary from 1990 to 1992. Prior to that, she chaired the ACM Committee on Scientific Freedom and Human Rights. She has served as Project Advisor to the Project on Funding Policy in Computer Science, which she founded, and co-founded the U.C. Berkeley Computer Science Department Reentry Program for Women and Minorities. She has also testified before both the U.S. and the California legislatures and at government-sponsored hearings on cryptography, medical privacy, authentication for access to online records, and intellectual property on the Internet.
2001 Stephanie Perrin is an internationally recognized privacy and freedom of information expert. Perrin spent 5 years engineering Canada's inspiring privacy law (PIPEDA), among years of important privacy and cryptography policy work, and has bridged the government, nonprofit and commercial sectors in privacy technology, policy, standards and education. Perrin has also been involved in privacy protection issues at the global scale, on the OECD Security and Privacy Committee, and made significant contributions to understanding technical privacy protection issues.
2002 Beth Givens is founder and director of the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, a nonprofit advocacy, research, and consumer education program located in San Diego, California. Established in 1992, The Clearinghouse maintains a complaint/information hotline on informational privacy issues — the only one of its kind in the country — and publishes a series of guides on a variety of informational privacy issues. Givens has been fighting for consumers' privacy rights long before the mainstream world recognized a problem. She frequently speaks and conducts workshops on the issue of privacy and has often testified on privacy-related public policy concerns. In addition, Givens has been a member of several task forces studying the privacy impacts of technology on society. She is the author of The Privacy Rights Handbook: How to Take Control of Your Personal Information and co-author of Privacy Piracy: A Guide to Protecting Yourself from Identity Theft. Preferring to focus on her work rather than her reputation, Givens keeps a low profile and just gets things done, day after day, year after year. She is a committed and pioneering activist.
2003 Amy Goodman is a longtime journalist, activist, and host of Democracy Now!, a national, listener-sponsored news show committed to broadcasting marginalized voices. A vocal opponent of censorship, Goodman covers controversial issues ranging from Chevron-related murders in Nigeria to the struggle for independence in East Timor and documents the global, grassroots opposition to a U.S.-led war in Iraq. Goodman's resistance to the attempted takeover of the Pacifica Radio network served as a rally point to force out a hostile board of directors.
2004 Kim Alexander is president of the California Voter Foundation (CVF), a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization she started in 1994 to advance new technologies to improve democracy. Alexander has led pioneering efforts to develop the Internet into an effective tool for voter education and campaign finance disclosure in California and beyond. Her interest in democracy and technology led her to become involved with voting technology, and she has since become one of the nation's leading voices for secure and verifiable computerized voting systems. The California Secratary of State adopted her minority opinion in a 2003 Ad Hoc Touch Screen Voting Task Force, leading California to be the first state in the nation to require that electronic voting machines provide a voter-verified paper trail.
2006 Gigi B. Sohn is president and co-founder of Public Knowledge, a nonprofit organization that addresses the public's stake in the convergence of communications policy and intellectual property law. She serves as PK's chief strategist, fundraiser and public face. Sohn often testifies before Congress on intellectual property and technology policy, and she takes an active part in debates about proposed legislation. Sohn is a Senior Adjunct Fellow at the Silicon Flatirons Center for Law, Technology and Entrepreneurship at the University of Colorado and a Senior Fellow at the University of Melbourne Faculty of Law, Graduate Studies Program in Australia. She served as a Project Specialist in the Ford Foundation’s Media, Arts and Culture unit and as Executive Director of the Media Access Project, a public interest law firm that represents citizens’ rights before the FCC and the courts. In 1997, President Clinton appointed her to serve as a member of his Advisory Committee on the Public Interest Obligations of Digital Television Broadcasters.
2008 Mitchell Baker is the Chairman of the Mozilla Foundation, which is dedicated to promoting openness, innovation, and opportunity on the Internet through its sponsorship of the open-source Mozilla project. The Mozilla Foundation provides grants, legal services, and other support for development projects involving the Firefox browser, the Thunderbird email application, and other Mozilla software. Baker was previously the attorney at Netscape responsible for all legal issues related to product development and intellectual property protection. During that time she wrote the Netscape and Mozilla Public Licenses.
2009 A pioneer in the field of open-source hardware and software hacking, Limor “Ladyada” Fried helps the general public engineer and adapt consumer electronics to better suit their needs. Her do-it-yourself ethic is founded on the idea that consumer electronics are best modified for use by customers, not corporations. Fried runs her own company, Adafruit Industries, which sells unique and fun do-it-yourself kits to help consumers make gadgets such as backup iPod chargers, green power monitors and programmable displays for bicycle wheels. She also hosts an Internet video program called "Citizen Engineer" that provides step-by-step instructions to help consumers build and alter their own home devices.
2010 When Pamela Jones created Groklaw in 2003, she envisioned a new kind of participatory journalism and distributed discovery — a place where programmers and engineers could educate lawyers on technology relevant to legal cases of significance to the Free and Open Source community, and in turn where technologists could learn about how the legal system works. Groklaw quickly became an essential resource for understanding such important legal debates as the SCO-Linux lawsuits, the EU anti-trust case against Microsoft, whether software should qualify for patent protection, software licensing, and the OOXML/ODF.