International Women’s Day 2023
March 8, 2023
Every Woman Counts.
That’s the Government of Canada’s theme for International Women’s Day 2023.
International Women’s Day provides a reminder that all women, from all walks of life and of all ages, have an equal place in every aspect of our society – and serves to inspire today’s youth and girls that they can fulfill their dreams.
It also offers an opportunity to celebrate and honour the incredible achievements of women around the globe, including those who have contributed to the fields of science and technology.
Did you know the world’s first general-purpose electronic computer made its debut in 1946? The Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer (ENIAC) could be programmed to perform complex sequences of operations.
It was used to calculate an artillery shell’s trajectory in a matter of seconds, which was far faster than the 20 hours it would take to determine the same calculation manually.
All six of ENIAC’s original programmers were women. Fran Bilas, Betty Jennings, Ruth Lichterman, Kay McNulty, Marlyn Meltzer, and Betty Snyder had a deep understanding of the computer’s complex inner workings, including how to input programs and locate bugs.
The women physically operated the computer program using 3,000 switches, along with dozens of cables and digital trays, to physically route data and program pulses.
While ENIAC was a big influence on the growth of electronic computing, the six women weren’t recognized for their work at the time. It would be decades before they were finally acknowledged and gained their rightful place in the history of computer technology.
Despite advances in technology and the fight for equality in the workplace, women are still widely underrepresented in technology roles. It’s estimated women make up almost half of employed adults in Canada and the United States, but only about 25 per cent work in the tech sector.
The women behind ENIAC demonstrate the important role women have played in the success and growth of the tech sector. We must strive to make space for women in the industry – and encourage girls and young women everywhere that success in tech (or whatever career they choose) is within their reach.
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Note: This blog post was adapted from an earlier post.
CBC News. (February 12, 2018). Gender gap shows high-tech sector still stuck in the past – and it could prove costly.
ETHW. (February 4, 2016). Marlyn Metzer Biography.
Government of Canada. (February 17, 2023). International Women’s Day 2023.
NCWIT. Women in Tech: The Facts (2016 Update). PDF
Penn Today. (February 19, 2019). On ENIAC’s anniversary, a nod to its female ‘computers.’
Penn Today. (February 11, 2021). The world’s first general purpose computer turns 75.
International Women's DayWomen in Science and TechnologyWomen in Technology