Five Women Breaking Barriers in Tech

By Samantha Schartman-Cycyk

When we announced Dr. Andrea Goldsmith as the 2020 Marconi Fellow, she made history. How? Goldsmith is the first woman in Marconi Society history to be honored with the Marconi Prize for both her contributions to wireless networking and her leadership in changing the face of engineering to make it a more diverse and inclusive field.

While the number of women in tech has increased a bit, women still face implicit bias and harassment that limits their willingness to work in the field and the recognition they get for their accomplishments. Fewer than 20% of engineers are women and a tiny percentage are of people of color. Sadly, 40% of women with engineering degrees either never enter the field or leave it after they have started.

The Marconi Society is helping to change this.

Andrea Goldsmith made history when she was named the 2020 Marconi Fellow, and was also just appointed Dean of the School of Engineering and Applied Science at Princeton University. But Andrea has been shattering silicon ceilings and blazing trails for women in tech for years as an academic, an entrepreneur and a fierce champion of diversity. Her technical achievements have given us the high performing cellular and WiFi networks that we take for granted each day. Thanks to Andrea, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) has a formal diversity statement and women are beginning to be recognized with major medals and awards. 

We are indeed surrounded by women who are breaking gender stereotypes and redefining the culture of tech and digital inclusion — and creating a more equitable future for everyone. 

Here are four more inspiring ceiling-breakers who are at the intersection of technology and digital inclusion. We’re thrilled to lift up their courage and their work.

Doreen Bogdan-Martin

In her role as Director of the Telecommunication Development Bureau of the International Telecommunication Union, Doreen Bogdan-Martin focuses on fostering international cooperation to deliver communications to developing countries. Doreen leads digital initiatives to ensure #ConnectivityForAll. 

Not only is she doing amazing work, but she’s the first woman to hold that position, and the first woman to hold elected office overall, in the organization’s 153 year history – the oldest global international organization in the world. Doreen has advised governments from around the world on policy and regulatory issues, and is a regular presenter at high-level international forums and summits.

We are inspired by Doreen since she is the first woman to head an international organization that has been around since the mid-1800’s. Her remit regarding digital inclusion and bridging the connected world with the developing world will change economies, livelihoods and societies.

Radia Perlman

 Radia Perlman, a.k.a. the “Mother of the Internet,” is known for her crucial contributions to the heart of the Internet, making it the stable and scalable network that is getting us through this global pandemic. She was one of earliest women in tech, breaking barriers without even the small cohort of support that women count on today. Not only did she develop critical new technology, she influenced global standard setting to leverage her innovations throughout the Internet.

Currently a Fellow at Dell EMC, Radia holds over 100 patents, has taught at the University of Washington, Harvard University and MIT, and has keynoted at major tech events all over the world. 

What inspires us the most about Radia is that she worked in tech….before women worked in tech! While many of the other women on this list have female peers, Radia led the way first.

Angela Siefer

 Angela Siefer, Founder and Executive Director of the National Digital Inclusion Alliance, ensures a unified voice for US digital inclusion policies and programs, including broadband access, devices and digital literacy. The consummate advocate for bringing the opportunities of technology to the underserved, Siefer constantly finds innovative and collaborative ways to support policy makers, practitioners and consumers. 

Over the past 20 years, Angela has physically set up computer labs in underserved areas, managed broadband conferences, conducted research, managed digital inclusion programs, assisted with the Department of Commerce’s Broadband Adoption Toolkit, testified before a U.S. Senate Sub-Committee, and more. 

We are inspired by her passion, her data-driven strategies for change and her willingness to do the difficult, hands-on work of digital inclusion. When just over 50% of households with incomes of under $30,000 have access to broadband Internet, Angela is fighting for a basic human right. 

Padmasree Warrior

Currently a board member at Microsoft and Spotify, Padmasree Warrior is a trailblazer in the tech industry – the former CEO of NIO US and Chief Technology Officer at both Motorola and Cisco Systems. Her legacy is one of growth and innovation, leading Cisco’s strategy of growth through acquisition 

A tireless advocate for women in technology, Padmashree is an inspirational and recognized leader – she has been named by Fortune Magazine as a rising star on its Most Powerful Women list, has been listed as the 71st most powerful woman in the world and was featured in Forbes’ “America’s Top 50 Women In Tech.” 

What inspires us about Padmashree is her commitment to lifting up women in technology and creating diversity in the field. As a leader who has succeeded in every setting from startup to multi-billion dollar corporation, Padmashree knows how it’s done.