2010 has been an interesting year in terms of technology. We’ve seen tablets become an everyday part of living (though we’re still not sure of their purpose), 3D viewing advance dramatically, and augmented reality took off, thanks to the rise of compatible mobile applications. Alongside these tangible products, there has been much advancement in the backend of science and technology with talented scientists researching medicines, creating programs and extending their knowledge of the virtual world. Many of these projects were spearheaded by women, and I’d like to draw your attention to the top thirteen women who have impacted technology in 2010.
Some names you’ll know, and some you won’t, and this is by no means a conclusive list, so don’t get all shouty when Ms X or Mrs X isn’t in there – tell us why they’re great in the comments section.
Alicia Navarro, CEO of Skimlinks
Alicia Navarro has made a big name for herself in the fashion and beauty world, as the service she provides makes affiliate linking a doddle. For those not in the know, affiliate linking is one way that online publishers make money, as every hyperlink that directs you to a store earns them commission if you purchase. Creating the links tends to be a rather time consuming process though, and often looks a little ungainly. Alicia created Skimlinks, a service which integrates seamlessly with your website and creates unobtrusive affiliate links- without you having to do ANYTHING! They do this without creating annoying pop up boxes, and users don’t even realize they have been redirected via an affiliate link when they click away. This service has been well received by all major UK and USA publishers, and her accolade list ranges from fashion aggregator Osoyou.com to technology site T3.com.
Alicia has been involved in the technology scene for over 10 years and holds a Bachelor of Information Technology and the University Medal for Computing Sciences from the University of Technology, Sydney. Her focus on the fashion and beauty world shows she understands the current market demands and her vision in this marketplace continues to grow, with Skimlinks continuing to roll out new products. Despite her success she remains reassuringly down to earth- as seen in her cheeky charity pose for last year’s London Nude Tech calendar. (Yes, really).
Katie Stanton, International Strategist for Twitter
Katie Stanton has impressively long names of companies in her resume. They include the White House, Google Inc, and her latest addition is Twitter. Her remit is working on Twitter’s international strategy and her experience in social media will be a key asset to the company. Katie has a history of working in technology, and her knowledge of departmental laws will help Twitter work alongside government agencies, as she’ll be spearheading the free information approach, especially after the Wikileaks incident.
Stanton has been a key player in the techsphere for some time, and this extends to her private life. Following the Haiti disaster she worked with a group of engineers to create a free texting service to help those in need and she is constantly in demand as an expert in both social media and government policy.
Professor Sophie Scott, UCL Neuroscientist
Neuroscience is not the easiest subject to understand for those without a BSC, but Professor Sophie Scott has managed to make this field accessible to people of all backgrounds. Her friendly approach to the subject matter and her easy way of communicating with the public make her a science icon, someone to treasure and emulate.
Her current work revolves around project in the neural basis of human speech programming and she looks at how this relates to non-human primates. She’s also working on a rehabilitation study of reading after stroke. She’s not averse to getting emotionally involved in her work- as seen by her public disclosure of a scan of her brother’s brain as part of her investigations, and this makes this impressive lady more human and approachable.
She holds a BSC in Life Sciences and a PhD in Cognitive and has won numerous grants and awards for her work. I like how she makes science seem so relevant to the everyday person, and she has a very warm and personable approach to it.
Jenny Rohn, Cell Biologist and Science Writer/Author
Jenny Rohn is what we like to call an all rounder/ someone who makes us feel woefully inadequate. A published science author, editor of LabLit (a fiction site for science) and blogger, she is also a full-time cell biologist at University College London and regularly gets involved in scientific debate with the likes of the Guardian and the BBC.
Jenny holds a BA in Biology and a PhD in Microbiology. She has dabbled in start up ventures, working on a start up Biotech Company in the Netherlands, before committing to full-time work at UCL, and has an impressive array of papers and awards to her name.
I especially love her fiction website, www.LabLit.com as it aims to promote the use of scientists and laboratory culture in mainstream fiction, which hopefully also means accurate science reporting, which gives people a better understanding of how lab life actually works, away from the glamorous veneer shows like CSI have imparted us with. Find out more on her website.
Lisa Kelly, Ice Trucker
Lisa Kelly isn’t fond of stereotypes- least of all those which suggest women should prance around in high heels afraid to do anything lest it break a nail. But she has always been fond of driving, working as a school bus driver for a year before applying to a trucking agency for a job. Since then she has gone on to bigger and better trucks, and is one of the Ice Road Truckers on the History Channel, driving a mean machine through all kinds of landscape. Recent exploits have seen her coast through the Himalayas on History’s IRT Deadliest Roads. On the show, she not only had to deal with switchbacks, dangerous washed out roads and rock slides, but she also also had to constantly contend with sexist men ogling her and trying to break into her truck. However, in the end she persevered and was the only driver to complete all of their routes, while her male co-truckers ultimately floundered.
Her hobbies include dirtbiking, skydiving and hang gliding and anything adrenalin filled, and we can’t help but envy her devil maycare attitude and her lust for new experiences. She’s a great role model for young women- showing how tenacity and drive really can take you everywhere and that you never need to compromise who you are. Ok, so she didn’t exactly impact technology for 2010, but she is helping “pave” the way for more women to pursue careers in male dominated fields.
Bonnie Ruberg, Gaming Journalist
There are many clichés that exist about the female gamer; largely that she’s a reclusive nerd with low social skills or a Barbie bimbette who likes to play in a thong. Bonnie aims to annihilate this impression with her many essays and articles about the psyche of the female gamer, all which ridicule the stereotypes and argue objectively for a better representation of women in games. It is her humor and unflinching optimism about the subject matter that make her stand out in the gaming community, as where other have faltered at the continued sexism and dismissal of their efforts she has stood up strong and remains continually upbeat, entertaining and sarcastic.
Bonnie is currently undertaking a PHD in Comparative Literature at UC Berkeley with an emphasis on gender/sexuality and surrealism. She has worked as a journalist in the technology and gaming world for many years now, and has contributed to a wide number of publications and is a member of the Women in Games International Steering Committee. You can read her blog here.
Caterina Fake, Co-Founder of Flickr and Hunch
Despite having a surname which sounds like a pseudonym for a spy (it’s 100% real), Caterina Fake is a very smart cookie. Her projects over the years have included the start-up of photo sharing site Flickr, being the chairman of Etsy, and she is now working on Hunch, a project which creates ‘taste graphs’ of the web and allows you to get info on topics that you enjoy. It hasn’t quite taken off yet, but seeing Caterina’s impressive history with start up ventures, we’d firmly place them in the one to watch column.
She has a long history of being involved with online projects, and her resume is exhausting to look at, including a stint as the Art Director of Salon.com and Creative Director of Yellowball. She remains friendly and down to earth, with her current company regularly stopping for team, brainstorms and beer and has managed to do all this and still retain an approachable edge, something which many successful entrepreneurs lose.
Ursula Burns, CEO of the Xerox Corp
Ursula Burns is currently CEO and Chairman of the Xerox Corporation, which has to be a pretty awesome role. Not only does she get to make major decisions about the company, but by being such a public figurehead sets a great example to women interested in business. She’s actually the SECOND female CEO the company has had (go Xerox!) and continues a tradition of revitalizing and rethinking of corporate strategy to keep in line with the changing market. It is due to her careful planning that Xerox has been so successful in recent years, and under her leadership the company has prospered.
Ursula holds a BSC in mechanical engineering and a Master of Science degree in mechanical engineering. She originally stared at Xerox as an intern in 1980, and worked her way up, which also goes to show just how valuable work experience is, and how it really does open doors for you.
Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook
Sheryl Sandberg understands what makes people tick, so it’s no surprise she left Google for Facebook, after deeply impressing Mark Zuckerberg at a conference. Her career history not only includes a stint as VP of Google, but also at the Treasury Department, and her venture into Facebook territory shows how au fait she is with today’s current technological trends.
She holds a BA in Economics from Harvard and an MBA from the Harvard Business School. She has a history of hard work and innovation, and she has even followed through her passions with a marriage/merger, as her husband is the founder of successful web survey site Survey Monkey. Talk about taking your work home with you (sorry!). Not only does Sheryl help lead Facebook from strength to strength but she also manages to keep her cool with a team of young people- and we all know how hard that can be!
Oprah Winfrey, She is Oprah Winfrey!
Oprah is such a household name today that it’s often easy to forget just how far this lady has come. She managed to rise above a history of abuse, poverty and pregnancy to become a savvy and shrewd businesswoman with assets spanning the globe, and a face that is recognized worldwide.
She is currently CEO of Harpo Productions (Oprah spelled backwards) and is strongly involved in charity work. She started the Angel foundation to help women and families further themselves in education, has won a Humanitarian award for her work, and even opened the Oprah Winfrey leadership academy for women in South Africa (albeit there was some controversy there but still she tried). Oprah is a firm fan of the arts, and recently claimed the iPad as her favorite gadget of the year, no doubt sending its sales sky high. She’s not afraid to tackle topical issues and her blend of warm-heartedness and steely business acumen has seen her become a beloved national icon. I love that she stays interested in technological developments- that’s the sign of someone who continues to evolve and not stagnate. It will be interesting to see what is next once ‘Oprah’ wraps this season and heads into her new television network – OWN.
Leslie Sobon, Vice President World Marketing AMD
People love their computers, but they can often falter when reading the specsheet of a new purchase. Quad core processor, Graphics card, Windows 7 bit or premium- the head starts to spin and people start to get quite sulky. Leslie Sobon aims to strip away the jargon from computer purchasing, and make upgrading your PC a lot more intuitive. She prides herself on making AMD products clear and understandable. ‘(I’m) not into the fluff-crap marketing stuff, but they do want to know there’s real technology behind it.”
Her vision for her role at AMD is all about putting the consumer back in the driving seat, and making the buying process centered around their needs, rather than showing off what great computers they have. Love that attitude, after all if you can’t get people to use your products they’ll never know if they’re worth it or not. “Buying a PC is not a lot of fun. It’s all fact tabs and yet PCs are becoming like cameras or TVs in their usage patterns. In America, more people know 1080p is than know than what a microprocessor is.” As well as continuing to develop a usability strategy, she also finds time to blog about a wide range of geeky related subjects such as ‘How to date a geek’ which we are assured is 100% her own words. How can you not like this woman?
Diane Nelson, President DC Entertainment
Love a bit of comic book action? Whether it’s Superman, Batman or the Green Lantern that has you smiling, Diane Nelson is the lady to thank that they’re still going strong. Diane took over the helm of DC Comics in 2009, and her arrival has helped the company retain their massive hold on the comic book market. Diane has been involved in topical geekery for awhile now, as her previous role at Warner saw her heavily involved with the Harry Potter franchise, so it’s fair to say that she understands popular culture. Her history in film might help us see the growth of some much loved comic characters turn into big screen heroes- but she is tantalizingly quiet on what any new developments might be.
On the subject of women in the comic book world, she’s very positive though- refusing to be cowed by the so called ‘boy’s club’ mentality of comics. Diane says, ‘I think there are attributes that many women executives have that will be a great addition to this business, I hope. While it would be as wrong of me to attribute these traits to women at the exclusion of men as it would be for a man to do the reverse, I think women can often be very strong team players and good communicators and collaborators’. I like her attitude and hope that through her role as president we’ll see more female superheroes in comic books, and the role of female characters become far more than just supporting acts.
Genevieve Bell, Director, Interaction & Experience Research Intel
Genevieve Bell was one of the first people to be involved in social science research- working out what makes people tick in terms of tech, and just how usable products should be for everyday consumers. Today she heads up a team of researchers and scientists, working on multi-platform devices to see how Intel can make the user centric experience even, more intuitive and working to create best practices in this field. As a matter of fact, her team at Intel started researching “SmartTVs” several years ago, which ultimately led to Intel’s GoogleTV launch this year with partners Google, Logitech & Sony.
Though she has a history of working in technology her qualifications are more arts focused, with a masters and doctorate degree in anthropology, with a specialism on how this intersects with technology. Her research spans decades, and proves very interesting when analyzing the way that women in particular use their technology. It’s interesting to see how different cultures utilize their gadgets, such as matching your avatars clothing to your own (in Korea) or combining maid work with IT support (in Singapore). Her work continues to push boundaries and challenges people’s expectations, both of their computer experience, and what it means to be a woman in technology. She’s a fascinating lady, and I’m sure we will continue to hear more from her soon.
Update 12/29/2011: Check out our list of the Top 10 Women Who Impacted Technology in 2011