The Top 10 Women Who Impacted Technology in 2011

December is a time for reflection, for celebration and for making and breaking resolutions. It’s also time for us to look back at the last year in technology land and marvel at how far we’ve come. EReaders are now mainstream, we lost a marvelous brain with Steve Jobs passing and we’ve seen Windows 7 offer some serious competition to the likes of Android and iPhone. I want to take a moment to look at some of the women who have been making a difference in technology in the last year from scientific researchers to those that tirelessly challenge the role of the woman in the workforce.

This new list doesn’t mean that any of the women featured last year (which include Sheryl Sandberg, Alicia Navarro and more) are any less valued; we just feel it’s important to highlight some other women who are doing great things this year.

Professor Nancy Ectoff, Harvard assistant clinical professor of psychology

In today’s image obsessed society the idea of beauty has never been more relevant and this is something Professor Nancy chooses to focus her time on delineating.

“If you wear a glam look, you should know you look very attractive at quick glance,” she says, and then attempts to deconstruct just what attractive means today, and that the desire to live up to TV standards is biological as well as cultural, which is something that we haven’t considered before. Nature and nurture seems surprising in the beauty context, but Nancy feels passionately that this is what has occurred. She has created a book, “Survival of the Prettiest” which outlines the advantages of conforming to society’s idea of beauty, and she has continued her research into which you beautify yourself for. She argues that dressing up today is empowering,

“Twenty or 30 years ago, if you got dressed up, it was simply to please men, or it was something you were doing because society demands it. Women and feminists today see this is their own choice, and it may be an effective tool.”

Nancy also studies the long considered ideals of beauty and symmetry and her recent study is very interesting, in this she analyzed a number of faces with and without makeup and showed how people infer competence as well as attractiveness in a face that is adorned with makeup.

Nancy is also involved in the Program in Aesthetics and Well Being at the Massachusetts General Hospital Department of Psychiatry and continues to look at how appearance affects the idea of self that women have.

Amanda Parkes, CTO of Bodega Algae and Media Designer

Amanda Parkes is a lady with a finger in many pies. A talented multimedia designer, she tirelessly works creating fashionable garments that fuse with digital technologies and she’s also the CTO of Bodega Algae, a company developing a microalgae photo bioreactor for the production of high-energy algal biomass for use in the production of bio fuel. Add to this her participation on countless boards, the fact she curates the Seamless: Computational Couture runway show and you wonder if she ever gets any sleep.

She holds a PhD from MIT Media Lab, a Masters degree in media arts and sciences from MIT and a BS in mechanical engineering (product design) and a BA in art history from Stanford University. She uses her multiple knowledge of various fields to strive to create efficient algal photosynthesis.

She focuses on looking at how digitization of media is affecting the design process in terms of fabrication and materiality and her work is designed to facilitate a ‘intuitive connection between technology and the natural world.’ I don’t pretend to fully understand everything that Amanda does, but the brief grasp I have on her many projects leaves me deeply impressed and proud of womankind as a whole.

Dr. Karlin Bark, Mechanical Engineer in the field of haptics

Dr Karlin Bark is a name you’ll want to remember as she is set to do great things in the world of stroke rehabilitation. Karlin works at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, and is looking at the potential use of haptic feedback in helping people recover from strokes. She was recently awarded the L’Oreal USA Fellowship for Women in Science which allows her to continue her research and we can hope this will lead to a solution that will benefit millions of people.

Her work involves dealing with clinical specialists at the Moss Rehabilitation Research Institute to progress on developing and testing an affordable upper-limb rehabilitation system that can help stroke sufferers get back some part of their original quality of life. This work not only benefits those with strokes, but can be adapted for use with other healthcare professionals such as personal trainers to help achieve proper fitness goals without injuries for their clients.

Virginia Rometty, CEO of IBM

Virginia Rometty has had a long and varied career. Called Ginni by her friends, she has recently been named CEO of IBM, which makes her one of the most influential women in tech today. Virginia joined IBM in 1981 as a system engineer after graduating with a BSc in engineering from Northwestern University.

Her thirty year career has shown her dedication to IBM as she has worked in many different facets of the business, from consulting to strategizing and has always spearheaded forward thinking initiatives such as the Jeopardy playing computer and making sure that IBM contributes to good causes as well as thinks about profit. She is currently on the board of overseers for the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and the board of trustees for her university as well as many other good causes. She exemplifies how far anyone –regardless of sex- can go in their career, if they put in hard work and stick to their core values.

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Dr. Deborah Berebichez, The Science Babe

Dr Debbie doesn’t take herself too seriously which is something I love her for, as it’s easy to get bogged down with all the scientific jargon that exists in the industry. She has chosen to play the role of well educated scientist with a cheeky streak and her Twitter stream and blog The Science babe– exemplifies this. She aims to make science more accessible- and dare we say sexy- to every day people and can hold her own easily, be it on a lab or shopping at Harrods.

Her background is impressive, she holds a degree in philosophy and physics, a PhD in Physics at Stanford University and she has two postdoctoral fellowships in mathematics and physics, as well as finding the time to learn 5 languages. She has used her skills to help Wall Street understand the fluctuating markets (she’s a risk analyst) and she regularly blogs and presents to camera about the latest scientific breakthroughs. She says her aim is to “become the new “Oprah” of science”, and seeing how she blends fun with smart science, we’d say she’s well on her way.

In recent years she’s given talks at TED and her subjects are always engaging- to give you an example, her recent topic was ‘The Science of High heels’, where she looks at how you can decipher which heels would be the most comfortable. Seriously a topic worthy of my consideration. Here’s an excerpt so you can truly appreciate her writing style.

‘Did you know that a 110lb. woman wearing stiletto high heel shoes puts a lot more pressure on the ground than a 6,000lb elephant? Learn what high heel shoes have to do with the laws of physics that XVIIth Century physicist Isaac Newton derived. Also, what makes one high-heel shoe more comfortable than another? Is a thicker heel always better than a thinner one for high-heel shoes? How close approximately should the heel be placed away from your toes? What gives a woman the best support and dynamic leverage in her walking style? Why are some surfaces better than others for walking on a high-heel? Does leather always stretch? And are some materials better for constructing a supportive heel?

Her video educates you on this, and makes you aware of how physics is an important part of our everyday life.

Cher Wang, CEO HTC

Cher Wang is a name you’re probably familiar with, and if not- what rock have you been hiding under? Valued publicly at around $7 billion dollars, she is the co-founder of HTC, which is currently estimated at making 1 out of 6 of every mobile handsets in the world. Yes, the world- she’s that big. HTC was actually created to stand for ‘High tech Computers’ and though they began in computing, Smartphone’s are now how they survive.

Based in Silicon Valley nowadays, Cher has a big game plan- working on HTC getting more dominance in the market.

“I confer with frequently on strategy, directions, acquisitions, major hirings, legal issues, government relationships and risk management,” she says.

She is the brain behind the 30,000 odd patents acquired by the company from Intellectual Ventures, which shows how serious she is about establishing their dominance and working on improving their platform. She has many challenges on a daily basis- a legal battle with Apple over patents springs to mind but she’ll always be known for how she managed to team up with Google for the first Android phone, and her relationships with Google and Microsoft have been the reason that HTC has gained such w0rldwide dominance.

Cher was born into luxury, but though her father was a wealthy man, she has created her own opportunities and gone her own way. She undertook an economics degree at Berkeley and went on to co-found HTC and Via Technologies- both of which have grown into industry behemoths under her direction

Amy Pascal, CEO of Sony Entertainment

Amy Pascal has one of the coolest jobs in the world (and this is from someone who gets to play video games and call that work). She’s the co-chairman of Sony Entertainment which means she gets to have a say in everything the studio produces- and meet a lot of A list names as well. Her direction and I sight have led to the studio creating some memorable films in recent years (and a few flops, but we’ll ignore that) and some films she has worked on recently are Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs (loved this), Columbia Pictures’ Zombieland, Julie & Julia and The Ugly Truth, and District 9. Her history of film spans some of the greatest movies in recent years with the relationship with Will Smith seeing the studio produce Men in Black, Men in Black 2, Hitch, The Pursuit of Happyness, and Hancock.

Her first year at Columbia Pictures (in 1988) saw the production of Groundhog Day (arguably the best film ever) and Little Women, She’s moved around various studios, with former roles at 20th Century Fox and Columbia Tri-Star before her career at Sony, and her beginnings were pretty humble- she was a secretary for BBC producer Tony Garnett at Kestral Films many decades ago.

She’s come a long way since her undergrad degree in International Relations at UCLA and her huge success is very inspiring – as is her rolodex of celebrity contacts! It’s hard for a woman to succeed in the traditionally male dominated place that is Hollywood, so we give her kudos for her continuing achievements.

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Veronica Belmont, Geek gamer and Presenter

Veronica Belmont is my ideal geek girl as she exudes a passion for gaming a spirit and lightness that is incredibly engaging and she genuinely seems to love what she does. She has helped redefine the notion of a female gamer-or any gamer, for that matter- from a lone stay at home stereotype to a smart shape and confident woman. Her career started in journalism as a presenter for CNET and hers star has risen from there. She hosted a daily segment on Mahalo and is currently hosting Tekzilla on Revision 3 and she’s ever present on Twitter sharing the activities of her daily life with us,

She’s a hardcore RPG fan (Warcraft is what she loves) and has just started work on a new show called Game On – on the @TWiT network out in January 2012. She also loves the PS3 (OK, work related to Qore) and likes playing with games from Steam.

Her work has taken her all over the world and the fact that she daily deals with tech has meant she now consults with many companies and advises them on their product designs and releases (and gets to test a fair amount too). I love her refreshing attitude to tech, and Veronica exemplifies the Chip Chick woman with her friendly but informative shows and tone making us warm inside.

Check out her Twitter here.

Virginia Hughes, Science Writer

Virginia Hughes is one smart cookie and is someone I hugely admire. She works as a science journalist, but her detailed articles and clever analysis come from the mind of someone who truly understands the subject, as her writing skills go hand in hand with her degree in Neuroscience from Brown, with courses in Science writing taken at John Hopkins. All too often I’ll read science posts by someone who is a great writer but doesn’t understand the subject so it’s refreshing to find someone who is so talented in both fields.

Virginia’s career has seen here move across a wide variety of esteemed publications, from ScienceBlogs to Discover Magazine and Seed Magazine. Her work has been published worldwide and I love how she makes the subject of science so digestible and engaging, without ever dumbing it down (example: Elephants are closer to humans than chimps). She’s a lady to admire- and the fact that her bio mentions she loves ‘playing with other people’s puppies’ is only going to help endear her to the Chip Chick crew.

Check out her website here.

Jennifer Siebel Newsom, Documentary Maker

Jennifer Siebel Newsom is a woman on a mission- and her mission is to have more women in power across all subject areas. It’s no secret that the female sex is horribly overshadowed by men in most industries (think boardroom, not bar) and Jennifer created a documentary ‘Miss Representation ‘ to address this topic.

Shown at Sundance 2011, it received great reviews and has led to Jennifer launching site called MissRepresentation which offers various tools that can be used to help educate women. These include a downloadable curriculum for schools which encourage teachers to help students challenge how stereotypes of femininity and masculinity limit girls and boys and Examine the impact media has on a woman’s ability to see herself as a leader and obtain a leadership role.

Jennifer is also the CEO of Girls Club Entertainment, LLC, which develops and produces independent creates films that empower women. Her history lies in film, as Jennifer was previously an actress with roles in various TV shows and she has a background in business with a degree in Business from Stanford’s Graduate School of Business

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I also wanted to give a moment to give an honorable mention to the great Alice in Galaxy Land  blog which is an incredible blog which details changes and research in the science community from the perspective of an postgrad student. It’s a truly great site and definitely worth a read.

Happy New Year- and here’s to women doing even greater things in 2012!


  1. These women are getting awards for the mere act of existing and having a vagina. Woohoo! Aren’t they fabulous. Writing science fiction and making a femonazi documentary can hardly be called ‘making a contribution to technology’. It’s lucky for these recipients of positive discrimination privilidge places that there is a special award category for those who have a vagina becuase if they had to compete with the thousands of men who really did make significant contributions to technology in 2011 then none of them would be in the top 100. Try competing with the men that made and trapped antimatter in a lab. Or the men who successfully construction the first self-replicating, synthetic bacterial cell. Or the men who solved the mystery of mass in variable stars. But how could those contributions compare with a vaginaist who managed the making of such fantastic movies as Men in Black and Men in Black 2. Oh yes, women are equal alright. It’s not just a steaming pile of manure. They really are…. NOT!

  2. Hello, and thank you for
    your contribution to this piece. In a world where women are underrepresented in
    the boardroom worldwide, we can clearly see a bias towards men being elected in
    positions of power which is why we look at females who have managed to break
    this barrier. Yes, they have vaginas, but they also have brains, and we are
    celebrating their effect on the technology world in its many diversified forms.

    I appreciate you may not
    feel every woman on the list has the same worldwide recognition as say the CEO
    of IBM or the CEO of HTC (oops, wait, both on the list) and the reason we
    included people such as research scientists and documentary makers is to show
    that there are many routes into technology and that there are many ways to make
    an impact on this ever diversifying world. I also take offence to your
    description of a documentary maker as a feminazzi- it sounds like you have not
    actually watched the show and a judgement based on hearsay seems rather small
    minded to me.

    I do not wish to get into a
    slanging match with someone who has established that they have deep issues with
    vaginas – I just hope you realize that you are part of the problem, and we are
    looking for the solution.

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