The 10 most influential women in tech right now
These thought leaders, founders, and entrepreneurs are propelling the kind of future we want to be a part of.
- The tech industry may be dominated by men in terms of numbers, but there are lots of brilliant women in leadership positions that are changing the landscape.
- The women on this list are founders of companies dedicated to teaching girls to code, innovators in the fields of AI, VR, and machine learning, leading tech writers and podcasters, and CEOs of companies like YouTube and Project Include.
- This list is by no means all-encompassing. There are many more influential women in tech that you should seek out and follow.
Statistics on the number of women in tech careers reveal a hard truth: the industry is overwhelmingly dominated by one gender. In a 2018 study, women made up only about 25% of the United States' tech workforce and those women often earn less than their male colleagues.
So in celebration of the small yet powerful tribe of women who are moving tech forward, we've compiled a list of some of the top thought leaders, founders, influencers, and CEOs in the industry. This collection of innovators and entrepreneurs runs some of the world's biggest tech companies and most promising startups, but most importantly, they're propelling the kind of future we want to be a part of.
Although there are many, many more tech leaders we could have included on this list, this group was selected based on their following and sphere of influence in the world today.
10 women in tech you should be following
Reshma Saujani, founder and CEO of Girls Who Code
Reshma Saujani is a New York Times bestselling author and the brains behind the famous TED Talk, "Teach girls bravery, not perfection." The daughter of refugees graduated from Harvard University and Yale Law School. In 2010, she became the first Indian-American woman to run for Congress.
"When I lost, I wanted to continue to make a difference," Saujani told Adweek. "I figured the best way that I could do that is by creating opportunities for girls." Two years later, she started the nonprofit, Girls Who Code, aimed at increasing the number of women in the computer science field. Follow Saujani for inspiring and informational tweets geared toward women in tech.
Susan Wojcicki, CEO of YouTube
Topping virtually every list of female tech CEOs is Susan Wojcicki. Google's sixteenth employee and initial marketing manager, Wojcicki contributed to the development of Google Images and AdSense as she rose up the ranks. The Silicon Valley native and mother of five eventually suggested the acquisition of YouTube, and became its CEO in 2014.
"Tech is an incredible force that will change our world in ways we can't anticipate. If that force is only 20 to 30% women, that is a problem," Wojcicki has said. We love the bold stance she takes against gender discrimination in her op-ed pieces, which include this must-read: "How To Break up the Silicon Valley Boys' Club."
Ellen K. Pao, co-founder and CEO of Project Include
Photo by Helena Price
We couldn't create a list of the top women in tech without including Ellen K. Pao. Pao served as the CEO of Reddit prior to co-founding Project Include – a nonprofit focused on improving diversity in the tech industry. She often speaks publicly on issues like sexism in Silicon Valley.
Pao entered the public spotlight in 2012, when she filed a $16 million lawsuit against her former employer, a venture capital firm, for gender discrimination. Despite ultimately losing the case, Pao stirred up much-needed conversations in the tech world and detailed her experience in her memoir, "Reset: My Fight for Inclusion and Lasting Change."
Danah Boyd, founder and president of Data & Society
Source: personaldemocracy / Flickr
A nationally recognized scholar and thought leader, Danah Boyd founded her own research institute to address the ethical and legal implications of emerging technologies. She also currently serves as a partner researcher for Microsoft.
Boyd studied at Brown, MIT, and Berkeley. She attributes the fact that she survived high school to a misogynistic classmate who once told her that girls couldn't "do science." From then on, she was determined to prove him wrong. Today, her work includes countless thought-provoking publications on topics such as accountability in machine learning and media manipulation.
Kimberly Bryant, founder and CEO of Black Girls Code
Source: nrkbeta / Flickr
Kimberly Bryant used her 401(k) to start Black Girls Code in 2011. The struggle to find a diverse computer programming course for her daughter in the Bay Area inspired the nonprofit, which now has the mission of teaching a million girls of color how to code by the year 2040.
Having studied electrical engineering in college, Bryant said, "I didn't want my daughter to feel culturally isolated in the pursuit of her studies as I had as a young girl. I didn't want her to give up on her passions just because she didn't see anyone else like her in the classroom."
Among a long list of other well-deserved accolades, Bryant was named a Champion of Change by the White House and received the Ingenuity Award in Social Progress from the Smithsonian Institute.
Kate Crawford, co-founder of the AI Now Institute
Source: re:publica / Flickr
Kate Crawford is an Australian author and thought leader on the social impacts of AI and machine learning – something we should all be paying more attention to. Her argument for banning the use of facial recognition technology, at least for now, is very compelling.
She wrote in The Wall Street Journal, "Today's AI is extraordinarily powerful when it comes to detecting patterns but lacks social and contextual awareness. It's a minor issue when it comes to targeted Instagram advertising but a far more serious one if AI is deciding who gets a job, what political news you read or who gets out of jail."
Crawford helped pioneer the AI Now Institute, a research institute at NYU, and serves as a senior researcher at Microsoft. Fun fact: she co-founded a record label and was previously part of an electronic music duo that released three albums.
Dr. Fei-Fei Li, co-director of Stanford's Human-Centered AI Institute
Source: ITU Pictures / Flickr
A pioneer of artificial intelligence with an impressive Twitter following, Dr. Fei-Fei Li is another one of today's most influential women in technology. Dr. Li was born in Beijing, China and moved to the U.S. with her mother when she was 16. She studied physics at Princeton and went on to receive a Ph.D. in electrical engineering from Caltech.
The Stanford professor co-founded AI4ALL, a nonprofit aimed at improving diversity in the field of AI. But she's most known for her work on the ImageNet project, a database of over 15 million images. In layman's terms, the database helped "train" the first computer to recognize and understand what's in a picture. In her TED Talk on the project, Dr. Li stated, "Little by little, we're giving sight to the machines. First, we teach them to see. Then, they help us to see better."
Katie Moussouris, founder and CEO of Luta Security
Image courtesy of Threatpost Inc.
While her childhood friends played with Barbie dolls, Katie Moussouris spent most of her time learning how to program on a Commodore 64 that her mom gave her in the third grade. She was the first female in her high school to take AP Computer Science, and around that time she developed an interest in hacking.
Moussouris chose to use her hacking chops for good and eventually became a pioneer of cybersecurity. She now helps businesses and government agencies defend themselves against digital threats. Her portfolio includes work for the U.S. Department of Defense and Microsoft. But the real reason she made it on our list of the top women in tech? One of her life goals is "to help make the internet safer for everyone." For that, we thank you, Katie.
Cathy Hackl, host of Future Insiders Podcast
Image credit: Cathy Hackl
Next on our list of the top women in tech is Cathy Hackl. Hackl is best known for being one of LinkedIn's Top Tech Voices and the host of the Future Insiders podcast, where she keeps listeners in the know about emerging technologies that could change the world as we know it, such as 6G and smart contact lenses.
Hackl is also a world-renowned speaker and influencer who tweets often about all things tech, with a focus on augmented and virtual reality. As if she couldn't get any cooler, she's the brains behind the world's first holographic press release, and has worked with brands like UPS and HTC on how to best leverage AR and VR technologies.
Joanna Stern, senior tech columnist at The Wall Street Journal
Image credit: The Wall Street Journal
Joanna Stern is an award-winning journalist with a refreshing take on consumer technology, best known for her column at The Wall Street Journal. Stern was a founding member of The Verge who built their product review program from the ground up. You may have seen her discussing the latest tech news on CNBC.
Why we love her? Articles like this one that offer her bold perspective and helpful advice on the smartest ways to use modern tech. In it, she advises consumers to ditch Google Chrome, calling the popular web browser: "RAM hoovering, battery draining and privacy disregarding." Follow Stern on Twitter to stay informed (and entertained – she's quite hilarious).
After combing through the top tech companies, academic institutions, and nonprofit organizations, we've selected each of these female powerhouses because of their contributions to the fields of AI, virtual reality, cybersecurity, and others, as well as their work to advance the inclusion of women in tech. Above all, these uber-talented and inspiring leaders give us hope for a better tomorrow.
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Northwell Health CEO Michael Dowling has an important favor to ask of the American people.
- Michael Dowling is president and CEO of Northwell Health, the largest health care system in New York state. In this PSA, speaking as someone whose company has seen more COVID-19 patients than any other in the country, Dowling implores Americans to wear masks—not only for their own health, but for the health of those around them.
- The CDC reports that there have been close to 7.9 million cases of coronavirus reported in the United States since January. Around 216,000 people have died from the virus so far with hundreds more added to the tally every day. Several labs around the world are working on solutions, but there is currently no vaccine for COVID-19.
- The most basic thing that everyone can do to help slow the spread is to practice social distancing, wash your hands, and to wear a mask. The CDC recommends that everyone ages two and up wear a mask that is two or more layers of material and that covers the nose, mouth, and chin. Gaiters and face shields have been shown to be less effective at blocking droplets. Homemade face coverings are acceptable, but wearers should make sure they are constructed out of the proper materials and that they are washed between uses. Wearing a mask is the most important thing you can do to save lives in your community.
Two massive clouds of dust in orbit around the Earth have been discussed for years and finally proven to exist.
- Hungarian astronomers have proven the existence of two "pseudo-satellites" in orbit around the earth.
- These dust clouds were first discovered in the sixties, but are so difficult to spot that scientists have debated their existence since then.
- The findings may be used to decide where to put satellites in the future and will have to be considered when interplanetary space missions are undertaken.
What are they?<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xODgyMDA0NC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzNTM1ODc0Mn0.NH33LuauIo__sUBi4tvhwxDcsvhflDFD-Nhx9FjlSNk/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=148%2C0%2C149%2C0&height=700" id="cec96" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="acb78abe2ab46a17e419ad30906751d6" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Artist's impression of the Kordylewski cloud in the night sky (with its brightness greatly enhanced) at the time of the observations.
G. Horváth<p>The<a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kordylewski_cloud" target="_blank"> Kordylewski clouds</a> are two dust clouds first observed by Polish astronomer Kazimierz Kordylewski in 1961. They are situated at two of the <a href="https://www.space.com/30302-lagrange-points.html" target="_blank">Lagrange points</a> in Earth's orbit. These points are locations where the gravity of two objects, such as the Earth and the Moon or a planet and the Sun, equals the centripetal required to orbit the objects while staying in the same relative position. There are five of these spots between the Earth and Moon. The clouds rest at what are called points four and five, forming a triangle with the clouds and the Earth at the three corners.</p><p>The clouds are enormous, taking up the same space in the night sky as twenty lunar discs; covering an area of 45,000 miles. They are roughly 250,000 miles away, about the same distance from us as the Moon. They are entirely comprised of specks of dust which reflect the light of the sun so faintly most astronomers that looked for them were unable to see them at all. </p><p>The clouds themselves are probably ancient, but the model that the scientists created to learn about them suggests that the individual dust particles that comprise them can be blown away by solar wind and replaced by the dust from other cosmic sources like comet tails. This means that the clouds hardly move but are <a href="https://www.nationalgeographic.com/science/2018/11/news-earth-moon-dust-clouds-satellites-planets-space/" target="_blank">eternally changing</a>. </p>
How did they discover this?<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xODgyMDAzNi9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1Nzc4MjQ4MX0.7uU9OqmQcWw5Ll1UXAav0PCu4nTg-GdJdAWADHanC7c/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C180%2C0%2C181&height=700" id="952fb" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="a778280a20f1c54cd2c14c8313224be2" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
"In this picture the central region of the Kordylewski dust cloud is visible (bright red pixels). The straight tilted lines are traces of satellites."
J. Slíz-Balogh<p>In their study published in the <a href="https://academic.oup.com/mnras" target="_blank">Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society</a>, Hungarian astronomers Judit Slíz-Balogh, András Barta, and Gábor Horváth described how they were able to find the dust clouds using polarized lenses.</p><p>Since the clouds were expected to polarize the light that bounces off of them, by configuring the telescopes to look for this kind of light the clouds were much easier to spot. What the scientists observed, polarized light in patterns that extended outside the view of the telescope lens, was in line with the predictions of their mathematical model and ruled out other possible sources. </p>
Why are we just learning this now?<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xODgyMDAzOS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY2MjUyNDMyMH0.Zl8GmQ_rJHiL4b7hN0r_YBmgb6_ZqIRvqOVuko2ubpw/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C141%2C0%2C185&height=700" id="87afe" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="dd4c0b5088e601d7279cc5eb226f8b7b" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
"Mosaic pattern of the angle of polarization around the L5 point (white dot) of the Earth-Moon system. The five rectangular windows correspond to the imaging telescope with which the patterns of the Kordylewski cloud were measured."
J. Slíz-Balogh<p>The objects, being dust clouds, are very faint and hard to see. While Kordylewski observed them in 1961, other astronomers have looked there and given mixed reports over the following decades. This discouraged many astronomers from joining the search, as study co-author Judit Slíz-Balogh <a href="https://ras.ac.uk/news-and-press/research-highlights/earths-dust-cloud-satellites-confirmed" target="_blank">explained</a>, <em>"The Kordylewski clouds are two of the toughest objects to find, and though they are as close to Earth as the Moon are largely overlooked by researchers in astronomy. It is intriguing to confirm that our planet has dusty pseudo-satellites in orbit alongside our lunar neighbor."</em></p>
Will this have any impact on space travel?<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="c3d797fff5430c64afcb5a49bddc3616"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/Ou8N3v9SFPE?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>Lagrange points have been put forward as excellent locations for a space station or satellites like the <a href="https://jwst.nasa.gov/about.html" target="_blank">James Webb Telescope</a> to be put into orbit, as they would require little fuel to stay in place. Knowing about a massive dust cloud that could damage sensitive equipment already being there could save money and lives in the future. While we only know about the clouds at Lagrange points four and five right now, the study's authors suggest there could be more at the other points.</p><p>While the discovery of a couple of dust clouds might not seem all that impressive, it is the result of a half-century of astronomical and mathematical work and reminds us that wonders are still hidden in our cosmic backyard. While you might never need to worry about these clouds again, there is nothing wrong with looking at the sky with wonder at the strange and fantastic things we can discover. </p>
New cancer-scanning technology reveals a previously unknown detail of human anatomy.
- Scientists using new scanning technology and hunting for prostate tumors get a surprise.
- Behind the nasopharynx is a set of salivary glands that no one knew about.
- Finding the glands may allow for more complication-free radiation therapies.
PSMA PET/CT technology<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="676e611b970c9b516cace0870447b325"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/RHAyoQF09X4?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>PSMA PET/CT is a new combination of <a href="https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/pet-scan/about/pac-20385078" target="_blank">PET scans</a> and <a href="https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/ct-scan/about/pac-20393675" target="_blank">CT scans</a> that is believed to offer a more reliable means of locating prostate cancer metastasis. A <a href="https://www.cancer.gov/news-events/cancer-currents-blog/2020/prostate-cancer-psma-pet-ct-metastasis" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">study</a> published last spring suggests it may be the most accurate way to diagnose prostate cancer metastasis than any method previously available.</p><p>Prior to PSMA PET/CT, the primary way to look for metastatic prostate cancer was to image the body using x-ray-based CT scans and to perform bone scans, since bone is where prostate cancer often spreads. CT scans, however, often miss small tumors, and bone scans can generate false positives as a result of other damage or abnormalities that have nothing to do with prostate cancer.</p><p>PSMA PET/CT scans track the travels of an intravenously administered radioactive glucose tracer throughout the body. For hunting down prostate cancer, this tracer contains a molecule that binds to the <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1472940/" target="_blank">PSMA</a> protein that's present in large amounts in prostate tumors. The molecule is linked to a radioisotope, <a href="https://netrf.org/2018/11/13/gallium-68-scan-for-neuroendocrine-tumors/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">gallium-68</a> (Ga-68).</p><p>In last spring's research, PSAM PET/CT was shown to be 27 percent more accurate than previous methods at finding metastases (92 percent accuracy as opposed to 65 percent). In addition, it was found to be much less likely to produce false positives, and it was particularly good at detecting tumors far removed from the prostate.</p>
A good kind of avoidance behavior<p>"Radiation therapy can damage the salivary glands," says Vogel, "which may lead to complications. Patients may have trouble eating, swallowing, or speaking, which can be a real burden."</p><p>The researchers looked back through the cases of 723 patients who had undergone radiation treatment, interested in seeing if inadvertent radiation of the tubarial glands was associated with the complications experienced by the patients. It turned out that this <em>was</em> the case: In cases where more radiation had been delivered to this area, patients did indeed report more in the way of complications of the type one would expect when salivary glands are radiated.</p><p>Now that we know the tubarial salivary glands exist, therapists can stay out of their way. Vogel says, "For most patients, it should technically be possible to avoid delivering radiation to this newly discovered location of the salivary gland system in the same way we try to spare known glands."</p><p>He's hopeful that that things may be about to get at least a bit better for cancer patients: "Our next step is to find out how we can best spare these new glands and in which patients. If we can do this, patients may experience less side effects which will benefit their overall quality of life after treatment."</p>
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