It may still be a man’s world when it comes to technology, yet we take for granted how far women have come since this industry’s infancy. If you’ve never heard of Anita Borg (pictured at right), allow us to introduce you to a visionary who embraced technology and began her computer programming career in 1969. In 1987, after years of feeling like the only girl in the room (and often times she was), Anita, along with several other smart women, formed Systers.
Systers is a prolific and diverse group of women from all over the world who share one thing in common: computer science. Systers is an email community for an exclusive group of women, and membership is considered based on a person’s level of technical training. Throughout its existence, Systers has also tackled several social issues pertaining to women in this field that has long been dominated by men. Remember the uproar over Mattel’s Barbie that declared “math is tough”? The flames of the opposition were fanned by an email list that began on Systers, sparking an outrage so widespread that Mattel eventually removed the sound byte from Barbie because of the resulting negative press.
A community that started as a small group of women sharing common experiences of their time in the computing industry has grown to over 3,000 women throughout the world. Systers members agree to various sets of rules, and must provide a short essay that details their qualifications before they are considered for the list.
This year, Systers will celebrate the 25th anniversary of its email community. The Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology is hosting meetups to celebrate this anniversary globally and in several US cities, including Atlanta, Dallas, Madison, New York City and St. Louis. Systers is also in the midst of creating more meetup cities, too.
This group of smart and talented women deserves our accolades. If not for these visionaries and pioneers, women might still be intimidated by technology. Because they paved the way, women in IT are becoming more and more commonplace. These women help to erode gender stereotypes, and show us that women can do anything. Even math.
Congratulations on 25 years, Systers.
Image via the Anita Borg Institute