five awesome women in science and technology

In honor of Ada Lovelace Day, and inspired by a challenge to name five awesome women in science and technology in five different countries, I’ll give my answer.

  1. Margaret Livingstone, Harvard Medical School (US).  She gave the keynote talk at UIST 2012 (which I just attended, and it was awesome, and I need to write it up) about art and vision, and gave me quite a lot to think about in terms of how we process visual information.  She is in the process of expanding her book Vision and Art, to be republished next year.
  2. Ada Yonath, Weizmann Institute of Science (Israel).  She won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 2009 for her work about ribosomes.  (The previous female Nobel laureate in chemistry was 1964, so she ended quite the dry spell.)
  3. Cheryl Praeger, University of Western Australia.  She’s done some amazing work on group theory and algorithm complexity.
  4. Tebello Nyokong, Rhodes University (South Africa).  She is the first woman from South Africa to have won the L’Oréal-UNESCO award for women in science, for her work on cancer treatments.
  5. Sophia Drossopoulou, Imperial College London (UK).  She might just be my favorite woman doing work in programming languages.
I’m overdue for a write-up of my experience at the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing, too.  For now, suffice it to say that it was a freakin’ awesome experience to be in a room with 3600 other technical women, and I nearly fell out of my chair when my panel session about influencing without authority filled the room and had to turn people away.  

2 thoughts on “five awesome women in science and technology”

  1. Hi Nadyne,

    Very intrigued by the idea of “influencing without authority”, and was wondering whether there is more material anywhere. In particular, whether the panel thought you could influence better if you did not have explicit authority, and whether there is recognition in the system (ie after a while of influencing without authority, you then obtain the authority).


    PS How extremely generous of you to include me in this list of giants!

    1. First, apologies for not seeing this before – you somehow got caught in the spam filter. :/

      We didn’t have slides or other materials for our discussion, and we didn’t discuss whether actually having authority meant that you could influence better. In my personal opinion, I’ve seen plenty of people who were said to have authority (say, senior managers) who, in practice, did not. They were either overruled by others or simply ignored. I would say that they didn’t have authority because they had skipped over, or done a poor job of, the steps of building influence (which is to say: building trust, building relationships, building a track record).

      I do think that there is recognition in the system for influencing without authority. At least in industrial technical roles, climbing the career ladder after a certain point requires more of an ability to influence others than it requires deep technical ability. You have to have the deep technical ability to get there — it’s necessary, but it’s not sufficient. My company’s career ladder for the two levels above my current position explicitly calls out the need to influence others to move in the right direction, and I seem to recall something similar in my previous employer’s career ladder as well.

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