Can Digital Enable a More Equal World? | Tech Mahindra

Can Digital Enable a More Equal World?

June 23 – International Day for Women in Engineering

World War I changed a lot of things in the modern world. Machine guns, airplanes, submarines, armoured vehicles, chemical weapons; there was much new technology used to fight this war. Industrialization and mass production enabled all this.

As many men were drafted in to fight this awful war, there was a need to fill the industrial workforce, and women stepped in. From factory work to engineering, technology and design, women proved that they could do these jobs as well as the men, if not better.

At the end of the war, however, the men who returned took these jobs back. As these pioneering women realized the significant contributions they had made and could continue to make to the field of engineering and technology, they formed the Women’s Engineering Society in 1919, to enable other women to reach their potential in the technical field.

Today, June 23, is celebrated as the International Day for Women in Engineering.

Women & STEM

Women’s contributions to the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) field are not new. But just like they were expected to yield their jobs back to men at the end of the war, the patriarchal society of the previous centuries, meant that these contributions were sadly downplayed, overlooked, or downright usurped, by the men they worked with.

While many of us now know of Ada Lovelace, whose contributions to the computing world by laying the foundation of programming languages were only acknowledged many decades later, and of Rosalind Parker, whose discovery of the double helix was appropriated by Watson & Crick, here are other women whose work was not acknowledged:

  • Milena Maric Einstein, the first wife of Albert Einstein, who was considered an even better scientist than he, and contributed significantly to his work, co-authoring or editing his early papers, while they got published only in his name. Einstein’s affair with another woman ended their marital relationship, and Milena was tragically left with no credit for her tremendous work.
  • Hedy Lamarr, a woman of many talents, was a fine actress, and a serial inventor. During WWII, she co-invented a radio guidance system for torpedoes, which was later used by the Navy. Her spread-spectrum invention has been incorporated into modern digital technology such as WiFi and Bluetooth. Sadly, recognition for her work came only after her death.
  • Lisa Meitner, who was Otto Hahn’s research partner on nuclear fission, was not given credit on the paper that he published solely in his name, which later led to a Nobel Prize for him, but no acknowledgement for her. As a Jew, Lisa was earlier forced to flee her home in Germany, and could therefore not claim the authorship credit that was her due.
  • Mary Anderson invented windshield wipers in 1903, as a way to clear streetcar windshields of snow. When her invention was finally used for automobiles in the 1950s, her patent had expired and someone else took credit for it.
About the Author
Padma Parthasarathy
SVP & Global Head, Consulting and Digital Services