In celebration of International Women’s Day 2023, we wanted to take the time to honour some of the trailblazing women who are making their mark on the tech world we inhabit. Below you’ll find 3 short profiles which aim to shine a light on the journeys of some of tech’s most influential women: Gwynne Shotwell (SpaceX), Reshman Saujani (Girls Who Code) and Ellen Pao (Project Include).
Gwynne Shotwell | COO, SpaceX
Gwynne Shotwell is the Chief Operating Officer (COO) of SpaceX, the privately-held space exploration company founded by Elon Musk.
Her career in the aerospace industry began in the 1990s, when she worked at the Aerospace Corporation, a non-profit organisation that provides technical support to the U.S. government. In 2002, she joined SpaceX as the Vice President of Business Development, where she was responsible for growing its customer base and securing contracts as it set about achieving its mission; “revolutionise the aerospace industry and to make spaceflight more affordable”.
Since then, Shotwell has played a pivotal role in SpaceX’s success. Under her leadership, the company has developed reusable rockets and launched numerous successful missions, including the first privately-funded spacecraft to reach orbit in 2008 and the first commercial mission to the International Space Station in 2012. Throughout her time at SpaceX, Shotwell has also been a vocal advocate for increasing the number of women in STEM fields and has worked to promote diversity within SpaceX.
In recognition of her contributions to the aerospace industry, Shotwell has received numerous awards and honours, including being named one of Fortune’s Most Powerful Women in Business and being inducted into the Women in Technology International Hall of Fame.
Reshma Saujani is an entrepreneur, lawyer, and advocate for women in tech. She is founder and CEO of Girls Who Code, a non-profit that aims to close the gender gap in tech and engineering fields.
Saujani began her career as an attorney and later worked as a deputy public advocate for New York City. In 2010, Saujani made her first foray into politics, running for Congress in New York’s 14th congressional district. Whilst she didn’t win the race itself, she continued to pursue her passion for technology and education.
As a result, in 2012 Saujani founded Girls Who Code, a program that provides free computer science education to girls from underserved communities which has gone on to support more than 300,000 girls globally.
Saujani is also the author of several books, including “Brave, Not Perfect“ and “Girls Who Code: Learn to Code and Change the World.” She has been recognised as one of Fortune’s World’s Greatest Leaders and Forbes’ Most Powerful Women Changing the World.
Through her work with Girls Who Code, Saujani has become a leading voice and a powerful force for change in the effort to promote gender diversity in the tech industry we know today.
Ellen Pao is a trailblazing venture capitalist and advocate for diversity and inclusion in the technology industry. She is well known for her high-profile gender discrimination lawsuit against her former employer, venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins, and her subsequent work to combat sexism and bias in the tech industry.
Pao was born in New Jersey and earned degrees from Princeton University, Harvard Law School, and Harvard Business School. She began her career as a corporate attorney before transitioning to the tech industry, where she worked for companies like BEA Systems and Reddit.
While Pao’s lawsuit against Kleiner Perkins was ultimately unsuccessful, it brought attention to issues of gender inequality and discrimination in the technology industry. Pao went on to become the CEO of Reddit, one of the largest online communities in the world, from 2014 to 2015. She also co-founded Project Include, a non-profit dedicated to promoting diversity and inclusion in the tech industry through their mission; “to give everyone a fair chance to succeed in tech.”
Having also spoken out on issues like online harassment and the lack of diversity in venture capital, Pao’s advocacy for diversity and inclusion has made her a significant figure in the tech industry and beyond; she has been recognised by publications such as Time and Forbes for her work, and continues to speak out on issues of discrimination and inequality in the workplace.