Women have been innovators throughout history, but their role in the field of invention has been, to a great extent, unacknowledged or uncredited. Often their ideas were claimed by men, frequently husbands or colleagues, who had greater access to education, the professions, industry, and elite societies of scientists and inventors. Women who did receive recognition for their inventions battled sexism, and, in the case of Black women, the grim combination of sexism and racism, to obtain both educational and employment opportunities.
While women still face inequality in opportunity and pay, much has changed since the 19th century. Though women could technically apply for patents after the passage of the Patent Act of 1790, they weren’t allowed to own their own property in many states, so their inventions were typically patented by their husbands or associates. In 2019, however, according to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, women were included as owners of nearly 22% of all patents filed that year, with 12.8% of them owned by individual women.
Women have been particularly influential in the development of computers and computing, beginning with the real life “Hidden Figures,” made famous by the movie of the same name. These were among hundreds of women, most notably Black women, who served as human computers for NASA. (Here are 30 NASA inventions we still use every day.)
Since then, one woman has been credited with building the first home computer, and others for creating the foundation for search engines, computer networks, and computer coding. (These are the most influential women in the history of science.)
Click here to see the greatest women in innovation and technology
24/7 Tempo has compiled a list of some of the greatest women in innovation and technology, using sources including History, Forbes, The CEO Magazine, and Global App Testing. This list isn’t comprehensive, but is a tribute to some 27 women who have created inventions, pioneered discoveries, and pushed the boundaries of knowledge.
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