16Mar
By: Ilona Hitel On: March 16, 2018 In: Comms, Technology Comments: 0

At the height of the Second World War, hidden in a Bletchley Park mansion away from the public eye, a group of women that included Mavis Batey, Jane Fawcett, Jean Valentine and Joan Clarke formed an elite code-cracking unit. By decrypting German codes, they were able to attain invaluable knowledge of Nazi Germany’s strategy and help swing the war in favour of the Allies. But for years, male codebreakers like Alan Turing, Gordon Welchman and Bill Tutte were famous for being the codebreaking masterminds.

In 1962, Jean E. Sammet developed the world’s first computer language during her time at IBM. In 1978, Carol Shaw became the first female video game designer, creating breakthroughs including Rover Raid, Super Breakout and Happy Trails. And in 1985, Radia Perlman invented the spanning-tree protocol, a process integral to the internet we use today. But even then, male pioneers like Tim Berners-Lee, Vint Cerf, and Claude Shannon have always been regarded as the ‘founding fathers’.

Today women are finally recognised for the pivotal role they’ve played in tech history. But it’s only recently that they’ve started playing an integral role in the public image and communication of the tech they’re pioneering.

In Women’s History Month, we’re celebrating 3 woman who’ve been pivotal to the PR of their global tech enterprises, and some key moments where they served as the company spokespeople themselves.

Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook

At the beginning of 2017, when Facebook was facing intense scrutiny over brand safety and allegations of providing a platform to extremist ideas, Sandberg delivered a keynote speech at ad-tech conference Dmexco. In her address, she affirmed that, “we have a very simple mission: making the world more connected and giving them the power to share”, and that, “there are billions of people who are yet to be connected, so many more connections to be made. It is not enough to just connect people; we need to make sure we are bringing people together to do good.”

Facebook then followed up on this speech by launching tools for advertisers to control and become fully aware of where their ads were running from. Sandberg’s role as the executive to deliver news of this solution solved not only shareholder concerns, but also public worry by confirming the tech company’s commitment to its core values.

Ginni Rometty, IBM

In September 2017, Rometty, the chairman, president and CEO was interviewed by Bloomberg, where she explained her views on AI and the role it would play in the future of IBM. She explained the importance of distinguishing business-facing AI from consumer-facing AI, why AI systems should be taught before they can learn, and why it is incorrect to view AI as ‘man vs machine’.

The interview established IBM’s clear position on how the company will be incorporating AI into everyday practice, and how to control it. The importance of this couldn’t be timelier, when CEOs like Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg are bombarding the media with polar opposite views of whether AI is a harbinger of good or evil.

Amy Hood, Microsoft

In summer 2016, Microsoft made a financially ambitious move and bought LinkedIn for an astonishing $26.2 billion – a move questioned by many in the media. However, in February 2017, Microsoft CFO Amy Hood explained at the Morgan Stanley Technology, Media and Telecom Conference that the acquisition had the goal of revenue growth, not cost-savings. The talk was wide-ranging, covering everything from cloud business to tax plans.

Most importantly, she reiterated that Microsoft’s mission was “to add more customers. To increase [customer] impact. To have it grow faster. To accelerate [their] business. To have the technical integration to deliver customer value” and that she was “deeply, deeply focused on driving revenue growth.”

Hood’s speech clearly addressed Microsoft employees’ concerns as to what initiatives were actually being invested in, by answering that investing in customer value would directly impact income.

Women have never played a more important role not only in global tech corporations, but in the communication of core messages, values and answers. And there are plenty of opportunities in the modern tech media space, where woman can exhibit their influence, not only driving the public opinion of tech companies, but in tech advancement itself.

A number of initiatives have been set up and support these roles and accomplishments. Google has partnered with Women Techmakers to create a series of programs supporting women in high-profile tech positions, and the Tech She Can Charter was founded for organisations to commit to increasing the number of women in tech. On 27th November 2018, the Computing Women in IT Excellence Awards are returning. Here, female founders, entrepreneurs and innovators will have their achievements celebrated. Nominations are open here.

So, here’s to the expansion of women influencing our tech of tomorrow.

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