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Cultivating women’s passion for technology
Cultivating women's passion for technology
Women working together at computers

By Ray Bajaj, SVP and Chief Technology Officer

As we welcome Women’s History Month, I am reflecting on the profound impact women have made on technology over the past nearly 200 years.

Ada Lovelace, for example, is considered the world’s first computer programmer. An English mathematician, she published the first complex computer algorithm in 1843 that would one day calculate the Bernoulli sequence of numbers.

Nearly a century later, Grace Hopper, who earned a Ph.D. in mathematics from Yale in 1934, became one of the first modern computer programmers and an admiral in the U.S. Navy. She worked on Harvard’s Mark 1, the first computer built in the U.S., making complex calculations for self-propelled rockets and even the atomic bomb.

Throughout World War II, it was also women who led the charge in assembling, trouble-shooting and running the British Colossus computers, which decrypted coded messages intercepted from the German army. They helped turn the tide of World War II at a time when the best electronic computers in the United States were still essentially in the testing phase.

And Margaret Hamilton, a computer scientist, led the coding team that wrote software for the in-flight command and lunar modules used on the Apollo missions in the late 1960s and early ’70s. Lastly but certainly not least, Katharine Johnson, a brilliant NASA mathematician, calculated the flight trajectories that charted the first U.S. crewed spaceflights and Apollo 11’s path to the moon.

In 1960, 27% of all U.S. professionals in computing and mathematical professions were women. It reached 35% in 1990, but in the government’s published figures, that was the peak. The numbers fell after that, and by 2013, women were down to 26%.

The underrepresentation of women in tech is not a new topic. Even though progress has been made since 2013, it is moving at an extremely slow pace and this issue will become a fundamental challenge for the U.S. economy if unaddressed. We have more jobs in computer science than graduates available to fill those positions, and the number of women in the U.S. computing workforce will shrink in the next 10 years unless we take action right now.

According to a 2016 report by The National Center for Women & Information Technology, 88% of all information technology patents (from 1980–2010) are invented by male-only invention teams while only 2% are invented by female-only invention teams. These and other statistics imply that the technology the world uses today is being created by a relatively homogeneous group of people. Such patterns are especially troubling given ample evidence of the critical benefits diversity brings to innovation, problem-solving, and creativity.

Gender equality in tech is not only the right thing to do, but research proves it’s the also the smart thing to do: More women on the job means a better product.

At Fuse by Cardinal Health, our innovation engine and product development center, we are committed to increasing female representation and empowering women to grow their careers as technical experts and leaders alike.

Women of Fuse is a community of women and allies that create a supportive network for the advancement and inclusion of females within our organization. Programs and events hosted by the group are designed to ensure Fuse women have an open, safe space to share their perspectives, learn from mentors and discuss their career aspirations and goals.

I’ll never forget when our leader of Women of Fuse, Andi Andrews, gathered our leadership team on a call with the group and asked all but two men to turn their cameras off – specifically to emphasize what a typical day is like for a woman in technology. When I saw the number of women compared to men now on the screen, it helped me understand in a new way the unseen pressure women are often faced with as the minority in our field, and how difficult that must make pursuing STEM-related careers.

While the problem may start in the classroom, it is exacerbated in the conference room – and now, across our Zoom screens. Tech leaders have long positioned themselves and their industry as a disruptive force, a group of mavericks reshaping the way we live, work, and connect. Yet when it comes to gender roles and representation of women, the industry has tended to reinforce the status quo.

We are changing this in our organization by creating a culture that female engineers, product and design leaders, and data scientists can see themselves belonging to. Within Fuse, women with a passion for technology have a significant opportunity to drive innovation and pioneer technology enablement in the healthcare industry. We are building diverse leadership teams so that women can gain inspiration from female role models and see themselves transforming our organization through the power of technology. We recognize how important it is for an aspiring leader to believe she is essential to our success – and also feels supported and encouraged on her career trajectory.

I have the privile˜ge to work alongside, and have also been mentored by, incredible female trailblazers that bring profound energy, creativity, and curiosity to their work. As the healthcare industry undergoes a digital revolution, we need a varied set of experiences, perspectives, and backgrounds to develop new ideas and create groundbreaking products.

Taking a look back at the history of our field, I am reminded of how many women gave rise to the advancement of technology. As the need for software engineers, data scientists, designers and architects increase across every industry, we must continue to cultivate passion for women in technology and inspire generations to come. This is our time to free the industry of gender bias, knowing that technology and innovation will only benefit from greater representation of women and their essential contribution to transforming our future.

Ray Bajaj leads Fuse, the Cardinal Health innovation engine and product development center. With deep expertise in digital transformation an innovative technologies, Bajaj brings a vision to reimagine healthcare delivery by harnassing the power of cutting-edge technology, human-centered design and clinical expertise to improve patient outcomes. Bajaj is also responsible for IT strategy, enterprise architecture and enterprise transformation services at Cardinal Health. Before joining Cardinal Health, Bajaj was head of The Garage, an innovation hub for Capital One; earlier, he was chief architect for Global Commercial & Investment Banking at Bank of America. He holds a Master's degree in Technology Management from Columbia University.