Influential Women in Computer Science From the Last 10 Years

Influential Women in Computer Science From the Last 10 Years

Our list of influential women in computer science features those who have impacted artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics, who have held executive roles in big tech companies, and who have affected positive change in their university departments. These women are helping to shape the future of technology and influencing others to follow in their footsteps.

Top 10 Women in Computer Science From the Last 10 Years

  1. Fei-Fei Li
  2. Daphne Koller
  3. Shafrira Goldwasser
  4. Dina Katabi
  5. Barbara Liskov
  6. Timnit Gebru
  7. Nancy Lynch
  8. Daniela L. Rus
  9. Jennifer Widom
  10. Stephanie Seneff

Computer scientists helped to create the smartphones in our hands, the software programs we use to power our workplaces, the medical devices needed to perform surgery, and the games we play on our computers. Computer scientists work in a diverse range of fields including AI, robotics, automation, information technology, FinTech, and much more. Computer scientists find employment in healthcare, startups, think tanks, government, finances, and more. There is demand for qualified computer science professions in every sector of the economy. This is why the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a job growth rate of 22% between now and 2030, which far exceeds the average rate of job growth for all occupations.

Students who study computer science will gain foundational knowledge in algorithms, programming languages, and operating systems. They can take courses on subjects like cybersecurity, data mining, analytics, and website construction. Postgraduate degree programs offer specialized and advanced courses, providing in-depth knowledge of theory and design of computing systems, among other subjects. Though many graduates with a bachelor’s degree go on to find successful employment, many choose to continue their education, earning a master’s or doctorate.

While the American Association of University Women (AAUW) reports that women in computer science are paid higher salaries than women in many other fields, they still face representation and pay gaps relative to their male counterparts. In 2019, only 19% of the bachelor’s in computer science were awarded to women, and only 28% and 20%, respectively, of master’s and doctorates in the field went to women.

AAUW is among many organizations seeking to change that. The Association for Women in Computing, AnitaB.org, and Girls Who Code all encourage women to enter the technology field. AnitaB.org is named after Dr. Anita Borg, who in 1987, started a digital community for women in computing. Part of the organization’s mission is to connect, inspire, and guide women in computing, and organizations that view technology innovation as a strategic imperative.

While there is a need for more female representation in computer science, our list of influential women in the field serves to inspire others to join their ranks. Our top influencer, Fei-Fei Li, is co-creator of ImageNet and the Sequoia Capital Professor of Computer Science at Stanford University. Barbara Liskov was one of the first women in the US to earn a PhD in computer science and is now a computer scientist at MIT. Timnit Gebru, an Ethiopian American computer scientist, works on algorithmic bias and data mining and is the co-founder of Black in AI. Carol E. Reiley is a pioneer in teleoperated and autonomous robot systems in surgery, space exploration, disaster rescue and self-driving cars.

Influential Women in Computer Science From the Last 10 Years

  1. #1

    Fei-Fei Li

    1975 - Present (47 years)
    Fei-Fei Li is an American computer scientist. She is the Sequoia Capital Professor of Computer Science at Stanford University. Li is a Co-Director of the Stanford Institute for Human-Centered Artificial Intelligence, and a Co-Director of the Stanford Vision and Learning Lab. She served as the director of the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Laboratory from 2013 to 2018.
  2. #2

    Daphne Koller

    1968 - Present (54 years)

    Areas of Specialization: Machine Learning, Artifical Intelligence, Computational Biology
    Koller is a professor of computer science at Stanford University. She received her bachelor's degree from Hebrew University of Jerusalem in 1985, and her Ph.D. from Stanford in 1993. Her former students include notable computer scientists Ben Tasker, Suchi Saria, and Eran Segal.

    Koller's work focuses on probabilistic reasoning, representation, and inference with graphical models like Bayes Nets. With Stanford colleague Andrew Ng, Koller launched the online learning platform Coursera in 2012, serving as co-CEO with Ng and later as the company's president. Koller has also been active in using modern data science and statistics to improve areas of concern for us like health care. For instance, she has made important contributions to the development of techniques and software that help predict whether premature babies will have health problems. She has directed her focus on computer vision as well as computational biology toward the development of applications and systems that can help in decision making and diagnosis in medical and other industries.

  3. #3

    Shafi Goldwasser

    1958 - Present (64 years)

    Areas of Specialization: Computational Complexity Theory, Cryptography, Number Theory
    Shafrira "Shafi" Goldwasser is the RSA Professor of Computer Science at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, as well as Professor of Mathematical Sciences at Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel. She received a bachelor's degree in computer science and mathematics from Carnegie Mellon University, and a master's and Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley.

    Goldwasser's impressive career spans many areas in computer science, including computational complexity theory, cryptography, and number theory. She has been in high demand during her impressive career in computer science, serving as chief scientist and co-founder of thr Israeli company Duality Technologies using cryptographic methods for data security, and has served as an advisor to a number of successful ventures, including companies focusing on blockchain technology, which has become hugely popular in recent years. Goldwasser is also a member of the Theory of Computation group at the world-renowned Artificial Intelligence Laboratory at MIT. Her primary focus is on fundamental aspects of computer security, like cryptography, a topic that is of both theoretical interest in computer science and mathematics and has obvious practical applications to many industries like finance, banking, and data protection.

  4. #4

    Dina Katabi

    1970 - Present (52 years)
    Dina Katabi is the Andrew and Erna Viterbi Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at MIT and the director of the MIT Wireless Center. Academic biography Katabi received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Damascus in 1995 and M.S and Ph.D. in Computer Science from MIT in 1998 and 2003 respectively. In 2003, Katabi joined MIT, where she holds the title of Professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. She is the co-director of the MIT Center for Wireless Networks and Mobile Computing and a principal investigator at the Computer Science and ...
  5. #5

    Barbara Liskov

    1939 - Present (83 years)

    Liskov (née Barbara Huberman) is a computer scientist at MIT, where she is Ford Professor of Engineering in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and Institute Professor in the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab (CSAIL), where she leads the Programming Methodology Group. One of the first women in the US to earn a PhD in computer science, Liskov was born and raised in Los Angeles, California, the eldest of four siblings. In 2008, she won the Turing Award for her invention of the Liskov substitution principle, one of only three women to win that award so far (the other two are Fran Allen and Shafi Goldwasser).

    Huberman (as she was then known) earned her bachelor's degree in mathematics from UC-Berkeley in 1961. She wanted to do graduate work in mathematics at Princeton, but at the time the university did not accept women as graduate students. While she was accepted at Berkeley, Huberman decided to accept an offer from Mitre Corporation instead. Located in Bedford, Massachusetts, one of Boston's northern suburbs, Mitre is a not-for-profit organization that acts as a liaison between federal funding agencies and cutting-edge scientific research in the private sector.

  6. #6

    Timnit Gebru

    Timnit Gebru is an American computer scientist who works on algorithmic bias and data mining. She is an advocate for diversity in technology and co-founder of Black in AI, a community of black researchers working in artificial intelligence . She is the founder of Distributed Artificial Intelligence Research Institute , which will work with AI researchers around the world, with a focus on Africa and African immigration to the United States, to examine outcomes of utilizing the technology. In 2021, Gebru was named one of the world’s 50 great leaders by Fortune.
  7. #7

    Nancy Lynch

    1948 - Present (74 years)

    Areas of Specialization: Distributed Algorithms, Formal Modeling
    Nancy Lynch is the head of the Theory of Distributed Systems research group at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, a mathematician, theorist and NEC Professor of Software Science and Engineering. She attended Brooklyn College, where she studied mathematics. She went on to earn a Ph.D. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

    She began her career teaching math and computer science at Tufts University, Florida International University, the Georgia Institute of Technology School of Computational Science & Engineering and the University of Southern California. She worked with colleagues to show that an asynchronous distributed system does not allow consensus if one processor crashes. Their research was awarded the PODC Influential-Paper Award for 2001, the first of two for Lynch, who was recognized again by the organization in 2007.

  8. #8

    Daniela L. Rus

    1963 - Present (59 years)
    Daniela L. Rus is a Romanian-American roboticist, the Director of the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory , and Andrew and Erna Viterbi Professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
  9. #9

    Jennifer Widom

    Jennifer Widom is an American computer scientist known for her work in database systems and information management. She is the Frederick Emmons Terman Dean of the Stanford School of Engineering, the Fletcher Jones Professor of Computer Science, and a professor in the Stanford Department of Electrical Engineering.
  10. #10

    Stephanie Seneff

    1948 - Present (74 years)
    Stephanie Seneff is a senior research scientist at the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology . Working primarily in the Spoken Language Systems group, her research at CSAIL relates to human-computer interaction, and algorithms for language understanding and speech recognition. In 2011, she began publishing controversial papers in low-impact, open access journals on biology and medical topics; the articles have received “heated objections from experts in almost every field she’s delved into,” according to the food columnist Ari Le...
  11. #11

    Diane Greene

    1955 - Present (67 years)
    Diane B. Greene is an American technology entrepreneur and executive. Greene started her career as a naval architect before transitioning to the tech industry, where she was a founder and CEO of VMware from 1998 until 2008. She was a board director of Google and CEO of Google Cloud from 2015 until 2019. She was also the co-founder and CEO of two startups, Bebop and VXtreme, which were acquired by Google and Microsoft, for $380 million and $75 million.
  12. #12

    Tracy Chou

    1987 - Present (35 years)
    Tracy Chou is a software engineer and advocate for diversity in technology related fields. She previously worked at Pinterest and Quora with internship experience at Rocket Fuel, Google, and Facebook.
  13. #13

    Radia Perlman

    1951 - Present (71 years)
    Radia Joy Perlman is an American computer programmer and network engineer. She is most famous for her invention of the spanning-tree protocol , which is fundamental to the operation of network bridges, while working for Digital Equipment Corporation. She also made large contributions to many other areas of network design and standardization, such as link-state routing protocols.
  14. #14

    Anne-Marie Eklund Löwinder

    1957 - Present (65 years)
    Monika Ann-Mari Eklund Löwinder , born 26 September 1957 in Stockholm, is a Swedish Internet expert. Biography She is the Chief Information Security Officer at IIS, The Internet Foundation in Sweden. She also serves on the boards of internet-related organisations including the Council of European National Top Level Domain Registries and the Swedish Law and Informatics Research Institute.
  15. #15

    Lila Tretikov

    1978 - Present (44 years)
    Lila Tretikov is a Russian–American engineer and manager. Early life and education Tretikov was born in Moscow, Soviet Union. Her father is a mathematician, and her mother was a filmmaker. After moving to New York City at age 15, she learned English while waitressing and attended the University of California, Berkeley, but left before completing her degree. Her majors were computer science and art, and she researched machine learning.
  16. #16

    Jeannette Wing

    1956 - Present (66 years)
    Jeannette Marie Wing is Avanessians Director of the Data Science Institute at Columbia University, where she is also a professor of computer science. Until June 30, 2017, she was Corporate Vice President of Microsoft Research with oversight of its core research laboratories around the world and Microsoft Research Connections. Prior to 2013, she was the President’s Professor of Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States. She also served as assistant director for Computer and Information Science and Engineering at the NSF from 2007 to 2010. She was a...
  17. #17

    Wendy Hall

    1952 - Present (70 years)

    Areas of Specialization: Hypermedia, Web Science
    Hall is Regius Professor of Computer Science at the University of Southampton in the UK. She received her bachelor's and Ph.D. in Mathematics at Southampton. She also has a master's degree in Computing at City University in London.

    Hall has the distinction of developing a working hypertext system before the World Wide Web existed. The team she led created the powerful Microcosm hypermedia system, which was later used commercially with the start-up Multicosm, LTD. For her groundbreaking work, Hall became the first female professor at Southampton. She was also Head of the School of Electronics and Computer Science, from 2002 to 2007.

    Hall worked with founder of the Web Tim Berners-Lee as founding director of the Web Science Research Initiative (WSRI). Her work at WSRI helped establish Web Science, the study of behavior and interaction on large-scale networks like the World Wide Web.

  18. #18

    Jessica McKellar

    1987 - Present (35 years)
    Jessica Tess McKellar is an American software developer, engineering manager, and author. Education McKellar attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and studied computer science and chemistry.
  19. #19

    Carol E. Reiley

    1982 - Present (40 years)
    Carol Elizabeth Reiley is an American business executive, computer scientist, and model. She is a pioneer in teleoperated and autonomous robot systems in surgery, space exploration, disaster rescue, and self-driving cars. Reiley has worked at Intuitive Surgical, Lockheed Martin, and General Electric. She co-founded, invested in, and was president of Drive.ai, and is now CEO of a healthcare startup, a creative advisor for the San Francisco Symphony, and a brand ambassador for Guerlain Cosmetics. She is a published children’s book author, the first female engineer on the cover of MAKE magazine,...
  20. #20

    Cynthia Dwork

    1958 - Present (64 years)
    Cynthia Dwork is an American computer scientist at Harvard University, where she is Gordon McKay Professor of Computer Science, Radcliffe Alumnae Professor at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, and Affiliated Professor, Harvard Law School and Harvard’s Department of Statistics.
  21. #21

    Lea Verou

    1986 - Present (36 years)
    Lea Verou is a front end web developer, speaker and author, originally from Lesbos, Greece. Verou is currently a Research Assistant at Massachusetts Institute of Technology Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory , an elected participant in the World Wide Web Consortium Technical Architecture Group , and an Invited Expert in the W3C CSS Working Group. She is the author of CSS Secrets: Better Solutions to Everyday Web Design Problems .
  22. #22

    Éva Tardos

    1957 - Present (65 years)
    Éva Tardos is a Hungarian mathematician and the Jacob Gould Schurman Professor of Computer Science at Cornell University. Tardos’s research interest is algorithms. Her work focuses on the design and analysis of efficient methods for combinatorial optimization problems on graphs or networks. She has done some work on network flow algorithms like approximation algorithms for network flows, cut, and clustering problems. Her recent work focuses on algorithmic game theory and simple auctions.
  23. #23

    Manuela M. Veloso

    1957 - Present (65 years)

    Veloso is Herbert A. Simon University Professor in the School of Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon University. She has a master's degree in electrical engineering from Lisbon, Portugal, at the prestigious Instituto Superior Técnico. She received her Ph.D. in computer science at Carnegie Mellon University. Veloso also holds the title of Head of AI Research at J.P. Morgan Bank.

    Veloso's research has focused on robotics, a key aspect of artificial intelligence. She has developed systems to enable intelligent autonomous actions by robots, winning the "RoboCup" robot soccer match competition more than once. Her research spans many important aspects of robotics, including navigation, perception, and action. No surprise that Veloso has been in high-demand at CMU, graduating 32 Ph.D. students during her tenure there.

    Veloso was made a fellow of the AAAI ("triple AI") in 2003. She is also an ACM Fellow, and won a National Science Foundation CAREER Award in 1995.

  24. #24

    Regina Barzilay

    1970 - Present (52 years)
    Regina Barzilay is an Israeli-American computer scientist. She is a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a faculty lead for artificial intelligence at the MIT Jameel Clinic. Her research interests are in natural language processing and applications of deep learning to chemistry and oncology.
  25. #25

    Lydia Kavraki

    1967 - Present (55 years)
    Lydia E. Kavraki is a Greek-American computer scientist, the Noah Harding Professor of Computer Science, a professor of bioengineering, electrical and computer engineering, and mechanical engineering at Rice University. She is also the director of the Ken Kennedy Institute at Rice University. She is known for her work on robotics/AI and bioinformatics/computational biology and in particular for the probabilistic roadmap method for robot motion planning and biomolecular configuration analysis.
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Image Credits:

Top row, left to right: Patricia Hill Collins, Emmanuelle Charpentier, Malala Yousafzai, Shafi Goldwasser, Jennifer Doudna, Fabiola Gianotti, Michiko Kakutani, Lauren Underwood.

Bottom row, left to right: Fei-Fei Li, Esther Duflo, Kathy Reichs, Nancy Fraser, Brené Brown, Judith Curry, Jill Lepore, Zaha Hadid.