13 Famous Women Who Changed Tech History Forever

Screen Shot 2016-03-14 at 11.40.52 AM

Janese Swanson: Can You Make it Pink?

Easy was never an option for Janese Swanson. After her father died in Vietnam, she began helping her mother clean houses for extra cash. One day, while cleaning a wealthy doctor’s home in La Jolla, CA, Swanson shared a dream of becoming a doctor herself. The doctor’s wife advised: “It will be easier for you if you marry a doctor.”

At age 15, she fibbed her date of birth and started slinging televisions at Sears. Many years later, Swanson would use her electronic sales experience as manager of the computer and technology department at a small store called My Child’s Destiny. Interested in the nexus of technology and children education, she received Computers in Education Certificate from Berkeley, all while raising her daughter.

In 1988, Swanson began working for Broderbund Software Company, developing games for kids such as, “Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?” However, she struggled there as “[we women] earned far less than there male colleagues… had to raise hands to get a word in [at meetings] … and always had a hard time getting men to focus on what we were saying rather than our legs and breasts.” She quit, got her Ph.D from San Francisco State, and, in 1995, started her own toy company, Girl Tech.

Swanson initially struggled to find investors and vendors. “For two years after I founded the company, toy store buyers would say, ‘Can you make it pink’ [or] ‘Can you make it for boys?’ And I would say, ‘No, this is what girls like to play with.’”

It wasn’t easy but, in 1998, Swanson sold Girl Tech to Radica Games Limited for $6 million. She remained with the company for 2 years as vice president.

Next Up: Radia Perlman (click here or below)

11 Responses to “13 Famous Women Who Changed Tech History Forever”

    • Sophie Wilson was born Robert Wilson…a transwoman who started a career as a man should not take a space or attention away from a woman who was born female and socialized and raised female.

      • As a matter of fact, I am making a website for a webdev college course highlighting contributions of ALL WOMEN past, present and future and I have been looking for transwomen to feature on my site. I appreciate your bigotry because it just lead me to someone I can add. 🙂

      • I agree. A trans woman who grew up socialized as a MALE did not suffer the setbacks of a society putting him in “his place.” His contributions were already being recognized before he became a female. To equate his “struggle” for recognition and acceptance is to compare apples to oranges.

        To grow up socialized as a female effectively EXCLUDES one from all STEM-related expectations, and further INHIBITS, if not downright IMPEDES her being taken seriously in male-dominated fields. I know it because I lived it! He never did.

  1. False. The current climate of women in the tech industry is all-inclusive and we welcome transwomen. There is no place for discrimination in a field dedicated to advancement both in technology and social justice. Take a seat.

  2. ianpenfold

    what about Margeret Hamilton, who wrote most of the software for the 1969 apollo lunar landing, and invented the job title ‘software engineer’ which is still used today.

  3. Jim Austin

    The ladies who programmed the ENIAC didn’t use any programming languages with text editors and compilers. They were reportedly given blueprints of the machine and told to program it.