In 1968 Mom built a computer: women's routes as technologists

Accepted Session
Short Form
Scheduled: Tuesday, June 20, 2017 from 2:30 – 3:15pm in B302/303


On the surface, this story shares vignettes about my Mom. But its purpose is to increase awareness of human resources in technology, and overlooked pathways of young technologiests. "c. 1973 RCA hired her for the chip prototyping lab. Her new co-workers compared each other's crochet at lunch. A marathon week of late-night needlework bought her acceptance and promotion to supervisor. She told me stories about the ladies who wrapped wires for NASA a few years before, about women's centuries of fingers in technical fiber-crafts finally being noticed when it put men on the moon."


This collection of stories is a way to highlight an idea called “legitimate peripheral participation”. To ease the path between novices and experts, projects need ample opportunities for newcomers to take less than-crucial-roles. They need safe activities for expressing technologically oriented thinking and creativity. Think bug reporting and patch submissions in open-source projects. Some of these vignettes are surprizing. Not many single-working mom’s of the 60’s had engineering hobbies, but probably more than we think. And it is not much different than the way boys learn to tinker with their dad’s and older brothers.


tech-pipeline, human-resources, women in tech, history

Speaking experience

Over 10 years: project management in community development, consensus-building, non-profit board training, qualitative data analysis software training, democratic theory