Trailblazing Women in Telecommunications

There is no better day than International Women’s Day to focus on some of the inventors that have changed telephony and the technology behind it over the past 50+ years. These women are a few of many who helped move telecommunications forward to the systems and Smartphones we have today. Meet some of the trailblazers that have worked to ensure we’re always connected.

Hedy Lamarr

Hedy was not only a famous actress, she also invented a “frequency hopping” program during World War Two. This program was used to ensure communication during German frequency jamming. She also worked on “Spread Spectrum” in which signals are broadcast more broadly then the original. This is now the basis for Wi-Fi and GPS applications. Although she was a creator, she was quite often overlooked in her accomplishments in technology. When she was finally recognized in 1998 by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, she is quoted as saying “Its about time.”

Shirley A. Jackson

Dr. Shirley A. Jackson was the first African American woman to earn a Ph.D. from MIT. Her work in telecommunications research and theoretical physics set out the foundation for the following inventions: the fax machine, the touch-tone telephone, call waiting and caller ID. She has also served as the President of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and was part of Barack Obama’s President’s Council of Advisors for Science and Technology.

Erna Schneider Hoover

Dr. Erna Schneider Hoover is lauded as the creator of the “telephone switching network” which prevented system overloads by monitoring call centre traffic and prioritizing tasks, changing the telecommunications landscape, and fundamentally shifting the telephony industry. She was awarded one of the first software patents ever issued. Erna also came up with the idea for the system as Bell Laboratories wanted to upgrade their current process, and she was in hospital giving birth.

As we take today to celebrate the accomplishments of women, may we remember that “Technology Connects Us. Technology Unites Us. Technology Amblifies Our Power.”- Vivienne Harr