Women in Computing

Celebrating the unique positive contribution of women to the development of computing in the UK.

A companion resource to the History of Computing

Foreword by Dr. Doron Swade (MBE)

Gender roles in society is a fraught topic, especially when it comes to women. So it is a challenge to address the issue of women in computing in a way that bypasses the influence of pre-existing attitudes, conscious and unconscious, so as to allow us to take a fresh look.

What is ingenious here is how deftly this is done. This resource asks a simple question: "What does the historical role of women in computing tell us about the society of the time?" Framing the question in this way allows us to look at the contribution of women unaffected by prior judgements we might have made.

We seem to have little difficulty in accepting that machines make history – steam engines in the 19th century, cars, aeroplanes ... and of course computers. But machines do not come to be, nor do they function in a social vacuum; part of the question this resource addresses is how history makes machines.

The fascinating interviews presented here situate gender roles in computing in the larger context of society. In doing so it does both history and computing practice an invaluable service.

Dr. Doron Swade (MBE)
Computer Historian
Formerly Curator of Computing and Assistant Director & Head of Collections, Science Museum


What does this resource aim to achieve?

Women in Computing aims to recognise and promote the achievements of women in British computing within the social context of the time. It does not seek to dwell on negative aspects where woman have been prevented from contributing to the computing landscape, but it does explore the issues surrounding how and where their unique contributions have developed understanding and achievement within the computing industry and in wider society.

Why has this resource been created?

During the creation of the 2014 BETT Award winning History of Computing learning resource, we were conscious that the contribution of women to the computing landscape in Britain was very significant but too big to cover within the context of the original development.

A commitment to adequately cover the unique contribution of women in their societal context has resulted in this resource, available to all schools openly as part of the National Education Network (NEN). The nature of the topic and a commitment to ensuring that the resource offers a truly unique and high quality stimulus for all learners has slowed the development of this resource, as we have been careful not to duplicate coverage of many other excellent resources and initiatives in this field.

What is the ethos of the resource?

The resource is not solely aimed at school-age girls. It is a resource for all learners, irrespective of age and gender. It helps to foster an understanding that all learners are capable of achieving their potential in all subjects, and that gender determines neither suitability nor aptitude for certain subjects. It is as important for boys to understand that girls are equally able to achieve within the computing industry as it is for girls to aspire to work within the sector.

Which parts of the curriculum does the resource support?

This resource has applications across the entire curriculum, not limited to Computing.


This resource supports the computing curriculum and specifically the development of computational thought within real life contexts. Due to the complex social and political contexts of many of the contributors, the resource will lend itself more obviously to KS3/4 audiences. However, many primary school learners will also gain unique insights from finding out more about women and computing.


This resource offers a rich stimulus for learners to appreciate the contribution of women to the development of computational thought over time, within the context of world events such as World War II, the Cold War, and more recently within the context of cyber threats and solutions.


The resource does not just aim to promote positive role models, but also to celebrate achievements within the context of society at particular moments in time. Each contributor offers a positive insight into the importance of equality between men and women and how everyone can achieve more when working together, regardless of gender, ethnicity and background.

The broader school community

There are a number of videos in this resource which provide inspirational stimulus for assemblies. These go far beyond the confines of infrequent but highly relevant events such as International Women’s Day.

Who is the target audience?

Women in Computing will be of interest to teachers, students and parents who are keen on promoting positive role models to both boys and girls within the computing industry.

Will the resource evolve over time?

The resource has been designed to be updated periodically, in the same way that ReadingZone Live literacy resource has new authors added to it.