Women Breaking Rules? It’s Time.

jessi combs wants to be the fastest woman on earth

Laws should be respected but rules were made to be broken, especially if you’ve been told for centuries that you’re “less than.” On International Women’s Day—and every day—we celebrate those women who refused to be put in their place, who eye-rolled their way past prejudice, who pressed ahead with no regard for obstacles being placed (often deliberately) in their path.

The narrative in science and tech has historically been even more depressing than the larger story. For every female scientist who escaped obscurity (Ada Lovelace, Marie Curie) there are scores whose contributions went largely unnoticed. Did you know that women invented Kevlar, beer and central heating? How about fire escapes, refrigerators and computer algorithms? Didn’t think so.

Marie Curie

Today let us celebrate how far we’ve come but acknowledge how far we still have to go.

In general:

  • In the 1950s, women earned ~60 cents on the dollar for doing the same work as men. Today that number stands somewhere between 78 and 82 cents.
  • Some experts suggest the gender gap is actually widening and isn’t likely to close until the year 2186. That’s 169 years from now. (Source: WEF)

In tech:

  • In the early 1980s, the proportion of engineering students who were female sat at about 5% globally. Today it continues to hover around 20%. Not exactly parity.
  • In the United States, only about 2 out of every 10 programmers are women. In India, the number is a bit higher at 3 in 10. Still not there. (Source: Wired)
  • 88% of all IT patents from 1980-2010 came from male-only invention teams. Only 2% were from female-only invention teams. (Source: NCWIT)

emily pilloton of project h design

When we lack gender diversity in any setting, we lack the kind of intellectual diversity that can make a good thing great. For this reason, we admire groundbreaking women in tech and beyond who thrive on being outliers—disrupters—and on being different.

We admire Emily Pilloton, who teaches girls to build with “hearts, hands and hammers.”

We admire Margaret Hamilton, who wrote the software that put a man on the moon.

We admire Jessi Combs, who believes a woman's place is breaking the land speed record.

And we admire Isis Anchalee Wenger, who was taken lightly because she didn’t look like engineers are apparently supposed to look.

isis wenger showed us engineers look all kinds of different ways

For our part, Lenovo is committed to helping women thrive in our company. Roughly 34% of our workforce and 33% of our executive leadership team is female. We know those numbers need to be higher so we work every day with our Chief Diversity Officer Yolanda Conyers to improve. As a reminder of the important role women play in our company culture and in the world, we have commissioned a most interesting work of art to sit in our US headquarters. You’ll hear more about it soon but we leave you with a tease: this artist’s rendering of the project.

rendering of a sculpture coming soon to lenovo hq

Please join us in supporting women who break rules. We’ll all be better for it.


Gavin O'Hara is Lenovo's Global Social Media Publisher.