Anita Borg Blazed Trail for Women in Computer Science


By Alida Cataldo

Radical? Feminist? Superstar? Anita Borg was called all of these but was most proud of the "Tech Feminist" moniker, for her lifelong efforts to interest more women in the high-tech industry.

Born in Chicago, Illinois, in 1949, Anita Borg showed an interest in math early in life. She later discovered a love for computer science, while a student at New York University. Borg earned her Ph.D. in 1981 with a dissertation on the principles of operating systems. After graduating, Dr. Borg worked at the Digital Equipment Western Research Laboratory, the Network Systems Laboratory and, finally, the Xerox Corporation Palo Alto Research Center.

It All Started When ...

In 1987, Dr. Borg attended a technical conference and noticed that only a few attendees were women. This prompted her to start Systers, an electronic mailing list for female engineers in technology that enabled networking and information sharing. Membership has grown to more than 3,000 in countries around the world.

In 1994, Dr. Borg co-founded the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women, a conference held every two years for women in information and computer sciences. Three years later, she founded the nonprofit Institute for Women and Technology to encourage women considering the technology industry. After Dr. Borg died in 2003 of brain cancer, the name was changed to The Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology. This organization is supported by the biggest names in computer science and finance, and more than 13,000 women subscribe to its newsletter.

And it Continues ...

Dr. Borg's legacy lives on. Systers, the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women conferences, and The Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology continue to grow; theGoogle Anita Borg Scholarship honors her efforts to open STEM fields to women.

Classroom Discussion

  • What other fields are still dominated by males? Why do you think more women aren't going into those fields?
  • Name some traditionally male-dominated fields that have recently begun to attract women.