International Girls in ICT Day- Lynn Conway
International Girls in ICT Day, aims to create a global environment that empowers and encourages girls and young women to consider careers in the growing field of ICTs, enabling both girls and technology companies to reap the benefits of greater female participation in the ICT sector.
This year International Girls in ICT Day will be observed on Thursday 25th April 2019 and in the run up to that date, each week we invite you to learn more about five of the most influential women in the history of the field.
A keen computer scientist and technician, she was persecuted due to her desire to undergo gender transition, resulting in losing her job at IBM. However despite this, she became a pioneer in areas such as the Mead & Conway revolution in VLSI design as well as a strong figure in transgender activism.
Lynn Conway was born on January 2nd 1938 and grew up in White Plains, New York. She became interested in astronomy, maths and science at a young age and began studying Physics at MIT. From a young age she experienced gender dysphoria and left MIT following a failed attempt at gender transition in 1957. She completed school at Columbia University's School of Engineering and Applied Science, earning B.S. and M.S.E.E. degrees in 1962 and 1963.
Soon after graduating she began work at IBM joining the architecture team designing an advanced supercomputer on the Advanced Computing Systems (ACS) project, inventing multiple-issue out-of-order dynamic instruction scheduling while working there.
In the mid-1960’s she began her gender transition, completing the process successfully in 1968. However, upon revealing her intention to do so, she was fired by IBM. Upon completing her transition, she began working as a contract programmer at Computer Applications, Inc and then at Memorex as a digital system designer and computer architect.
Recruited by Xerox PARC in 1973, Lynn invented scalable design rules for VLSI chip design, became principal author of the famous Mead-Conway text Introduction to VLSI systems alongside Carver Mead of Caltech. Then in 1978, while serving as a Visiting Associate Professor of EECS at M.I.T. she pioneered the teaching of the new digital system design methods thereby launching a revolution in microchip design in the 1980's.
Next, Conway joined DARPA in the early 1980’s and as Assistant Director for Strategic Computing, she crafted the meta-architecture and led the planning of the Strategic Computing Initiative, a research program studying high-performance computing, autonomous systems technology and intelligent weapons technology.
She has worked hard in the area of transgender activism, intending to "illuminate and normalize the issues of gender identity and the processes of gender transition". She has also strongly advocated for equal opportunities and employment protections for transgender people in high-technology industry and for elimination of the pathologization of transgender people by the psychiatric community.
In 2014, Time Magazine named Lynn as one of "21 Transgender People Who Influenced American Culture." Now 80 years old and retired, she lives with her husband in rural Michigan.
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