The Programming Women’s Dress Code

Inspired by The Programmer Dress Code, and a lady friend of mine in the field of computing, I present the programming women’s dress code.

Here is a list of seven famous women programmers and their pictures to illustrate their style of fashion.

Ada Lovelace

Ada Lovelace

Ada Lovelace

The only child of Lord Byron, Ada Lovelace was born in London in 1815. She wrote an algorithm to compute Bernoulli numbers using Charles Babbage‘s mechanical computer, the analytical engine. This makes her the world’s first computer programmer. The programming language Ada is named after her.


Adele Goldberg

Adele Goldberg

Adele Goldberg

Adele Goldberg wrote several books on Smalltalk-80. In the 70’s Adele worked on the Xerox Alto, the first computers to have a GUI and use a desktop metaphor.

Steve Jobs requested to see a demo of the Xerox Alto and Adele refused to show him. Her superiors at Xerox ordered her to show Jobs a demo, and naturally Apple copied all of their best ideas.


Erna Schneider Hoover

Erna Hoover

Erna Hoover

Erna invented the computerized telephone traffic switching system at Bell Labs in the 70s. It was one of the first software patents ever.


Mary Lou Jepsen

Mary Lou Jepsen

Mary Lou Jepsen

Mary was the founding CTO of the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) project. She invented the laptop’s sunlight-readable display technology and co-invented its ultra-low power management system.

She left OLPC in 2008 to found her for profit company Pixel Qi which focuses on display technologies.

Mary is in the 2008 “TIME 100.”


Shafi Goldwasser

Shafi Goldwasser

Shafi Goldwasser

Shafi is a professor at MIT and the Weizmann Institute of Science where she researches computational complexity theorycryptography and computational number theory. She’s won two prestigeous Gödel Prize awards on her work in theoretical computer science. I can’t even begin to understand what this means in English, but it sounds impressive doesn’t it? :p


Jeri Ellsworth

Jeri Ellsworth

Jeri Ellsworth

Jeri is a self taught chip designer and hacker extraordinaire. Remember Christmas 2004 when all the shopping malls had those joysticks that plugged directly into your TV loaded with tons of Commodore 64 games? You can thank Jeri for that. The C64 Direct-to-TV is her creation.


“Amazing Grace” Hopper

Grace Hopper

Grace Hopper

I saved my favorite for last. 🙂

Rear Admiral Grace Hopper (nicknamed “Amazing Grace”) served in the United States Navy for over 40 years and was awarded the highest non-combat award possible when she retired. With a masters in mathematics and physics from Yale university, Grace developed the first compiler, and conceptualized machine-independent programming languages, ala COBOL. Grace is sometimes called “the mother of COBOL.”

You’ve probably heard the old story of how a moth got caught in one of those old massive computers, causing it to crash. Grace remembers that story, she was there! She’s the one that popularized the phrase “debugging.”

Grace Hopper

Grace Hopper

Grace Hooper is also responsible for one of my most frequently used quotes, “It’s easier to ask forgiveness than it is to get permission.”

And if you’re still not impressed, the US Navy named the destroyer ship USS Hopper (DDG-70) after her.

The majority of Grace’s retirement was spent speaking and lecturing about technology at computer events, where she always wore her full military dress.

Grace is kind of my hero.


So, what have we learned about the woman programmer’s dress code? Unlike the men’s dress code, beards are not in fashion, and long hair is optional. Fine Victorian era gowns are in, as are military uniforms. But, with the exception of a rare few, it seems that neither male nor female programmers give a rat’s ass about fashion.

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11 Responses to The Programming Women’s Dress Code

  1. JonT says:

    Adele Goldberg’s paragraph could benefit from a bit of editing:
    Steve Jobs requested to see a demo of the Xerox Alto (in exchange for loads of valuable Apple stock) and Adele refused to show him. Her superiors at Xerox ordered her to show Jobs a demo (thanks to said stock offer), and naturally Apple copied all of their best ideas.

    Well, of course. They wouldn’t be very smart if they copied the worst ideas, now would they?

    Jokes aside, this is a neat list. What a shame kids don’t grow up learning about (and trying to emulate) these amazing minds, rather than worthless athletes.

  2. petervarga says:

    Thanks for Jeri Elsworth. c64 lives. 🙂 … after all the vic20 are dead, of course.
    c64, graphics sounds were ahead of the times.

  3. Mike says:

    For those who weren’t around at the time, you can search YouTube to find Morley Safer’s 1982 interview with Grace Hopper on 60 Minutes (it is in two parts). In addition to being a technology pioneer, she was also a talented and very interesting speaker, and I doubt that anyone ever fell asleep during one of her presentations! Much of what she had to say back then is still relevant today.

  4. Jacqui Jones says:

    Thank you for writing this article. It shows great support for women in IT!

  5. Craig Campbell says:

    Good call on saving Grace for the best. She’s my personal favorite too 🙂

  6. burakg says:

    Really nice and rare list. I’ll tweet it immediately.

  7. josh susser says:

    Nice list. Can I suggest an addition? Barbara Liskov is the first woman to get a Ph.D. in computer science at an American university. She’s made significant contributions to object-oriented programming, and recently won the ACM’s Turing Award. If you’ve ever used the Liskov Substitution Principle in designing software, you can thank her for that tool.

  8. Dena Stern says:

    This only solidifies my deep burning desire to code…

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  10. Wonderful article!

    While I can’t compete with the inventions of these great ladies, Verizon patented one of my applications back in 2007. Sounds impressive right? well, I was an employee at the time so I got squat… but hey, my name will live on in some boring business application for years to come 🙂 haha

    C#.net programmer extraordinaire at your service!

  11. Pingback: Women programmers | Faith and Technology

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