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About Dr. Anita Borg

Jul 6

Women And Tech

As an American computer scientist, Dr. Anita Borg established the Institute for Women and Technology (now the Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology) and the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing. Anita Borg grew raised in Mukilteo, Washington, Kaneohe, Hawaii, and Palatine, Illinois. She was reared in Palatine, Illinois, Kaneohe, Hawaii, and Mukilteo, Washington. She was born in Chicago, Illinois.

She got her first job in programming in 1969. She loved math as a youngster, but she had little interest in studying computer science, so she learned how to program while working at a small insurance company. She graduated from New York University with a degree in computer science in 1981. Her dissertation focused on the effectiveness of operating system synchronization. After receiving her Ph.D., she worked for four years at Auragen Systems Corp. in New Jersey and then Nixdorf Computer in Germany, where she created a fault-tolerant Unix-based operating system.

Anita began working at the Western Research Laboratory of Digital Equipment Corporation in 1986 and remained there for 12 years. While working at Digital Equipment, she developed and patented a technique for obtaining complete address traces for use in researching and developing high-speed memory systems. Her work in email communication was motivated by her involvement in the 1987 creation and ongoing expansion of the Systers mailing list. She worked as a consulting engineer at the Network Systems Laboratory and developed MECCA, an email and Web-based system for interacting in virtual communities. In order to work as a researcher at Xerox PARC's Office of the Chief Technology Officer, she left Digital Equipment Corporation in 1997.

After founding the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing in 1994, Dr. Anita Borg formed the Institute for Women and Technology soon after joining Xerox. She firmly believed that there should be more women working in technical disciplines. She aimed for a 50% female workforce in computing by the year 2020. She hoped that women would be equally represented in the technical fields and would be able to use technology to both influence and benefit themselves.


Systers was the first email network for women in technology, and Dr. Borg founded it in 1987 and operated it until 2000. The lack of female attendees at the Symposium on Operating Systems Principles (SOSP) she attended astounded her. In the ladies room, Anita and a group of six to seven other women got together to talk about how few women worked in computers. When a dozen women at the conference decided to have lunch together, the concept for Systers was formed.

Systers was created to provide its members with a confidential setting where they may ask for advice and get feedback based on their common experiences. Women with extensive technical training were not eligible to join Systers, and only technical subjects were covered during discussions. On occasion, Systers would tackle non-technical issues that concerned its members. The Systers list assisted Mattel in getting the phrase "math class is tough" removed from Barbie's microchip when the company started selling the doll in 1992.

The Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing was established in 1994 by Anita Borg and Telle Whitney. With the simple idea of presenting a conference by and for women computer scientists, she and Whitney met over dinner with a blank piece of paper and no idea how to launch a conference, and they started to lay out their vision. The inaugural Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing, which drew 500 technical women together, was held in Washington, D.C., in June 1994. In 1997, she founded the Institute for Women and Technology. The organization was started with the dual objectives of empowering women to generate more technology and increasing the representation of women in technical fields. The Institute was first situated within Xerox PARC even though it was a separate nonprofit entity.

The Institute was established as an experimental R&D organization with the aim of strengthening the influence of women on technology as well as the influence of technology on women globally. It launched a variety of initiatives to promote the role of technology, create a pipeline for technical women, and make sure that women's perspectives were taken into account in technological developments. The Institute was renamed the Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology in 2003 after Telle Whitney was appointed President and CEO in 2002. Since its inception, the Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology has more than tripled in size, growing both domestically and internationally. After receiving recognition for both her accomplishments as a computer scientist and her advocacy on behalf of women in computing, President Bill Clinton nominated her to the Presidential Commission on the Advancement of Women and Minorities in Science, Engineering, and Technology in 1999. She was entrusted with advising the country on how to increase the number of chances for women to participate.

Honoring Anita Borg

She received the Augusta Ada Lovelace Award from the Association for Women in Computers in 1995 in recognition of her contributions to the area of computing on behalf of women. In 1996, she received the designation of Fellow of the Association for Computing Machinery. She received the Pioneer Award from the Electronic Frontier Foundation, was recognized by the American Girl Scouts, and was included among the Top 100 Women in Computing by Open Computing Magazine. In 2002, she was given the eighth Heinz Award for Technology, Economy, and Employment. She was awarded an honorary Doctor of Science and Technology degree by Carnegie Mellon University in 2002. She also served on the boards of the Computing Research Association and the National Research Council's Committee on Women in Science and Engineering. In 1999, Anita received a brain tumor diagnosis. She served as the Institute for Women and Technology's director from 1998 until 2002.

On April 6, 2003, Dr. Anita Borg passed away in Sonoma, California. After the Institute for Women and Technology was renamed in her honor, three awards were created in her honor: the Anita Borg Social Impact Award, the Anita Borg Technical Leadership Award, and the Anita Borg Top Company for Technical Women. Other awards and initiatives have been created to celebrate her life and achievements. In order to honor Anita Borg's efforts, Google established the Google Anita Borg Memorial Scholarship in 2004. The program currently includes women from Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East. The UNSW School of Computer Science and Engineering offers a prize in her honor called the Anita Borg Prize.