Receiving her Ph.D. in computer science in 1981 from New York University, American Anita Borg was a pioneering programmer and women’s advocate. Born Anita Borg Naffz in 1949 she started her first programming job in 1969. After earning her doctorate she worked for four years building a fault-tolerant Unix-based operating system.
Equally important to her computer programming work was her work in advocacy for women in technical fields.
Systers, a small electronic mailing list, was founded by Borg and 12 other women in 1987. Borg felt the purpose of the group was two fold, first to increase the number of women in computer science and secondly to make work environments more conducive to women working in the field. The mailing list is still active today and is a place to discuss the challenges faced by women in computer services fields. Her work in email communication with the Systers program led Borg to develop MECCA, a email and web based communication system.
In 1994, Borg co-founded the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing. This celebration is considered the world’s largest gathering of women technologists with a goal of bringing together the research and career interests of women in computing.
Shortly after going to work for Xerox PARC, in 1997, Borg founded the Institute for Women and Technology, which was housed at Xerox but was an independent non-profit organization. The institute was an R&D organization, working on increasing the impact of women on technology and increasing the impact of technology on the world’s women
Anita was awarded many accolades including the Augusta Ada Lovelace award in 1995, and was appointed by President Clinton to the Commission on the Advancement of Women and Minorities in Science, Engineering, and Technology in 1999.
After being diagnosed with a brain tumor in 1999 and stepping down from leading the institute she passed away in 2003 and then it was renamed the Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology. It continues to thrive and has expanded internationally and more than quadrupled in size.
Written by Angela Goad