Birth: January 17, 1949
Death: April 6, 2013
Specialty: Computer Science
Founder of Institute for Women and Technology
Creator of MECCA communication system
Co-founded Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing
Image Courtesy Of The Anita Borg Institute
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 and would go on to make a profound impact in the world of computer science both as a programmer and as an advocate 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 the world’s largest email community of women in technical computing roles 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.
Borg 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 the same year, she would step down from leading the institute in 2002, passing away the next year. Renamed the Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology, it continues to thrive and has expanded internationally and more than quadrupling in size with a goal to pave the way forward for women and non-binary individuals in tech.
Written by Angela Goad