Weekly Column

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America’s history is full of strong women who left their mark and still inspire us today. This week, I’d like to tell you two stories you may have not have heard before about remarkable women who blazed trails in technology and changed the world forever. One of these pioneers was a witty, brilliant woman named Grace Hopper. She was one of the most influential figures of the technological world in the 20th century.

Hopper was known as the “Queen of Software” for her work on Harvard’s Mark I computer, which revolutionized the war effort in World War II. She is widely credited with the term “debug” after she traced a glitch in the Mark I back to an actual moth that was stuck in circuit wires. When asked how she was able to know so much about computers to help in this discovery, her response was: “I didn’t. It was the first one.”

Rear Admiral Hopper was one of four women to receive her doctorate in mathematics from Yale in 1934. She was teaching mathematics at her alma mater, Vassar College, in 1943 when she was inspired to serve her country and help stifle the evils of World War II. Hopper retired from the Navy after an incredible 43 years of service, filled with groundbreaking contributions to the computer science industry. One of which included the development of the programming language called the Common Business Oriented Language (COBOL), which is still used to this day. 

The roots of Grace Hopper’s innovations were grown by a woman who was programming computers before they were invented. Her name was Ada Lovelace. In the 19th century, her tutor, a leading mathematician, asked Lovelace to translate his notes from his lectures. While she completed the task at hand, she went the extra mile by inserting her own notes into his. Her ideas later inspired a coding language, known as “Ada”, used by the Department of Defense. Lovelace was truly ahead of her time and was one of the first to realize that computers had the potential to change the world.

Both of these brilliant women were role models for those who came after them. They are an inspiration to harness your talents and put them to use for a greater good. Professionals in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) field still feel the effects of their contributions today.

I believe the impact they made on our world is too often overlooked. That’s why I worked alongside my colleague Senator Ron Wyden to introduce two resolutions in the Senate to honor the dedication and ingenuity of Grace Hopper and Ada Lovelace. 

Although women comprise nearly 50 percent of our workforce, they make up less than 25 percent of the workforce in STEM professions. These are jobs that help maintain our country’s place as a world leader in innovation. I have proudly supported legislation in the Senate that works to encourage more women to enter the STEM workforce. I voted for the Promoting Women in Entrepreneurship Act, a bill that authorizes the National Science Foundation (NSF) to encourage its entrepreneurial programs to recruit and support women to commercialize ideas in underrepresented industries.

I also supported the Inspiring the Next Space Pioneers, Innovators, Researchers, and Explorers (INSPIRE) Women Act. This bill will provide women and K-12 female students with the resources they need to lead the next generation of engineers, medical researchers, space explorers, and other STEM professionals. 

Both of these bills passed through the Senate Commerce Committee, on which I serve, and were signed into law by President Trump.

I’m proud to share the stories of Grace Hopper and Ada Lovelace with Nebraskans and all Americans. By learning from our past, others can proceed on the path that these trailblazers set and excel in these critical professions for our future. 

Thank you for participating in the democratic process. I look forward to visiting with you again next week.

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