First Woman named Winner of Prestigious Computing Award

For the first time since its debut in 1966, the A.M. Turing Award, which is granted by the Association for Computer Machinery, has been awarded to a woman. Frances Allen, a 74-year-old IBM Fellow Emerita at the T.J. Watson Research Center, started her career as a computer scientist in the 1950s. Allen has been the recipient of several other industry honours over the years; she has been honoured for her significant contributions in compiler design and program optimization (her work led to advances in parallel and high-speed computing including techniques still used today). However, of all her contributions to computing, Allen says she is "particularly delighted" about how her work led to simulated testing of nuclear bombs, "rather than exploding" the real thing.

Currently, Allen is retired but still has an office at IBM, where she continues to mentor both women and men. She was educated in mathematics and says her career began at a time when computer science degrees were rare and women were a more prevalent presence in early technology work. The shortage of women today in IT "is getting worse, that wasn't always the case," she says. Today, women with strong aptitude in math and science are more drawn to professions in biology and medicine rather than IT because women often perceive "more social good" in those other careers, she says. However, as high-performance computing continues to evolve, especially in areas such as health care and medical research, Allen says she's hopeful more women will be drawn to the tech field. Along with the prestige of the Turing award, Allen will receive a $100,000 cash prize funded by Intel at a ceremony in June. She plans to establish a fund for educating young girls in remote areas of the world where the opportunity to go to school is slim or nonexistent.

News source: InformationWeek

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