If necessity is the mother of invention, women have been a necessity for invention at Hewlett-Packard (now HP Inc.) over the course of its 84-year history.
Take Betty Porter Sox, a scrappy math whiz from Long Beach, California, who became the first female computer programmer at HP and one of the first in the world. “She loved being the only woman in the room,” says her daughter Nancy Sox, reflecting on how her mother, who passed away this year at 99, embraced smashing gender barriers as much as she loved being a tech innovator. “She was compelled to compete with everyone over everything.”
Sox was among a lineage of women at HP who shaped the company — and the annals of technology — in more ways than we can fathom.
Women have been on the front lines at Hewlett-Packard from the start, like Marjorie Kidd and Barbara Ames who worked in the drafting department during World War II and whose detailed drawing boards enabled faster, more accurate production, to Caroline Kusske who fine-tuned HP’s original winding equipment in 1946 making it more efficient, to Lynn Tillman, a lab development manager, who designed the keyboard and programming for the financial calculator in the early 1970s, to the many women who worked in public relations, marketing and communications all the way to the top, which was the case for Carly Fiorina who made history as CEO in 1999, becoming the first woman to head a Dow 30 firm. Today, 30% of those in leadership roles at HP are women, nearly double the industry standard.
With HP’s new goal of achieving gender and racial parity in leadership roles by 2030, and because March is Women’s History Month, we look back at the visionary women who made HP what it is today.