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Opinion

A statue for Grace Hopper

A native New Yorker and pioneer in technology, science and math, she would be a perfect choice for a NYC monument.

President Ronald Reagan and then-Capt. Grace Hopper in

President Ronald Reagan and then-Capt. Grace Hopper in 1983. Photo Credit: Department of Defense / Pete Souza

Between the Fearless Girl statue being moved to her permanent home at the New York Stock Exchange and Shirley Chisholm, America’s first black female congresswoman, slated for a monument of her own, it’s been a busy time for iconic female NYC effigies.

But while two more female statues is progress, the list they join is short. The only other statues honoring women in NYC are for Eleanor Roosevelt, Gertrude Stein, Golda Meir, Harriet Tubman and Joan of Arc. This is bad news. The good news is that through the She Built NYC initiative, more commemorations are being commissioned. The Chisholm monument is the first to grow from that effort, honoring a legacy that inspires.

Another inspiring woman is Grace Hopper. A native New Yorker and pioneer in technology, science and math, she would be a perfect choice for the next statue. Women are underrepresented in the tech sector, and parity is a long way away. But a look at the tech industry’s history shows women, including Hopper, have been invaluable to its progress.

To many historians, Hopper is best remembered as a Navy admiral, but she also was a renowned computer scientist, one of the first programmers of the Harvard Mark I computer, a groundbreaking device used during World War II.

Hopper also was a mathematician, software engineer and pioneer of what we call COBOL — computer programming based on language rather than complex symbols. This work revolutionized the business world, and complemented her naval service. For these efforts, she received scores of awards, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2016, 25 years after her death.

Like the Fearless Girl who takes on Wall Street, and Chisholm who took on D.C., Hopper took on technology. A statue honoring her would send a message to women everywhere that they, too, can do the same. Hopper is a uniquely accomplished tech icon who overcame disadvantages to achieve the unimaginable. Her life affirms NYC’s character as a city of progress, innovation and opportunity.

A statue for Hopper also would celebrate how far NYC’s tech ecosystem has come. The sector is booming, and many amazing NYC women are at the forefront. A statue for Hopper wouldn’t capture all that women mean to NYC, but it would be a start, and particularly apropos as the tech sector grows.

Julie Samuels is the executive director of Tech: NYC, an advocacy group for tech companies.

Editor’s Note: Grace Hopper was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom 25 years after her death. Because of an editing error, the figure was incorrect in an earlier version of this opinion piece.

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