By Cyril Bouquet, Jean-Louis Barsoux, and Michael Wade
Computer scientist Radia Perlman is often referred to as the “Mother of the Internet”—a title she shuns, but which has stuck due to her accomplishments and contributions to the creation of the web.
Perlman is rightly considered an internet pioneer, but she also encountered barriers because of her gender. And today, despite tremendous innovations by Perlman and other women like her, tech continues to be a tough environment for female engineers.
An accidental techie
When Perlman entered MIT in the late 1960s to study math, she had no interest in computer programming, thanks to a discouraging class she’d taken during high school. Ironically, this outsider status would serve Perlman well. Uncontaminated by computer industry norms, her boundary-spanning abilities would become a source of creative strength.
She finally learned computer programming thanks to a teaching assistant who asked her to do some coding for his project. She…