The name of Anita Borg, a computer scientist who died in California last month at the age of 54, might not mean anything to you, but it should. Borg received her Ph.D in1981 from New York University for research in the area of operating systems synchronization efficiency. She subsequently worked for a number of past and present industry leaders, including Digital Equipment, Xerox's Palo Alto Research Center and Nixdorf Computer. But where she truly made her mark was in her pioneering and unflagging efforts to ensure that technology might have a positive human and social impact. In particular, from the time she founded Systers, an e-mai list and information-sharing community providing mentors, support and encouragement to women in computing, Borg devoted her career to the advancement of women in computer science.
Considering the relative diversity within insurance company IT organizations at all levels (including CIO) today, Borg's crusade may seem rather quaint, but 1987, when she founded Systers, is not really so long ago. And, especially in times of economic stress and political conflict (like now), achievements such as Borg's can become rather tenuous. With budget and staff cuts looming over practically every manager's head, a corporate commitment to making sure that women (or anyone, for that matter) have every possible opportunity to learn, contribute, excel and reach the top may seem like a luxury. In fact, this should be considered both a competitive and a moral necessity, even in tough economic times.
How much richer is the world of information technologyand the businesses, including insurance, that depend on ITfor the passion and endeavors of Anita Borg! And what a legacy to leave: to have tranformed the workplace in a way that there should be no going back.
Katherine Burger is Editorial Director of Bank Systems & Technology and Insurance & Technology, members of UBM TechWeb's InformationWeek Financial Services. She assumed leadership of Bank Systems & Technology in 2003 and of Insurance & Technology in 1991. In addition to ... View Full Bio