Unlocking the potential: Celebrating International Women’s Day

Since its inception in 1909, this day has been a testament to the indomitable spirit of women worldwide. As we commemorate their achievements, we’re reminded of the hurdles they’ve overcome in fields like data science, mathematics, finance, and investment, and use this as our inspiration to effect change in the broader industry, and to ensure such barriers do not exist at Quoniam.

Nigel Cresswell, CFA, CEO, Managing Partner

Camilla Udd, Head of Culture, Diversity and Change

Since its inception in 1909, International Women’s Day has served as a reminder of the unwavering spirit and dedication of women in their quest for equality and recognition. The day celebrates the achievements and contributions of women worldwide, regardless of their background, ethnicity, age or circumstances. Their triumphs draw on a legacy of activism and resilience forged during a time marked by persistent challenges and prejudices that, despite progress, remain today.

As a quantitative, data-driven asset manager, innovation and science-based investing are of great importance to us. We therefore want to take the opportunity to highlight some of the remarkable women throughout history in the fields of data science, mathematics, finance and investment.

The pioneering efforts of these women are not only memorable contributions and innovative achievements that continue to inspire progress in our industry today, but also testimony to their ability to prevail in the face of considerable challenges posed by systemic biases, societal hurdles, and conventions.

Despite progress made throughout history in creating more equal opportunities worldwide, we have not yet reached global equality. In reflecting on the amazing contributions made by these remarkable women, we also need to ask ourselves “What would the world have looked like today without these barriers? What additional contributions simply never made it past the hurdles in the way?” and use this as our inspiration to effect change.

At Quoniam, we believe in contributing to creating an equitable playing field to enable individuals and teams to fully rise to their potential, to the benefit of our organisation and the society at large. In our quest to create value through innovation and science-based investing, we also place great importance on fostering an inclusive workplace where people can engage, make their voices heard and feel valued.

Ada Lovelace (1815-1852): The first computer programmer

In the 19th century, girls and women contended with deeply ingrained societal beliefs that deemed them incapable of excelling in disciplines like mathematics or natural sciences, despite their evident talents and aspirations. Ada Lovelace defied societal norms in Britain at the time, overcoming prejudice and emerging as a pioneer in the nascent field of computer science. Despite prevailing biases, Lovelace’s groundbreaking work laid the foundation for modern computing. As an accomplished mathematician she wrote an algorithm in 1843 claimed to be the world’s first computer program for Babbage’s Analytical Engine. The program was only rediscovered and published 100 years later and in the 1970s, a programming language was named after her in recognition: “Ada”.

Grace Hopper (1906-1992): A trailblazer in computer science

With a Ph.D. in mathematics and physics Grace Hopper aimed to join the United States Navy but was first rejected due to age and not fulfilling physical requirements. Undeterred, she eventually joined the Navy Reserve becoming one of the first female officers. She was assigned to the Harvard University where she played a crucial role in programming and documentation working on the Mark I computer. At a time when computers were seen as mere calculators, she foresaw the need for them to understand instructions in plain English. This idea led to the development of the first compiler, a groundbreaking innovation that translated human instructions into machine code. Despite initial scepticism, Hopper’s persistence paid off, paving the way for COBOL, a programming language that revolutionized data processing by being both accessible and powerful. Her contributions were not just technical but also educational, as she dedicated herself to demystifying computer technology for a wider audience making it more adaptable and user-friendly.

Katherine Johnson (1918-2020): Calculating the trajectory of success

Katherine Johnson graduated with a B.S. in mathematics with honours at the age of 18. She was one of the first three African American students to enrol at West Virginia University and her brilliance in mathematics propelled her to the forefront of NASA’s space exploration endeavours. As a “human computer” at NASA, Johnson played a pivotal role in calculating the trajectories for missions such as the first American manned spaceflight in 1961 and the Apollo moon landing in 1969. Her exceptional determination and talents defied racial and gender barriers, inspiring future generations to pursue careers in STEM fields. In 2015, she was presented with the United States’ Presidential Medal of Freedom for her important work as a mathematician, physicist, and space scientist as a woman of colour.

Geraldine Weiss (1926-2022): The grand dame of dividends

Geraldine Weiss challenged conventions in the male-dominated realm of finance, forging a path for women investors in the United States and worldwide. Despite having studied business and finance at University of California, Berkeley, no investment firm was interested in hiring her as more than a secretary. In the face of rejection from traditional investment firms, she started her own investment newsletter in 1966 at the age of 40. To avoid further gender discrimination, she signed her newsletter “G. Weiss.”, pioneering a value-based stock-picking strategy that yielded remarkable returns. Her insights and consistent commitment to her craft shattered stereotypes, empowering women to assert their presence in the financial sector.

Muriel Siebert (1928-2013): Breaking barriers on Wall Street

Muriel Siebert, by some considered as the “first woman of finance”, forged a path as the first woman to own a seat on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) among 1,365 male members of the floor, defying entrenched gender biases in finance. The process of getting her firm registered with the NYSE involved numerous rejections from men who declined to sponsor her application as well as difficulties in obtaining the necessary financing to meet the exchange’s expensive entrance requirements. Through perseverance and determination, Siebert established herself as a formidable force in the industry, changing jobs numerous times throughout her career because of being paid less than men and founding her brokerage firm and advocating for gender equality in the workplace. Her steadfast advocacy for inclusion and representation reshaped the landscape of Wall Street, inspiring future generations of women in finance.

Margaret Hamilton (1936-): The architect of software engineering

Margaret Hamilton’s work in software engineering laid the groundwork for modern computing systems. From her contributions to Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Lincoln Laboratory to her pivotal role in NASA’s Apollo missions developing the computer code that made the moon landing possible, Hamilton’s innovative programming methodologies revolutionized space exploration. Her groundbreaking achievements, including coining the term “software engineer,” underscore the transformative power of interdisciplinary collaboration and technological innovation. Her programming of the navigation software of Apollo 11’s onboard computer consisting of 40,000 command lines printed out in 17 volumes was a remarkable achievement at the time, only recognized decades later.

Maryam Mirzakhani (1977-2017): A mathematical visionary

Winning the gold medal for mathematics in the Iranian National Olympiad in her junior and senior high school years, and the gold medal at the International Mathematical Olympiad 1994, Maryam Mirzakhani was one of the greatest mathematicians of her generation. She was a professor at Princeton and Stanford University with a Ph.D. from Harvard University and the first woman to be awarded the International Mathematical Union’s Fields Medal for outstanding discoveries in Mathematics. Mirzakhani’s pioneering research in the dynamics and geometry of mathematical objects has reshaped our understanding of complex mathematical phenomena. Her legacy serves as a beacon of inspiration for aspiring mathematicians worldwide.


Curious to read academic papers, articles, and doctoral dissertations by employees at Quoniam?