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House Approves Resolution Honoring Frances E. Allen

On May 1, the House approved, by voice vote, a resolution (H. Con. Res. 95) to honor Frances E. Allen, a pioneer for women in the computer science industry.

Sponsored by Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-CA), the resolution contained a number of findings, including:

  • Frances Allen joined IBM in 1957 early in the history of the computer industry and just after an IBM team developed Fortran, one of the first high-level programming languages;
  • in 1989 Frances Allen was the first woman to be named an IBM Fellow and in 1995 became president of the IBM Academy of Technology, a global organization of IBM technical leaders charged with providing technical advice to the company;
  • Frances Allen’s work led to remarkable advances in compiler [a computer program that translates text into a computer language] design and machine architecture that are at the foundation of modern high-performance computing; and
  • Frances Allen is nationally renowned for her work in encouraging women to study computer science.

    Rep. Woolsey said, “H. Con. Res. 95 honors a pioneer in the world of computing, Dr. Frances Allen, the first woman awarded the A.M. Turing Award by the Association for Computing Machinery, ACM. The Turing Award is widely considered to be the Nobel Prize of computing. By being the first female recipient, Dr. Allen has set the bar as a role model for women everywhere who aspire to a career in math and science…In addition to her outstanding scientific achievement, Dr. Allen has also been an inspirational mentor to younger researchers and a leader within the computing community.” She continued, “With the nation’s information technology workforce suffering from a lack of qualified candidates, it is all the more important that Dr. Allen be recognized as the first female recipient of the A.M. Turing Award to show what women can accomplish. It is certainly telling that women who earn more than half of all undergraduate degrees in this country and make up more than half of the professional workforce represent only 25 percent of all high-tech workers. In fact, the percentage of women graduating with degrees in computer science has fallen from 37 percent of total graduates in 1985 to just 15 percent in 2005. With grim statistics like these, it is clear that we are going to close the gap and ensure that information technology sectors have enough workers only if we get young women into this workplace. And Dr. Allen has done just that.”

    “Fran Allen exemplifies the dedication and innovative spirit that has brought this country to the forefront of science, technology and commerce,” said Rep. Adrian Smith (R-NE). He continued, “As a researcher for IBM for nearly 45 years, she played a key role in building the high-performance computing world we live in today. Her work on optimization of parallel processing has impacted all of our lives, for example, by setting the stage for today’s computer systems that forecast our weather and analyze DNA sequences. I would like to particularly commend Ms. Allen for her dedication to supporting and mentoring young men and women in her field. I note that after her retirement from IBM, she kept an office and has continued her work mentoring future leaders in computer sciences and, hopefully, future A.M. Turing Award winners as well. As this Congress looks to improve our nation’s competitiveness and looks to provide for the next generation of scientists, engineers and business men and women, we should consider the great example that Fran Allen has given to us.”

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