If you think the 21st century has brought enough opportunities to women in technology, it is still an uncertain thought that needs verification. The modern era of technology has changed the world upside down. The emerging trends are slowly placing women equally to men at all positions in the tech radar. But what feels off is where women stand in the revolution of quantum computers.
Computers have evolved on a large scale in recent decades. Initially, computers filled a whole building and costed a fortune. But today, they are minimized to a small size and featured with advanced technologies where people carry them every day. The quantum growth has given birth to ideas like ‘quantum computer’ and ‘quantum internet.’ Unlike many disruptive technologies, quantum computing is something that can change the base of our computing system. Even though a fully established quantum computer is still under process, the industry is remarkably being male dominant at some stance. While countries run the race to reach the quantum success, they often leave women behind. And the worst case is that most of us don’t notice the discrimination quantum computing is bringing into the tech sector. In order to know better about quantum computing and women’s position in technology, let us go through the history and some of the important global quantum initiatives.
Overview of quantum computers
Quantum computer is a device that employs properties described by quantum mechanics to enhance computations. Quantum computers are anticipated to spur the development of breakthrough in science, medications to save lives, machine learning methods to diagnose illnesses sooner, materials to make more efficient devices and structures, financial strategies to live well in retirement, and algorithms to quickly direct resources such as ambulances. In a nutshell, quantum computing could ease critical jobs for good. While classical computers are based on bits, quantum computers are based on quantum bits, called qubits. Qubits are physically derived from small quantum objects such as electron or photon, where a pure quantum mechanical state such as spin indicates the ones and zeros.
The spark of quantum computing was struck by Nobel Laureate Richard Feynman in 1959. He noted that as electronic components begin to reach microscopic scales, effects predicted by quantum mechanics might be exploited in the design of more powerful computers. The simple speculation turned out to be a theory during the 1980s and 90s and advanced beyond Feynmam’s words. In 1985, David Deutsch of the University of Oxford described the construction of quantum logic gates for a universal quantum computer. Peter Shor of AT&T devised an algorithm to factor numbers with quantum computers that would require fewer qubits. Later in 1998, Isaac Chuang of the Los Alamos National Laboratory, Neil Gershenfeld of the Massachusetts Insititute of Technology (MIT) and Mark Kubinec of the University of California at Berkeley created the first quantum computer that could be loaded with data and output a solution. Almost twenty years later, IBM presented the first commercially usable quantum computer in 2017.
Quantum initiatives worldwide
Quantum technologies have been getting exponential investments in the last few years. The global efforts to boost the quantum mechanism have emerged as a main area of funding. By 2025, the global quantum market is expected to reach US$948.82 million. Quantum computing will give a substantial military and economic advantage to whichever countries come out on top in this global competition.
In 2018, under former President Donald J. Trump’s administration, a bipartisan law called ‘National Quantum Initiative Act’ was passed. According to the law, US$1.2 billion will be spent on the development of quantum information processing over the course of a decade. European countries are also taking steps to stabilize their quantum future. In 2016, 3,400 significant people form science, research and corporate world signed the ‘Quantum Manifesto’ to call upon the European Commission and the Member States to formulate a joint strategy designed to ensure that the continent remains at the forefront of the second quantum revolution. Two years past the initiative, European Commission launched a ‘Quantum Technologies Flagship’ program to support hundreds of quantum science researchers.
China is being ambitious in becoming a frontrunner in the quantum revolution. Under Chinese President Xi Jinping’s rule, the country’s scientists and engineers are enjoying access to nearly unlimited resources in their development of quantum science and technology. In 2016, China has launched the world’s first quantum satellite as a test platform for quantum communications links between space and earth.
Where do women stand in the race?
Physics, computer science and engineering are the basement of quantum computing. The problem starts from the very baseline because only 20% of degree recipients are identified as women for the last decade. Even women who survive the lone time at universities face an existential crisis on daily life as a person involved in quantum initiatives. They are often dismissed and walked over by their male peers. A research conducted by a group of five female scientists has concluded that women who receive an A grade in a physics course have the same self-efficacy about their own performance as men who earn a C grade. The research further unravels that women have a lower sense of belonging and they feel less recognized by their physics instructors as people who can excel in physics.
However, the world can still build an inclusive future for women by taking certain initiatives. Primarily, women need to be recognized in the science and engineering disciplines. Insufficient encouragement in the education level is a threat to women willingness. Instructors and research advisors should cheer female students to perform better and give them more opportunities. Organizations should also develop a culture that treats women and their ideas equally to their male counterparts.
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