Playa Vista’s women in tech are a special breed. Constantly moving forward with confidence and intelligence, they bring value and diversity to Silicon Beach. But the women at businesses like Science 37, Belkin and YouTube aren’t the first to innovate in Playa Vista. They had a predecessor. She even walked the halls of some of the same buildings that stand here today. Her name? Hedy Lamarr.
Though most know Lamarr as a glamorous starlet from Hollywood’s Golden Age, the recent documentary “Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story” reveals the actress also had a scientific, inventive mind. I was intrigued to learn that in the 1930s, as Howard Hughes’ aeronautical empire thrived here, the genius and eccentric Hughes fell in love with Lamarr. Both had a huge appetite for shaping the future and advancing technology. Eternally clever, Lamarr even helped redesign Hughes’ aircraft wings by studying the shape of the fastest fish and birds. “He relied on me,” said Lamarr.
Not only does this documentary recall a specific time in Playa Vista’s history, it made me consider the legacy Lamarr left behind. Though she invented radio frequency hopping technology that is now used in things like cell phones and secure Wi-Fi, her inventions were widely ignored until decades later. Sadly, her beauty and gender stood in her way.
Almost a century later, women are still under-represented in tech. Although we’re a long way from gender parity, representation is steadily growing. What excites me most about the women in Playa Vista is how they support each other. Organizations like Athena.LA are connecting women in tech to offer support, advice and opportunities. Businesses like The Honest Company help moms create strong, healthy families. Join the Uproar is a group of female writers and designers from 72andSunny who inspire activists fighting for gender equality by sharing free, downloadable protest signs.
If only Lamarr could once again walk the halls of the Spruce Goose hangar this fall after Google moves in. She’d likely see many women thriving in a space that was once filled only with men. Seeing all the women’s contributions and achievements, she might just think she was in a Hollywood movie.
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