Known for her work in the field of computer science, she encouraged the careers of other female computer scientists by founding the Institute for Women and Technology and by starting the Systers listserve for female programmers.
In the early 1980s, she graduated from New York University with a Ph.D. in Computer Science.
Her numerous scientific honors include the Association for Women in Computing's prestigious Augusta Ada Lovelace Award, the Electronic Frontier Foundation Pioneer Award, and the Heinz Award.
Raised in Illinois, Hawaii, and Washington, she later lived in New York, California, and Germany. She died of a brain tumor at the age of fifty-four.
She established a conference series honoring fellow female computer scientist Grace Hopper, called The Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing.