Celebrating women in STEM: Ada Lovelace Day

Back in 2009, technologist Suw Charman-Anderson realised that women were underrepresented on stage at tech events. This problem, she thought, wasn’t caused by a lack of women in tech, but their visibility. So she founded Ada Lovelace Day, with three broad aims; to increase the profile of women in STEM, create new role models who will encourage more girls into STEM careers, and support women already working in STEM.

Ada Lovelace Day (ALD), is now celebrated every year on the second Tuesday of October, on which the contributions of women to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics are honoured.

By talking about women in these fields, we hope to raise not just their profiles, but the profile of every woman.

Why Ada Lovelace?

Ada Lovelace, born Augusta Ada King, Countess of Lovelace (10 December 1815 – 27 November 1852) Ada was an English mathematician and writer, chiefly known as the first computer programmer.

In 1833, Ada was introduced to Charles Babbage, with whom she helped to develop a mechanical computing device called The Analytical Engine; an early predecessor of the modern computer. Lovelace and Babbage worked together closely for many years in order to refine the Engine. 

Ada died of cancer at the age of 36, a few short years after the publication of “Sketch of the Analytical Engine, with Notes from the Translator”. Her work, which was rediscovered in the mid-20th century, inspired the Defense Department to name a programming language after her.

Ada lived when women were not considered to be prominent scientific thinkers, and her skills were often described as masculine.

The importance of role models

According to Women’s Engineering Society, there is now very little gender difference in take-up of and achievement in core STEM GCSE subjects in British Schools. However, statistics show that few go on to study them at university and even fewer then get jobs in these fields.

Social pressure on girls and women to pursue careers seen as “suitable for women”, the perennial problem of child care, and sexism are some of the reasons for this inequality.

The lack of female role models in STEM doesn’t help either. It’s a known fact that role models are key when it comes to inspiring kids to pursue a career in STEM and using real-world examples of achievements by females can spark a passion and interest.

As the organisers say, “Ada Lovelace Day aims to address this problem by encouraging people to shine a light on the women in STEM that they admire. By talking about women in these fields, we hope to raise not just their profiles, but the profile of every woman.”

 

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