Today is Ada Lovelace Day. Founded in 2009 by Suw Charman-Anderson, this international day of celebration not only highlights the pioneering work of this female mathematical genius, but also serves to teach people about the ongoing achievements of women in STEM.
Born in 1815, Lovelace was tutored in mathematics and science, which were subjects often forbidden for girls at the time.
She collaborated with inventor Charles Babbage on his general purpose computing machine, the Analytical Engine. In 1843, Lovelace published what we would now call a computer program to generate Bernoulli Numbers. Whilst Babbage had written fragments of programs before, Lovelace’s was the most complete, most elaborate and the first published.
Although she was never fully recognised during her lifetime, Lovelace’s work earned her the nickname the “enchantress of numbers”. Now, each year on the second Tuesday of October, the STEM industry celebrates her work to help inspire others and encourage companies to create and nurture new role models for young women.
And who better to comment on why this support is still so important, than some of the current female role models working in the tech industry. Here’s what they have to say:
Claire Vyvyan, Dell EMC’s SVP UK & Ireland Commercial Business:
“Today gives us the opportunity to remind ourselves we need to keep encouraging the next generation of young, female talent to develop their careers in STEM industries.
“Technology is an outstanding field to work in. It has given me the opportunity to work across multiple industries where the pace of change is incredible and the opportunities are endless. It affects everything that happens in the world today so if you like making a difference, like driving a business, like to look at the “art of the possible”, enjoy creating new products and services, then Information Technology is the only field to be in.”
Vicki Holt, CEO of Protolabs:
“In the global manufacturing industry, significant steps are being made to appeal to the next generation of female engineers, software developers and business leaders. However, more must be done to encourage women into the industry, especially at the grassroots level and within schooling.
“Ambitions must be stretched at an early age. It is disappointing to see in a recent study women are choosing lower paid apprenticeships in health, public services and care (35%), in business administration and law (28%), and in retail and commercial enterprise (23%). In contrast, more men are taking better paid apprenticeships in engineering and manufacturing technologies (53%).
“At Protolabs, we believe the future of manufacturing is female, and digital. To speed up productivity and production lines, technology is increasingly being incorporated within the manufacturing process. Therefore, to futureproof the industry, software development and design skills should be actively encouraged at a young age for girls and boys. On its ninth anniversary, Ada Lovelace day serves a very timely reminder of how incredible women can be in computing and software development.”
Guita Blake, Senior VP and Head, Europe at Mindtree:
“It’s well documented traditionally the STEM industries are difficult environments for women to carve out long and successful careers. Today, women only make up just 24 per cent of the workforce. Just last week, a leading scientist presented a talk claiming that “physics was invented and built by men”. He clearly chose to ignore contributions from Marie Curie, Lise Meitner and Chien-Shiung Wu. Although Ada Lovelace was more a mathematician than a physicist, her contributions to the naissance of the concept of a digital programmable computer made her a pioneer in women’s role in STEM innovation and education.
“Today, it’s arguable that many company cultures are generally not yet mature enough to encourage and accept women in certain positions within the STEM value chain. I can see that the maturity level is improving in the business world but we are still too far from where we need to be in the computer technology and digital transformation industries.
“Ada Lovelace day is significant for the global STEM sector, but we need to do more to celebrate female role models in STEM every day. With greater visibility for successful women in STEM – and there are many of them within the global technology sector and with better education and more encouragement, we can chip away at out-dated biases and create a healthier gender balance in this rewarding and exciting industry.”
Bridget Kenyon, Global CISO at Thales eSecurity:
“It is crucial that the next generation of girls have visible, successful role models in influential positions across the world of business. However, looking further back into history to the work of figures like Ada Lovelace is just as inspirational, and beyond being the first computer programmer, her legacy lives on in emphasising the crucial role that women play in shaping the science and technology that dominates our modern world.
“Though the figure is rising, women still represent just 20% of the cyber security workforce in particular. With a succession of high profile data breaches hitting British organisations, and the industry facing a chronic skills shortage, it’s important that young women see security as a viable, rewarding career choice. I feel that seeing more female security professionals at boardroom level is key to unlocking this potential.”
Lindsey Kneuven, Head of Social Impact, Pluralsight:
“Across STEM, the gender imbalance remains intolerably high. Women are being overlooked for appointment to senior positions and this is having a detrimental impact on the next generation of talent to lead technological innovation. The absence of appropriate role models for girls leads to a lack of confidence in their ability, and inevitably, causes bright and talented individuals to turn their backs on promising careers in technology.
"In today’s business climate, companies need a dynamic and diverse workforce to deliver ground-breaking innovations and provide the best possible service to their customers. Those who do not champion equal representation are missing out on a big opportunity to maintain their competitive edge and outperform their peers. Now is the time for women to use this momentum to press for equal footing across science and technology. It’s the twenty-first century and barriers to employment — whether it’s gender identity, ethnicity, sexual orientation, age or physical ability — should not exist.”
For the November issue, PCR is dedicating its pages to the most influential women in the UK tech channel. We’ll be highlighting 25 women that have made a positive impact in the industry over the past year, and we need YOU to submit yourself or your colleagues.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org now to find out how to submit your entry.