Earlier this week I took part in a Guardian Tech Podcast discussion into why the tech industry needs more women in celebration of Ada Lovelace Day – today the 16th October.
Ada was an extraordinary woman. She was an English mathematician and writer chiefly known for her work on Charles Babbage’s early mechanical general-purpose computer, the analytical engine. Her notes on the engine include what is recognised as the first algorithm intended to be processed by a machine; thanks to this, she is sometimes considered the world’s first computer programmer. She was born in 1815 and lived until she was just 37.
Ada was the only legitimate child of the poet Lord Byron with Anne Isabella Milbanke. She was encouraged into maths and science by her mother who was fearful that she would otherwise follow her fathers supposedly dissolute and artistic career. Ada is now held up as the standard bearer and inspiration for women in science, engineering and technology. On this day, we should salute her and use her memory to keep encouraging millions more women into these vital disciplines. It matters. 31% of men work in STEM subjects but only 8% of women and yet these subjects are likelly to be the areas that will lead to innovation and growth in the economy in future decades.
More depressing still, in the UK the number of women taking Computer Science A-level last year was 300, that’s 7.5% of the total – a fall year on year. I cannot code but I have had the privilege of working with many female coders, architects, project managers and front end designers. I have also been lucky enough to work in technology my whole career – it has been a rollercoaster and I have learnt more and been involved in more ideas and change than I could imagine in any other life. I feel lucky.
In honour of Ada, lets continue to show women all over the world that the wider technology industry is a fascinating and miraculous place. Think how much she achieved in her short career and so how much other twenty first century Ada’s could achieve in their longer ones.