Finding Ada

If you haven’t heard of it by now, let this be the first time you do hear about it.  Finding Ada is a pledge set up by Suw Charman with the intention of getting signatories blogging on the 24 March 2009 about female role models within the technology industry.  I have signed the pledge, and I will hopefully be able to explain why in this blog post.

First, anything to do with Babbage I am very interested in.  I don’t know if it’s the subconscious love of steam punk in me, or just the fact that I love machinery, but I would love to have spent an afternoon with the eccentric if our lifelines had have crossed.  (On a side note, I would also have loved to have shown him a laptop – I think his head might have blown up).  I wrote my history of computation dissertation on the life and times of his life, and Ada Lovelace was a very important part of that.

Second, I too agree that there aren’t enough females in the technology industry.  This isn’t a sexist point of view, it is merely an observation.  Whilst I am all for equal opportunities in any profession, I also feel that both sexes can offer diversity to their profession in the different ways that males and females tend to think about things.  Computer Science is very male dominated, and I have had discussions about why this might be, and what might be a solution for it (not that one needs to be found, just that in order to help diversify and grow the industry I think that there need to be more females involved).

I proposed the thought to a friend about why it might be the case that it is male heavy.  As children we are all inquisitive, and even as babies we tend to shove everything we can hold into our mouths to find out more about them.  When we grow up a little bit more, stereotypically, boys are given toys like Lego and Meccanno and girls are given Barbie dolls.  Immediately we can tell that this childish inquisition is being quashed for the stereotypical female.  It is this kind of attitude that might not even tickle the fancy of any would-be female computer scientist.  The female computer scientist I know quite well had a computer to play on even before I had a computer (it was a hell of a struggle to persuade my parents to get a computer – I had to make do with my Lego for years!).  Maybe more females could be nurtured in to the industry by examples of role models whom they can relate to and admire, and entice that little something inside them that makes them ask the question “I wonder how that works” then they are more than likely going to get involved.

I have absolutely no doubt that there is talent not being found from females who are/were skeptical about persuing the computer science route either because of the male dominance or because of the general image that computer scientists, or even generally science gets.  But that’s not to say that it’s not getting better, there’s always people like Jade Raymond, Jessica Chobot (okay not technically a technical person, but a role model none-the-less – she knows her stuff) popping up that I think should inspire females to get into the industry.  (And who can forget this person?)

Anyway, I, unlike some people (who totally miss the point) will embrace the 24th March 2009 (Ada Lovelace Day) as not just an opportunity to show off role models, but for a step forward for the technology industry.


~ by shepherdnick on January 18, 2009.

4 Responses to “Finding Ada”

  1. I’m kinda gutted I never used the beeb to it’s full potential, we just played games on it, but I think it definitely helped actually having one and using it. *And* having parents who used it and encouraged our use of it. I think that dispelled any idea that computers and games were “boys toys”. Then again, my sis and I both used the beeb equally and to the same extent yet I got into computers and she didn’t oO

  2. I wish I had a beeb. I remember using it in school for different things and absolutely loving it.

    I also think my grandad was born in the wrong era. I bet he wishes he was my age in this year, rather than as old as he is. I certainly took a lot of my inspiration for computers/electronics from him 😀

  3. I loved my BBC 🙂
    It was where I first started programming – I must’ve been 7 or 8, at a guess. It was brilliant how the barrier-to-entry was so low back then: you turned your computer on, and all you got was a flashing prompt, awaiting your input. You could type commands to load a game, or you could just start typing in BASIC. I remember I had several *children’s* programming books – do they do things like that these days?

    I can’t help feeling that the dominance of Windows/GUI-based machines is the reason that the newest CompSci students seem to be, perhaps, struggling more than we did. I was surprised by the number of CompSci students in our year, even, who had seemingly never programmed before. We’re now entering a time where today’s CompSci university students have never known anything other than MS Windows; never known anything other than a GUI. I think it puts something of a barrier between the user and getting to know the inner workings of the machine. And it also puts an extra barrier in the way of starting coding. Certainly on Windows you’re going to have to download Python or Ruby or Java or whathaveyou before you can get going. Never mind having a rubbish built-in terminal. At least with Linux/OS X you generally have Python or Ruby ready-to-go. Just open a terminal and type ‘python’ or ‘irb’. Just like the good old days.

    Certainly many CompSci students seem to fear/scoff at/scorn the command-line. But why? Through the course and through SUCS, I’ve learnt over the past 3 years that the terminal is probably the single most important thing for any self-respecting geek to know how to use. I’ve pretty much always got a terminal open: blinking, and ready to accept my commands.

    Just like the good old days.

    This going-off-on-a-complete-tangent comment was brought to you by Frosty.

  4. […] in the technology industry whom I admired or thought was important for the industry.  Well after I wrote quite a bit about what I thought about the industry a few months ago, who better than to promote than the woman […]

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