Ada Lovelace Day Inspires Women in STEM

Who was Ada Lovelace? Well apart from having a brilliant name, Lovelace was a pioneer of computer programming. Such a pioneer in fact, that she lived and worked in the first half of the 19th Century, before computers had even been invented. Her passion for technology has made her the poster-girl for women in science and technology over 150 years after her tragic early death from cancer. Ada Lovelace Day (Tuesday 13th October 2015) is thus recognised internationally as a celebration of the achievements of women in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM). 

Lovelace became great friends with a mathematics professor called Charles Babbage and together they worked on the ‘Analytical Engine’. Although never built, the design had all the makings of a modern computer and was later picked up by Alan Turing in the 1940s. In 1844 Lovelace commented to a friend about her desire to create a mathematical model for how the brain gives rise to thoughts and nerves to feelings, but she never achieved this. Ada Lovelace was intelligent, inquisitive and determined. Her achievements in science, at a time when women could not vote and were considered intellectually inferior to men, are astonishing.

Still today women only make up 14% of people working in STEM occupations although the figure is slowly increasing. In engineering the figure is just 8%, why is this? Are women conditioned into thinking they are no good at science? Or are the working arrangements simply incompatible with bringing up a family? Girls actually perform better than boys in STEM subjects at A-level, yet fewer girls take on STEM subjects at university. Whilst we in the UK offer far greater gender quality than developing countries such as India and Bangladesh, where the garment industry is actually raising the profile of women workers, there are clearly still barriers and prejudices against women in certain industries.

Of course, fashion has never had a gender problem, although the exploitation of models and interns is certainly a cause for concern. Even then, the proportion of top female designers is small compared to the number of females graduating from fashion schools. At the high-end, there are as many men as there are women so whatever is keeping women from science and technology is not having the opposite effect for men in fashion.

If you aspire to be future female leader in STEM, take a look a these resources for support, training and networking opportunities:

Ada Lovelace website (including a link to Girl Geek Dinners)

WISE campaign

STEM women

Emma Waight