Researching Usability

Who is your Ada?

Posted on: March 24, 2010

Today is the 24th March and as I found out two weeks ago, the day we pledge to blog about Ada Lovelace and celebrate women in technology. If like me you are unaware of who Ada is, she was one of the world’s first computer programmers. As a pioneer she seems a suitable figurehead to galvanise people into celebrating girl geeks worldwide for one day at least. I made the decision to pledge a blog about today so here we are.

Since I submitted my pledge I’ve been thinking about who I would talk about. I have to admit that I don’t know of many famous female technologists that I could point to as being influential to me. I’ve really struggled to come up with a ‘heroine’ to submit to the Finding Ada website and realise that this is the very reason we need more events like this. Do women have strong role models working in technology to inspire them? There are clearly lots of women out there doing great things so I look forward to reading some of the blogs to come out of today. Hopefully I’ll get to know some new names and resources to follow for future interest. Who knows, this time next year maybe I’ll have a long list of women to admire!

On a more personal level, someone who has influenced my career and the work I do is my former supervisor at university and friend, Dr Hazel Hall. She is director of the Centre for Social Informatics at Edinburgh Napier University and also leads the implementation of the UK Library and Information Science Research Coalition. She recently received the award for Information Professional of the Year in 2009 to reflect the work she is doing with the Research Coalition. Lots of the things I’ve achieved so far in my career are largely thanks to her generosity, advice and guidance and I look forward to more collaborations in the future. Thank you Hazel, you are my Ada Lovelace person! πŸ™‚

To follow Ada Lovelace Day on Twitter check out the feed.

3 Responses to "Who is your Ada?"

Wow! Blushes all round. It happens to be my birthday today: what a lovely present!

Happy birthday! Hope you have a lovely day πŸ™‚

Lorraine – when I started in IT in the 80s there were plenty of young women moving from universities into computing, some with IT degrees, others who just had the right aptitude and attitude.

The graduate intake at the large Scottish company where I worked were probably taking in just about half and half men and women for a few years.

That seems to have changed. I went back to university to do an MSc a few years back, and I was struck by the overwhelming domination of men on the undergraduate computing degree courses.

I suspect that graduate trainees are now more likely to be from directly relevant degrees, so there are presumably far fewer women coming into IT. I’d vaguely assumed that the situation would improve and stabilise, but things seem to have gone into reverse in the last 20 years.

Why is that? Is it because computing degrees appeal to gamers, and studying computing is seen as an extension of a geeky adolescent lifestyle, rather than a straight choice of career path as was the case in my day?

As an extension of this line of thought, is a reliance on computing graduates effectively an indirect form of discrimination against women?

I’ve always thought that a degree that helped students acquire good analytical and communication skills is of greater long term career benefit than a degree concentrating on the technology that happens to be current at the time, and which will be out of date 30 years before the students retire.

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