Ada Lovelace Day 201908/10/2019
In recognition of Ada Lovelace's contribution to modern computing, our Operations and People Director, Purnima Sen, explores her continued impact on women in tech today...
“Marie Curie Syndrome – the ability to name only Marie Curie when asked to name a female scientist.”
While it may be a funny little anecdote, the truth is there are hundreds of standout females in science and technology worthy of recognition and their own place in history. This is why Sparta Global’s recognition of events like Ada Lovelace day make me so proud.
The idea that the 1840s saw the birth of computer science as we know it today may seem unbelievable, but long before the Bombe, the Colossus or the Harvard Mark I — long before any computer was actually built — came a remarkable woman whose understanding of computing remained unparalleled and unappreciated for 100 years.
Augusta Ada King, Countess of Lovelace (now known as Ada Lovelace), was an English mathematician and writer now broadly known for her work on Charles Babbage's proposed mechanical general-purpose computer, the Analytical Engine.
Doron Swade, a specialist on the history of computing, analysed three claims about Lovelace during a lecture on Babbage's analytical engine. With complete belief, he asserted Ada Lovelace was a mathematical genius who made an influential contribution to the analytical engine. He also named her the very first computer programmer.
Blazing a trail for women in STEM
Brought up in an era when women were routinely denied education, Ada Lovelace still saw further into the future than any of her male counterparts.
At Sparta Global we see the impact diversity has on the workplace. Without a good gender balance and diverse workforce, teams run the risk of making decisions plagued with a male bias and failing to listen to 50% of the world’s population.
At a time when women were expected to be bystanders, Ada Lovelace became an active participant. Unknowingly blazing a trail for women in STEM for generations to come, she proved that diversity drives business value. Doing more than just writing code – she developed a fantastic ability to think as a problem solver and influence the future of computing.
Ada Lovelace started a revolution for women in STEM, but there is still significant work to be done.
I convinced my daughter to join her after-school computer club, but she came home to tell me she had quit on day one. Her teacher had asked her; “Are you sure you want to do computers, you will be the only girl in the club?”
I was furious and complained.
If Ada Lovelace had worried about being the only girl in the room - or as a matter of fact, in the entire industry - she would have never achieved what she did. It is not our duty to appeal to the lowest common denominator, but to instead raise their standards.
When will people understand that code is the new lingua Franca in place of grammar and classics. We need coding as well as poetry lessons.
A lesson in inclusion
For me, a shift in attitude should start at the ground level. We need to make sure that our children and young girls are encouraged to study STEM subjects, learn technology and appreciate the opportunities afforded to them by computers.
I also think acknowledgement of the arts is missing from STEM - it should really be about STEAM. Inclusion for the arts will allow us to see science differently. It will allow us to be more creative and give us the ability to design freely, considering design as a process and not just an output.
Ada Lovelace did so much at a time when she had no encouragement. No one had faith in a woman being able to code or developing a technical ability – but she did it. With the breadth of opportunities now available to our children, we should be producing hundreds and thousands of Ada Lovelaces. I cannot wait to celebrate the next one.