Ada Lovelace Day

by Suw on January 5, 2009

I’ve mainly stayed away from the discussion of gender issues in technology. I didn’t think that I had any real expertise to share. But over the last six months, after many conversations, it has become clear that many of my female friends in tech really do feel disempowered. They feel invisible, lacking in confidence, and unsure how to compete for attention with the men around them.

Then I see the stupid puerile misogynistic manner with which some of the more powerful voices in the tech community – some of them repeat offenders – treat women, and it makes me very cross indeed. The objectification of women is bad enough when it’s done by the media, but when it’s done by a conference organiser or tech commentator or famous tech publication, what message does it send? Nothing but “You will never be taken seriously, but we might take notice of you if you’re hot.”

But what to do? Well, let’s pull back from the anger a little, and start to look instead at why it might be that women feel less secure in their abilities than most men, and what might help change that. Undoubtedly it’s a complex issue, but recent research may shed some light: Psychologist Penelope Lockwood discovered that women need to see female role models more than men need to see male ones.

Well, that’s a relatively simple problem to begin to address. If women need female role models, let’s come together to highlight the women in technology that we look up to. Let’s create new role models and make sure that whenever the question “Who are the leading women in tech?” is asked, that we all have a list of candidates on the tips of our tongues.

Thus was born Ada Lovelace Day, and this pledge:

“I will publish a blog post on Tuesday 24th March about a woman in technology whom I admire but only if 1,000 other people will do the same.”

— Suw Charman-Anderson (contact)

Deadline to sign up by: 24th March 2009

Ada Lovelace Day is an international day of blogging to draw attention to women excelling in technology. Women’s contributions often go unacknowledged, their innovations seldom mentioned, their faces rarely recognised. We want you to tell the world about these unsung heroines. Whatever she does, whether she is a sysadmin or a tech entrepreneur, a programmer or a designer, developing software or hardware, a tech journalist or a tech consultant, we want to celebrate her achievements.

It doesn’t matter how new or old your blog is, what gender you are, what language you blog in, or what you normally blog about – everyone is invited to take part. All you need to do is sign up to this pledge and then publish your blog post any time on Tuesday 24th March 2009. If you’re going to be away that day, feel free to write your post in advance and set your blogging system to publish it that day.

You’ll notice that I’ve asked for 1,000 people to sign the pledge, which is an ambitious number. Indeed, PledgeBank makes a pretty strong point during the pledge creation process of asking people to limit their requests to 20 people, but I am sure that over the next 77 days we’ll be able to find another 989 people to join us!

What can you do?
Obviously, and most importantly, please sign the pledge. If you already have a blog, then it will be easy for you to take part. If you don’t have a blog, this might be a great reason to start one! It’ll take you about five minutes to get yourself set up on WordPress and then you’ll be up and running!

Please also consider putting a pledge badge on your blog now or writing a short post about the project to help spread the word. You can also use the “Share This” link on the pledge itself to send the pledge to your favourite social bookmarking or news site, or to email it to a friend. The more people who send this link to Delicious or Digg and the like, the more likely we are to hit our target!

Also, if you’re on Twitter, Facebook, Jaiku, Identi.ca or any other microconversation tool, please ping a message to all your friends about Ada Lovelace Day, and don’t forget the link! If you’re on LinkedIn, you could also add it as your temporary status for a while.

It is going to be a challenge to hit 1,000 people – we’ll need an average of 13 people signing each day – but if we all tell our friends about it, I think we can do it!

Keep up with Ada Lovelace Day news
I’ve got a Twitter account, mailing list, blog and Facebook event set up, so feel free to follow, subscribe and add to your RSS reader, as you wish!

Tags, video/audio and the meaning of technology
These are the tags that we’re going to be using.

  • AdaLovelaceDay09 for Delicious, Technorati etc. It’s long, but clear.
  • #ALD09 for Twitter hashtags.

It doesn’t matter what medium you choose to do your post in – it could be a video post, a podcast or any other format you choose.

Equally, it’s up to you how you interpret the phrase “in technology”. We’re not just talking about hardcore ninja programmers, but any woman who creates, invents, or uses any technology in an innovative way. One of my friends is going to write about women in animation, for example. But there are many women excelling in gaming, or developing hardware, or tech project management, or using tech to do science… there are all sorts of careers that could come under the banner of “technology” and we’re happy to hear about women in any of them.

Finally, your chosen women can be alive, or she can be dead. After all, I’m going to be writing about Ada. (Not that I want to spoil the surprise, but I think we’d all agree that it would be apropos!)

What will happen next?
If Ada Lovelace Day is a success I’d like to make it an annual event. And, once the economy is in a better position, I’d like to put together a one day conference called Finding Ada. We would cover presentation skills and would introduce women to tech conference organisers, with the aim of getting more women up on stage at tech conferences. At the moment, I’m short of money to get Finding Ada moving, so if you’d like to be a sponsor please get in touch and I’ll tell you more about it.

Finally, who was Ada?
Ada Lovelace was one of the world’s first computer programmers, and one of the first people to see computers as more than just a machine for doing sums. She wrote programmes for Charles Babbage’s Analytical Engine, a general-purpose computing machine, despite the fact that it was never built.

Wolter January 6, 2009 at 4:54 pm

What a great idea! We definitely need to get more women interested, and staying in the profession. Losing half the population of potential greats is insanity, and must be addressed.

I do agree with you that women need to see their gender as empowering (or at the very least neutral), rather than disempowering. There was a study done awhile back with groups of women, examining their performance on math tests. Women who were asked gender related questions before starting the test scored WORSE than those who were not.

josiefraser January 6, 2009 at 5:19 pm

Great initiative & hoping enough people sign up :) Would be worth getting in touch with http://www.ukrc4setwomen.org/ if you haven’t already. Best, J

Hannah Dee January 6, 2009 at 8:57 pm

Hiya – I organise a one day event for women students of computing in the UK named after Ada: the BCSWomen undergraduate Lovelace colloquium. This year it’s on April 16th… Details here:
http://www.comp.leeds.ac.uk/bcswomen/
If you know any women computing students, give them a nudge to apply! Deadline for poster contest entries is Jan 31.

Cheers,

Hannah.

Christine Burns January 6, 2009 at 8:58 pm

I think this is a great initiative and have signed the pledge without hesitation.

So far I have signposted this page:

- In my Facebook status
- On the front page of http://www.speakersite.com
- On my blog

I’m about to tweet about it too.

Best wishes
Christine Burns

Matthew Pennell January 6, 2009 at 10:07 pm

Hi – the pledge badge, which links to this image: http://www.pledgebank.com/flyers/AdaLovelaceDay_A7_flyers1_live.png

is broken, for me at least. The image has errors, according to Firefox.

Michelle Sullivan January 7, 2009 at 3:07 am

Love this idea. Could we also extend this to collectively voicing disapproval when the next inevitable incarnation of the ‘Who is the hottest chick/guy in tech contest’ rolls around? I’d encourage anyone who is nominated for such an initiative to respectfully ask that their name (and photo) be withdrawn from the contest – not only in solidarity with others, but out of respect for themselves. I’d much rather know what a candidate has _done_ to merit attention (and likely they all have done something quite special just to have attracted attention in the first place). There are plenty of women we can admire for their achievements and brainpower – there’s no need to debase women … or men for that matter … by bringing it down to the lowest common denominator swimsuit contest. Just make the industry look like it’s run by a bunch of pimply faced adolescents. Let’s move on, already!

Already have a nice list of potential candidates for my Ada Lovelace Day blog post – thanks for launching this initiative. Your timing is perfect.

Karen Lopez January 7, 2009 at 7:17 pm

What a wonderful idea. I plan on promoting this pledge:

- Twitter: already done
- My Blog (www.infoadvisors.com)
- Facebook
- Our discussion groups
- Email to friends
- Encouraging Canadian Information Processing Society and Data Management Association groups to help promote.

Karen
Former National Spokesperson
CIPS Women in Technology program

nonlineargirl January 8, 2009 at 6:18 am

Great idea. I am not a tech blogger, but feel compelled to participate as my husband and I named our daughter Ada in large part due to Ada Lovelace.

Owen Blacker January 8, 2009 at 10:06 am

It’s worth pointing out that, for some reason (that we’re already looking into), Digg won’t accept Pledgebank URLs.

Helpfully, though, Cory had already blogged about the pledge on BoingBoing, so there’s already an article (that desperately needs Digging) at EDITED BY SUW: PLEASE SEE COMMENT BELOW!

A fantastic idea, Suw. I hope it becomes more successful than you’d hoped!

Suw January 8, 2009 at 10:10 am

Thanks Owen. I’d actually rather people Digg the link to this blog post, as it has much more information.

http://digg.com/tech_news/Ada_Lovelace_Day_a_day_of_blogging_to_promote_women_in_tech

Robert McLaughlin January 15, 2009 at 1:31 am

This is wonderful! on 3/24/08 we rediscovered Ada’s original image from when she was 4 years old and now on 3/24/09 we will blog it all over! woohoo!

Wayan Chan January 19, 2009 at 3:18 am

Hi Ada.

I am one of the founders of http://www.Admart.Asia (a leading community internet forum for people living in Asia).

We actually have more female staff then males in our company.

I find that males and females contribute to our business in different ways, but in any case the combination of staff, personalities, skills, strengths, knowledge, etc for us at Admart works really well.

One thing that still happens often, is that when people who call our office and I answer the phone, they ask to speak to “Mr Chan” (making the assumption that Wayan Chan is a male). I respond that its Miss Chan they are speaking to, and that it is me that they are after, but I have had a number of callers still insist that they definately want to speak to a Mr Chan (even though there is no such person working in our company)!

I have also been referred to Mr Chan in some media reports about Admart, again with journalists assuming that someone who founded a tech company must be male. It does not really bother me, but it does reveal a common perception that the tech world is associated strongly with men.

Wayan Chan
Hong Kong Manager
http://www.Admart.Asia
Advertise Anything, Anywhere in Asia!

Jayne Ferrendale January 20, 2009 at 7:57 am

Wayan – http://www.Admart.Asia looks great. Congratulations on a nice site MISS Chan! Honestly, I can sense a female influence when I look at the site. On the other hand when you look as Craigslist, it really does have a “male tech geek programmer” feel to it.

Ada – one role model we had in the tech space was Carly Fiorina who was CEO of HP. Unfortunately, whilst a high profile position, her performance was not as successful as I had hoped :(

Tresha Thorsen January 27, 2009 at 7:25 pm

Hey Suw,
Couple ?s: do you have a widget we can add to our blogs to promote this day? either the “I pledge” one or something else? Having Ada’s portrait image on it as well would be fab.
Also, am drafting a blogpost about this…can I email you a few questions? If so, email me at tre@thoughtbythought.net. One of my all time fave women role models is Mary Baker Eddy who among other things founded a college for metaphysical healing, started an international daily newspaper (The Christian Science Monitor), created a publishing company to ensure the safe and perpetual publications of her writings (when no one else would commit to such) well over 125 years ago. She’s even noted to have started one of if not the first franchise. I am thrilled with your founding of this Ada Lovelace pledge and Day. Thank you for doing something productively lasting and proactively enlightening and educational to advance women’s voices, esp. those who tech. :) Would be very interested in whether events will occur on this day, if some are already in the works; really value the facebook cause page as well. :) Thanks so much!!!

Kelly Vero January 28, 2009 at 9:41 am

Living and working in Ada’s father’s city (Nottingham) I’ve always been inspired by her, and with the added bonus of Lord Byron, we get a double dose of literary and scientific genius – this is a great idea and I will definitely put her forward as one of my ‘hotshots’. I’m a college teacher, possibly the only female games co-ordinator at this level in the UK and every month us titors get together and share with our students those people who have influenced us as practioners. She is definitely one of them! Please drop me a line if you want to know more about the available Ada stuff in Nottingham and any of our games related activities.

Suw January 30, 2009 at 12:56 pm

Tresha, there is the standard Pledgebank promotional widget here:

http://www.pledgebank.com/AdaLovelaceDay/promote

I’ve sent you an email about the interview, which of course I’m happy to do!

Ada Lovalace Infosite February 3, 2009 at 10:23 am

Great idea, I’ll have to talk to you about promoting the idea on my site!

MzTEK March 12, 2009 at 5:41 pm

We’re a non-profit organization for women artists and technologists in London! We’re super excited to center an interactive video workshop around your idea and post it on our Web site!

Simone Brummelhuis March 23, 2009 at 10:26 pm

Suw, I am so impressed how you have created this viral campaign on Finding Ada. There are so many people, men and women, in the world who finally understand that this is a real issue.
It gave us the incentive to finally do something with our huge database of founders, investors and executives in the internet industry. I have published a simple database of about 300 names and shall update it in the coming days with another 200 women. who are alredy named and interviewed on our website thenextwomen.
Take a look at:
http://thenextwomen.com/female-internet-heroes/

Majena Mafe March 23, 2009 at 11:42 pm

Hi fellow lovelies, happy Ada day…great idea
a long list of my inspirations re women and sound/voice technology are having a cuppa and get to know you chat on my blog that unsound. http://that-unsound.blogspot.com.au. This site is focused on sound in/outside of language especially womens work…

adafruit March 24, 2009 at 4:57 am

hey suw!

thanks for putting together this event, here’s our first post of many!

http://www.adafruit.com/blog/2009/03/23/tuesday-24th-march-is-ada-lovelace-day-ladyada-day-get-10-off-ladyada-electronic-kits/

adafruit (limor fried aka ladyada)

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