The final official Ada Lovelace Day: A message from our Founder, Suw Charman-Anderson

Ada Lovelace Day logoThis year, we will be celebrating the 14th Ada Lovelace Day on 11 October. When I founded ALD in 2009, I had no plans for 2010, let alone 2022. But although Ada Lovelace Day itself has been more successful than I could ever have imagined, inspiring girls and women around the world, a lot has changed since it was launched.

The good news is that there are now dozens of organisations in the UK that focus on supporting women and girls in STEM, with hundreds around the world. The bad news is that Brexit, the Covid-19 pandemic and the cost of energy crisis have slashed the budget companies have for sponsoring organisations like ours.

People who see the impact of our work may not realise that we are a tiny organisation and that everything we do has been done on a shoestring. We’ve had generous and committed sponsors, but the funding landscape has changed, and it’s now impossible to continue as we are.

Out of the last three years I’ve hit my sponsorship target once and this year I’ve raised less than half the money I need to continue. In addition, the Finding Ada Network mentoring program, which I had hoped would plug the gap, has not proven popular with businesses even though our mentors and mentees have found the program invaluable.

This means that Ada Lovelace Day as we currently know it must change. Once this year’s celebrations are complete, I will no longer organise official online or in-person events for Ada Lovelace Day, nor will I be able to continue running the Finding Ada Network. I will, however, continue to run the Worldwide Events map so that there’s a central repository for all the independent events that I have no doubt will continue.

Instead, I will be focusing my energies on my consulting service – helping businesses tackle the structural and systemic barriers that prevent women from flourishing and advancing into leadership roles – under the Finding Ada brand. And I’m offering a free 45 minute, no-obligation call to anyone who’d like to discuss their needs and their best next steps, so if you would like to talk about how I can help your business, please email me.

And of course, if you would like to sponsor Ada Lovelace Day, do drop me an email.

Finally, I would like to thank you all for your support over the years. It has been amazing to have been able to see so many people celebrating Ada Lovelace Day in so many places around the world!

I am also incredibly grateful to everyone who has helped me over the years – all our speakers, contributors, sponsors, Patreon supporters, crowdfunder contributors, book chapter writers, volunteers, freelances and our Advisory Council. You’ve done a grand job inspiring girls and women around the world! Thank you!

Five ways CSR programs hurt the causes they support

falling seedCorporate social responsibility (CSR) programs allow businesses to become a part of and give back to their communities whilst also establishing – and, indeed, living – their brand values. Whether CSR activities are part of a wider marketing program or run separately, they create opportunities for the company to connect with a wider audience, raise awareness of their brand, and support causes that people within the company care about.

People increasingly want a job with purpose, and to work for companies that demonstrate strong ethics. CSR programs aren’t just a form of soft marketing, they’re also important for talent acquisition and staff retention.

Yet, many CSR programs accidentally hurt the causes they are trying to support. And because the damage is unlikely to be evident, nor discussed publicly, companies don’t address the problems that they are causing for their CSR partners. Here are five common ways that companies get CSR wrong.

1. A haphazard application process

CSR programs often rely on passionate staff to identify potential partners and develop a relationship with them. Often there’s no formal application process and agreements are negotiated through long exchanges of emails and phone calls, wasting everyone’s time and energy. Formal processes, where they exist, are often onerous and result in the applicant being ghosted.

Companies need to develop simple, open application processes with clear deadlines which are widely publicised within their communities so that opportunities are open to everyone. Much of the application process can be automated, so that the admin burden on CSR managers is reduced whilst applicants get a timely decision and notification.

2. Connections are with a person not the company

When the success of a CSR program is down to staff connections, problems arise when that member of staff leaves. Partner organisations suddenly find themselves hoping that someone else has picked up CSR responsibilities, and must then try to create a new relationship with someone who might never have heard of them and who probably isn’t anywhere near as enthusiastic about their project.

CSR relationships are often nurtured over the course of several years, and peremptorily dropping one can damage goodwill in the community. It’s a waste of the investment that your company has put into that relationship, and it creates unnecessary work as the new CSR  manager will have to find and develop relationships with new organisations.

Creating a team of CSR managers who manage applications and partner communications using software, such as a customer relationship management platform, goes a long way towards mitigating key-person risk. As with any other supplier, your CSR partner’s relationship should not be managed by just one person.

3. Short-term thinking

Commitment-phobia does seem to be a common CSR problem, with companies repeating their decision-making process every year when renewal comes up. It’s a waste of everyone’s time, particularly when a relationship has already been established and the CSR partner has reliably delivered on their commitment.

Renewal decisions should be quick, easy and planned well in advance. Even better, companies should commit to longer term engagements so that the CSR partner can confidently plan their future activities, knowing what their budget is.

4. Byzantine invoicing systems

Three in every five SMEs face problems getting late invoices paid, according to Barclays. The problem is amplified for small non-profits or social enterprises, because they are often dependent on CSR funding for their survival and they don’t want to kick up a fuss in case they get dropped for being difficult.

Every big business should be raising purchase orders and paying invoices in a timely manner, but if they don’t, it’s something that a CSR manager can’t change. But a little thinking ahead can save a world of pain for your CSR partners. Making sure that you have all the information needed to enter an SME into your payment system, and staying on the case to ensure timely processing all go a long way to mitigating the problem.

5. Not picking the low-hanging fruit

The best CSR programs don’t just give money to their partners, they provide promotional support as well. Larger sponsoring companies tend to be more well endowed with followers on Twitter, newsletter subscribers, and internal comms channels. But companies don’t always bring this firepower to bear in support of their CSR partners. This is most perplexing. If you’re sponsoring an event or an education pack or a mentoring program, why would you not sing that from the rooftops so that your CSR partner benefits from your far larger reach?

This low-hanging fruit is often left to rot on the tree because it’s too complicated for the CSR manager to collaborate with the comms teams, or because the lead time for creating social media content is too long. This is where planning ahead comes in handy. The dates for Ada Lovelace Day, for example, are set for the next century. Planning ahead should not be a problem.

These are just five of the issues I’ve seen companies struggle with in my 17 years in the non-profit/social enterprise space. The vast majority of CSR managers are good people with good intentions, but a little bit more organisation and support from the wider business could make CSR programs more effective, more efficient and more successful.

If you would like help improving your CSR programs and processes, please email me: I have a wealth of knowledge to share with you!

Join the Finding Ada Network for a six month mentoring program

MentoringWe are offering six months of free access to our Finding Ada Network mentoring program to women in STEM.

We will provide you with access to our mentoring platform where we will match you with a mentoring partner, as well as our online content covering careers, professional development, soft skills and more. We’ll also support you with webinars about topics like goal setting, being a good mentoring partner and how to create good habits.

We will give priority to women from the UK and all webinars will be scheduled in UK time. If you are resident in any other country, you can still apply but bear in mind that your mentoring partner may be in a different time zone.

We are particularly keen to hear from mentors in data science, so if you’d like to improve your leadership skills and give back to the community, please apply to become a mentor now.

You can expect the mentoring program to take up around 1 to 2 hours a month for mentors, and 2 to 3 hours a month for mentees, although obviously in both cases you get out what you put in, so you may choose to devote more time to your mentoring partnership.

Important deadlines

10 April 2022: Applications close.
15 April 2022: Participants notified.
1 May 2022: Participants’ mentoring profiles must be completed.
6 May 2022: Participants matched into mentoring pairs.
15 May 2022: Participants must have connected with their mentoring partner and set up their first meeting.

The program will then run for six months through to early November.

Applications are now closed.

Finding Ada Network Webinar: Giving a Great Presentation

Whether you are giving a conference talk or making a presentation to your colleagues, your aim is to communicate information to your listeners. But to do that successfully, you need to understand your audience’s perspective.

In this one-hour masterclass with public speaking coach Sarah Cruise, you will learn how to engage, motivate and make it easy for your audience to listen, understand and remember your information. Sarah will outline the research in support of this approach and focus on the fundamental skills needed to present successfully.

Join us at 12:00 BST on Wednesday 27 April 2022 for this hour-long webinar and take your presenting skills to the next level.

About Sarah Cruise

Sarah CruiseSarah Cruise specialises in the art and science of effective communication and her business, eloquential, represents the rattle bag of knowledge, skills and experience that she has collected over the years. Sarah combines research from well-founded and respected sources across many disciplines, with practitioners experience in the performing arts, and person-centred psychology and practices.

eloquential has been trading since 2006 and Sarah has worked with a number of well known companies and organisations including most recently: AstraZeneca, The British Medical Journal, Cambridge University Press, Mastercard, THIS Institute, and University of Cambridge amongst others. Sarah has also had the pleasure of working on notable events such as the London bid for the 2012 Olympic Games and is involved in interesting public engagement projects, including cohosting the Gin and Topic podcast with her stepdaughter.

Ticket sales are now closed.

Mentoring program survey

We want to find out how widespread mentoring programs for women in science, technology, engineering or maths (STEM) are, and to learn more about how effective programs are organised, and the barriers to creating long-lasting and successful mentoring programs.

Please complete this survey if you have, within the last five years, been involved in planning, organising or running a mentoring program for women, regardless of whether the plans came to fruition or whether the program was seen as a success. We especially want to hear from you if you have tried to create a mentoring program but were ultimately unable to get it off the ground.

We’d like to hear about mentoring programs that were or are intended to serve women, ie with very few men participating. These women can be in any role that requires STEM expertise, regardless of industry, for example, investment banks employ a lot of programmers, so could run mentoring schemes for women in tech roles that would qualify for this survey.

If you have run more than one mentoring scheme, please complete this form once for each program.

The survey is anonymous, but if you’d like to be emailed with the results you can share your email address with us at the end, or you can email Suw and ask to be sent the results when we have them.

If you’d like to hear about the results from this survey without giving us your email address, follow us on Twitter @findingada, or Facebook @adalovelaceday or subscribe to our newsletter.

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