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!

Mentorship and support for women in STEM

The Plotters’ Club

Ada Lovelace Day and the Arthur C. Clarke Award are excited to announce the launch of a new collaborative project, The Plotters’ Club, a Facebook group that provides a supportive space where women in STEM and women fiction writers can discuss and exchange ideas.

For women researching their next novel or short story, there’s nothing better than being able to ask an expert a specific question. The cutting edge of science and technology is a fertile breeding ground for ideas that can feed into the fiction of tomorrow, and for authors who like to just get things right, it’s a great opportunity to make sure that those little details that can make or break a story are correct.

ACharnockPortraitAnd for women in STEM, this is a great way to do innovative outreach and to ask for advice from writers about their own craft. Some of the best science writing has a strong narrative component, and authors can help STEM writers hone their outreach and writing skills.

The inspiration for this project began with a special Clarke Award ‘in conversation’ interview series exploring science fiction, STEM and writing, and featuring female authors and STEM professionals in conversation with science fiction author Anne Charnock (right). The first conversation with Ada Lovelace Day founder Suw Charman-Anderson, was published in February, and the second features author EJ Swift went up a few days ago.

We believe that fiction is a powerful medium for the communication of scientific ideas and, now more than ever, it’s vital to get this right. If you are interested in joining this woman-only group, you can find us on Facebook.

The Women of Bletchley Park

Like me, you’ve probably seen documentaries about the codebreakers who were based at Bletchley Park during the Second World War. The story of Alan Turing, the father of modern computing, is a deservedly well known one, but it’s rare for us to hear about the thousands of women who also worked at Bletchley Park. These women made up the majority of the staff at Bletchley and were essential to the codebreaking operations that were key to our eventual war victory.

On 26th July, over 40 of us trouped up to Bletchley Park to find out more about the women who worked there during WWII. We started off with short introductions by Kelsey Griffin, Bletchley Park’s Director of Museum Operations, Sue Black from BCS Women, and Jean Valentine, our tour guide. She gave us a history of the Park, including a critique of the rather eclectic architecture! To get us into the swing of things, we were given a demo of an Enigma machine:

We then moved on to the wartime cinema, which was crammed with period cinematic equipment. (I pretty much had to prise my other half, Kevin, off the antique projectors!) The film we watched, The Women of Station X, was put together as part of BCS Women’s Women of Bletchley Park project.After lunch, we were treated to a tour by Jean Valentine, who had worked at Bletchley Park during the war. She had operated one of the Bombe machines, which were designed to decode messages generated by the German Enigma machines. Jean gave us an amazing insight, not just into the work that she and her colleagues did at Bletchley, but also what it was like to live there. Her narrative was fascinating and funny, and often poignant too.

Bletchley has built replicas of both the Bombe and the Colossus, which was used to decode encrypted teleprinter messages. The Colossus is, indeed, colossal, and the working replica makes a bit of a racket. Watching it in action, complete with streaming tape and flashing lights, gives you some idea of what it might have been like to have worked with it. Unfortunately there was no one available to give us a demonstration of the working Bombe that is also housed there in the National Museum of Computing.

We ended the day with a fun look at the history of computing in the musuem. I was tickled to see that they had three of the computers that we had when I was a kid: the ZX81, the ZX Spectrum and the Amstrad PC1512. (Sadly, the didn’t have the ZX80, which was my very first look at a computer!)

If you’re even vaguely into computers, cryptography or codebreaking, then Bletchley Park is well worth a visit. It relies wholly on ticket sales for its income, although it is trying to raise some money for essential repairs. Sadly, it has been left to rot and there is a lot of work that’s needed to just keep our history safe. Sue Black told me, “they are desperately short of funds and have no sustainability or security, if faced with any sort of crisis they would have to close for good.” It’s a few minutes walk from the Bletchley train station and trains go regularly to and from London so you have no excuse not to hop on one on the weekend and go visit! But more than that, go and visit Save Bletchley Park and get involved in saving some of our country’s most important computing heritage.

Several of our group have blogged about the day, including Laura James, Pernickety (lots of fab photos!) and Sue Black.

Many thanks to Kelsey, Sue, Jean and everyone else from Bletchley Park for helping organise the trip and making it such a memorable day.

Come and visit Bletchley Park – 26 July

I’ve been wanting to run a “Women of Bletchley Park” day for a while, and finally we have managed to get it sorted!

The day will include a tour of Bletchley Park by Jean Valentine, and a tour of the National Museum of Computing, including the Colossus and the Bombe. There will be a hands-on Enigma machine demonstration and maybe even a visit to Station X if numbers allow.

Tea, coffee, biscuits and lunch are included in the ticket price of £19.

When & Where
Sunday, July 26, 2009 from 11:30 am – 3:30 pm
The Mansion, Bletchley Park, Sherwood Drive, Bletchley, Milton Keynes MK3 6EB

(As it stands – we may tweak it a little!)

Arrive: 11.30 Tea/coffee on arrival in the Ballroom

Start: 12.00pm Talks in the Ballroom:

* Suw Charman-Anderson: Welcome and Introduction
* Simon Greenish, Director of Bletchley Park: Update on the current funding status of Bletchley Park
* Sue Black: The campaign to save Bletchley Park

Film showing in the wartime cinema: Women of Station X (The cinema takes 40 – 50 people each, and the film takes 26 minutes, so there may be two showings, depending on how many people sign up.)

There will be wifi in the Ballroom, so if you want to live Tweet or blog, then bring your gadgets!

Lunch: 1.00pm (-ish – depends on film showings)

Tour: Jean Valentine, a Bletchley Park WWII veteran, will to be our expert tour guide for the day, and Lin Jones will be on hand to give a personal tour of the The National Museum of Computing, including the Colossus and the Bombe. We’ll also have a hands-on Enigma machine demonstration, and may be able to offer a visit to Station X – only three people can enter Station X at a time and it’s not normally open to the public, so we’ll have to see how the numbers pan out on this one!

Tea, coffee and debrief: 3.00pm

Departure: 3.30pm

Travel arrangements
You must make your own way to Bletchley Park.

Bletchley Rail Station is 2 minutes walk away. Trains from London leave from Euston, and we recommend the 10:23am train which arrives at Bletchley at 11.17am (no changes).

More travel info:

The ticket cost of £19 includes all Eventbrite and PayPal fees, with any surplus being donated to Bletchley Park. Book online at Eventbrite.