Ada Lovelace Day is Ten!

“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.”

Ten years ago today I and hundreds of other people around the world celebrated the very first Ada Lovelace Day. We wrote blog posts about women that we knew or admired, the work they did and why they inspired us. I went to the Science Museum and recorded an interview with ‘Ada Lovelace’, an actress who explained Lovelace’s work and how the model Analytical Engine works.

Back in 2009, blogging was still popular, and it seemed like a really easy way for people to get involved. The idea was simple: Create a day of blogging when everyone would write about women in tech (or, in reality, STEM). We’d create a database of posts, and it would be a great resource for people wanting to find conference speakers, or expert voices, or just some good old fashioned inspiration.

I will admit that I originally thought it would be just me and a few friends, but 1,978 people signed up on Pledgebank, and about another 1,600 people signed up on Facebook. Somehow, I had captured the zeitgeist – Ada Lovelace Day was covered across the UK media and I found myself appearing live on the BBC News Channel to talk about it.

Of the 3,600 people who pledged to write a blog post, 1,237 added a URL to our map, and whilst that map is no longer available on the internet, you can still browse the list of blog posts on Archive.org’s Wayback Machine. Although some of them are lost to the mists of time, there are still some great blog posts to peruse.

Amongst the participants in that first festival of blogging were The New Scientist, ITPro, The GuardianThe Guardian Digital Content blogThe Guardian opinion page,  Electronics Weekly, Computer WeeklyComputer Weekly again, BCS, the BBC, the BBC Internet blogBBC News blogO’Reilly Media, including a post from Tim O’Reilly himselfNature, Vox, The Telegraph, GartnerDiscover magazine, Anita Borg, Mental FlossFast Company and Wellcome Library.

American electronics retailer AdaFruit adopted Ada Lovelace Day and have celebrated it every year since. And other notable supporters included Sydney Padua whose webcomic for the day evolved into a hugely successful graphic novel The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace & BabbageLynn Featherstone, who was at the time an MP but is now Baroness Featherstone and serves in the House of Lords; award-winning author Naomi Alderman; science journalist and broadcaster Angela Saini.

In total, 843 women were named in our database, and you can see who was most popular in the word cloud on the right there. Unsurprisingly, Ada Lovelace herself and Rear Admiral Grace Hopper were very popular, but was what really lovely was the huge variety of women who were featured. Many posts featured “my mum”, “my daughter”, or “my colleagues”, and there undoubtedly many more women mentioned in the blog posts whose names were never entered into our database.

Right from the beginning, Ada Lovelace Day was international, and we had posts in 18 different languages: Catalan, Croatian, Danish, Dutch, English, Esperanto, Finnish, French, German, Italian, Marathi, Norwegian, Portuguese, Slovenian, Spanish, Swedish, Turkish, and Welsh. Because we lost the map, we sadly can’t get an accurate count of how many countries were represented, but it’s a fair bet to say that we would have seen pins in at least 16.

I am grateful to everyone who took part in the first Ada Lovelace Day, but particularly to Stephanie Troeth and Stephanie Booth who both helped me immensely with promotion and support.

Once the day was over, I did wonder what would become of it. It wasn’t immediately clear that it had legs beyond that one day, but a year later, I indeed found myself organising the second Ada Lovelace Day. Now, ten years on, Ada Lovelace Day is well established in the annual calendar, and is celebrated all around the world.

We work year-round to support women in STEM, and our growth shows no sign of slowing down. As well as organising Ada Lovelace Day, and our annual ‘STEM cabaret’ event, Ada Lovelace Day Live, we have also published two anthologies of biographies of women in STEM, a line of free women in STEM crochet patterns, and a podcast highlighting the work of women in STEM. We have run an Online Recruitment Fair for Women in STEM, and created a number of careers posters as part of a free education pack for teachers. Our Twitter campaigns have included a Christmas STEM advent calendar and the Twelve Days of STEMmas.

We have so many exciting projects planned for 2019, including a new peer mentorship and knowledge sharing network for women in STEM and their advocates. We’re hoping to launch that later this year, and you can help us out by answering a few questions!

Over the years, Ada Lovelace Day has been celebrated by millions of people around the world, and we want to reach millions more. So here’s to another ten years of Ada Lovelace Day!

IWD: Shifting the balance in STEM

On International Women’s Day, Ada Lovelace Day and Clarivate held an event, Shifting the balance in STEM, at Microsoft Reactor in London on getting younger girls into STEM, the issue of gender bias, and the various pathways open to girls.

Our panel, Yasmin Ali, Allison Gardner, Liz Seward, Timo Hannay and Bella Harrison (bios below) were asked by moderator Nandita Quaderi to share when and how they got interested in science. Some of the panel knew at a very early age, others didn’t like maths and science at all but later discovered another way of engaging in STEM. Bees, sperm and Star Trek all also made an appearance!

SchoolDash founder and ALD advisor Timo Hannay talked about how girls lose interest in STEM in their mid-teens, despite there being little difference in ability between them and boys. He speculated that it could be due to expectations, both their own and from adults such as teachers. Teachers’ gender might also have an impact, for instance, biology teachers are more likely to be women, whilst physics teachers are more likely to be men. Yasmin Ali pointed out how engineering was not highlighted as a career for children, and that she found out about it by accident. This is despite it being a highly rewarding and inclusive industry.

Bella Harrison from Primo Toys discussed the issues around toys being heavily gendered, and how they are aiming to make toys that are more inclusive. She also talked about how children’s interests are socially influenced, especially by their school friends, and how school activities, such as learning to code, can be supported by coding toys at home.

The event also explored organisational changes to support diversity and Liz Seward from Airbus Space Systems discussed the LGBT and neurodiverse policies that they have incorporated, as well as the diversity targets for their managers. Airbus have reached a point where about 30 percent of their incoming engineers are women, which is about the same as the number of women leaving university with an engineering degree.

Seward also made the point that diversity means letting women be women, not forcing them to behave in the same way that men do, and that companies need a range of management styles in order to really be diverse. Mentorship and sponsors are crucial to developing female leaders.

And Allison Gardner explored the emerging problems of bias in AI due to the lack of diversity in development teams. The number of women in computer science has decreased since the 1960s, and some of the interventions to try and halt this decline have not worked. To try to combat this lack of diversity, Gardner has set up a women in AI network to give access to mentors and support, so that women gain more confidence in coding.

A lively Q&A followed the discussion, and we finished the evening off with drinks and the opportunity to talk further about the issues raised.

The panel:

Liz Seward, senior strategist for Space Systems at Airbus Defence and Space. She is also the Chair of Women in Aerospace Europe’s UK group, bringing together women and men who are interested in supporting and getting involved in a more diverse and equal workforce within the space sector.

Timo Hannay, founding Managing Director of SchoolDash, an education technology company based in London that provides maps, dashboards, statistics and analysis on schools in England.

Yasmin Ali, chartered chemical engineer, writer and presenter. She was awarded the Women’s Engineering Society Young Woman Engineer award in 2013 and is passionate about promoting engineering stories and careers to the public and young people.

Bella Harrison, Operations Lead at Primo Toys. Primo creates inclusive coding toys that have introduced more than 1 million children in 180 countries to computer programming in early years.

Dr Allison Gardner, Teaching Fellow at Keele University and Programme Director for the Science Foundation Year. She is a co-founder of Women Leading in AI, encouraging women to shape the debate around the use and norms of AI and big data.

If you’d like to know more about Clarivate Analytics, follow them on Twitter @Clarivate. Clarivate is a global leader in providing trusted insights and analytics to accelerate the pace of innovation.

Women in STEM Advent calendar: All our fabulous women in one slideshow

We have finally reached the end of our Advent calendar, having featured some amazing women in STEM from around the globe and across history. Just in case you missed any, we’ve put together this handy little animation, featuring all 24 women. And if you want to go back to the beginning and read through each post – each with links to further reading! – then start with Tapputi, the first known chemist. We hope that you enjoy learning about these women’s work and achievements as much as we enjoyed putting these slides together.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Women in STEM advent calendar: Day 24 – Dr Sameera Moussa

This winter, we are celebrating the festive season by honouring 25 amazing women in STEM, some of which you might not know of!

Dr Sameera Moussa

Dr Sameera Moussa

First female Egyptian nuclear physicist
3 Mar 1917 – 5 Aug 1952
Egypt

Sameera Moussa was Cairo University’s first assistant professor in the Faculty of Sciences, and the first woman to hold a university post. She founded the Atomic Energy for Peace conference which aimed to make nuclear medical treatment more accessible and reduce nuclear hazards. She was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship and was the first non-American given access to US atomic facilities.

For more info on Dr Sameera Moussa:

Women in STEM advent calendar: Day 23 – Marie-Anne Paulze Lavoisier

This winter, we are celebrating the festive season by honouring 25 amazing women in STEM, some of which you might not know of!

Marie-Anne Paulze Lavoisier

Chemist
20 Jan 1758 – 10 Feb 1836
France

Marie-Anne Paulze Lavoisier worked closely with her husband, Antoine, to identify 33 elements, explain combustion, and debunk ‘phlogiston’. She made detailed drawings of lab equipment, kept strict records of experimental procedures, and translated important papers into French. She was instrumental to the publication of the pivotal Elementary Treatise on Chemistry, which unified the field.

For more on Marie-Anne Paulze Lavoisier: