March 2009 Archives

The role models I didn't have (Ada Lovelace Day)

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When I was a little girl, I wanted to be, variously, a singer, a bestselling author, a teacher, and a veterinary surgeon. Around the age of 10, thanks to an inspirational teacher in my last year at junior school, I added to that list mathematician and computer programmer. Milk bottle crate problems and filling the screen of the showroom computers in Dixons with my name thanks to BASIC learned at computer club started to seem a lot more interesting than a) putting animals down and b) comprehension tests (which was pretty much the limit of what I remember about our Eng Lit studies back then). It was 1985, and the world of science and technology seemed every bit as exciting as that of the arts.

Roll on a few more years, and when I finally graduated in 1996 it was in English and Theatre Studies, having left science behind me at the end of a rather meagre double-certificated GCSE course in 1991. So what went wrong?

Ada Lovelace Day coverage from Computer Weekly

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Ada-day.jpgGot your copy of this week's issue of Computer Weekly? Then you'll already be aware that Ada Lovelace is our cover girl for today, Ada Lovelace Day, the initiative aiming to raise the profile of women working in technology through a global blogging pledge to post today about women's achievements in the industry.

Inside today's issue of Computer Weekly you'll find:

Online you'll also find:

And if that's not enough for you, why not revisit some of the profile pieces and interviews with successful women in IT that we've run in the past, including:

Finally, I'm still hoping I'll actually get my own pledge-post written here before the end of the day!

Update on 25/03/09: My pledge-post is done (over-long and confessional, admittedly - am out of practice at writing!) And I forgot to mention we also have a stats box on numbers of women and men working in IT in the UK in the issue, page 8, reproduced here for your convenience:


Finding Adas - The Next Generation

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As part of the Finding Ada Day celebration, I'm taking part in the pledge to write a post about a woman in Technology I admire.

AjaxLife is a web based service that allows you to log into the Second Life Client, access your friends list and chat with them. It was built over 2 weekends and a few evenings by Katharine Berry. It's something for the techs at linden Lab, the makers of Second Life had been trying to do for sometime, and it was a resounding success, and now has an iPhone application for those who are on the go and need to keep up with what is going on in the virtual world.

Katharine Berry was 15 when she built AjaxLife.

A resident of Teen Second Life, the Second Life grid for those between 13-18 years of age, the UK resident astounded the Ajax (a programming platform) community with what she had achieved, with the predictable questions pertaining to her gender, as well as some pretty heroic geek adulation.

So why do I admire Katharine? She's obviously got a stellar future in front of her - if computing is what she decides to pursue as a career, but her strength of character is the final piece of the puzzle that brings me to see her as a woman to admire. Whilst creating statistical applications to make using Second Life easier (some of her applications monitor SL servers so users can see the uptime of their island - or "sim"), she has been unafraid to tell Linden Lab what they are doing wrong, and how they can fix it. Also she just went and did it, then told people about it - no mean feat for a woman in IT.

When I heard about the Ada Lovelace day, I thought long and hard about who I would write about. There are many great names out there, although not as many as we would like - hence the reason for Ada day. What about those who are coming along - the next guard, are they not even more important?

Katharine impressed me, she needed something so she made it. Perhaps the next generation will not be fettered by the problems that our and past generations have had to face.

Flying into the face of adversity, and resoundingly ignoring it, that's what made me choose Katharine! There's a lesson we can all learn there.

Ada Lovelace Day approaches...

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ada-cover.jpgTuesday 24 March - that's tomorrow, folks - sees the celebration of the first Ada Lovelace Day. Named in honour of Ada, Countess of Lovelace, perhaps the first computer programmer, it's an initiative that aims to celebrate women's involvement in technology and to highlight the achievements of female role models within the industry. Suw Charman-Anderson, who dreamt up the project is herself a pretty impressive role model - she's used a wide sweep of social technologies to get Ada Lovelace Day going (Twitter, blog posts, PledgeBank...). While the proof will be in the posting, so far it looks to be an amazing success, with 1,552 people signing up to blog about a tech-heroine on the day since the pledge launched on 5 January. And if you do decide to go finding Ada on Google, you'll find an amazing 19,800 results for "Ada Lovelace Day" over at Google...

So, in honour of Ada, and as an encouragement to women working in or thinking of joining the IT industry, Computer Weekly is joining the Ada Lovelace Day spirit both in print and online. Ada is our cover girl for the 24 March issue, and inside we're running a two-page feature article on female role models in IT from Ada herself, through to modern-day IT girls, software engineer and Girl Geeks founder Sarah Blow; Gillian Arnold, technical manager at IBM; Rebecca George, partner at Deloitte and BCS Women's Forum chair; Karen Price of e-Skills; and freelance web designer Victoria Baker.

Meanwhile, online, Heidi (our community editor) will be posting on this blog tomorrow on Katharine Berry, a young female programmer who created an online tool for Second Lifers, and I'll be doing my best to round up some of the best from our archive coverage. Join us tomorrow for the celebration - and join in yourself by sharing your comments about women you admire within the field of technology.

PS. If you want to find out more about Ada herself, you could join me in listening to this archived BBC Radio 4 programme on Ada, Babbage and computing from March last year. Not had time yet (I'm at work, after all!) but I'm hoping to get chance tonight.

Here's what people are Twittering about with regard to #ALD09:

Tomorrow's Women, Tomorrow's World (UKRC Conference 2009)

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Today's the date of the 2009 annual conference from the UK Resource Centre for Women in Science, Engineering and Technology. Unfortunately I didn't discover this in time to attend (note to self - must set aside some research time to ensure I don't miss the next event!).

If, like me, you're not there, but want to know what's being discussed, you can Twitter search on #ukrc, or follow attendee Sarah Blow (founder of girl geek dinners), who's microblogging it with panache.

The Mother of all programming languages

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I'm really pleased that my first post to this blog is to tell you about the work of a woman who has had a huge impact on computing during her career.

Barbara Liskov, an MIT Professor, who is head of the Programming Methodology Group in the Computer Science department , and the Artificial Intelligence Lab, has been awarded the A M Turing award by the  Association of Computing Machinery (ACM). 

The AM Turing Award has been described as somewhat akin to the Nobel prize, and it has a long history of celebrating the work of the great minds of computing. 

Liskov has been a professor at MIT since 1972, and her research has resulted in concepts that have been used in almost every single programming language that has emerged since that time. 

The Turing award was given to her in recognition "for her contributions to practical and theoretical foundations of programming language and system design, especially related to data abstraction, fault tolerance, and distributed computing."

This is a huge honour, but why have we not heard about Liskov before? She has a breathtaking past, being the first woman to get a PHd in Computer Science in the US, and in a very real sense is the mother of all modern computer programming languages. If Liskov were a man, surely she would have been elevated to the state of Steven Hawking by now, because her research really is that important to the modern computing field.

There is a real movement this year to bring the (usually) unsung work of women in computing to the forefront more, Ada Lovelace Day is just around the corner, do you know who Ada Lovelace is? Only the first computer programmer..

Women, by their nature do not draw attention to themselves or their achievements - we prefer to get the job done, rather than crow about how well it went - but this has been to the detriment of how we are perceived as a gender, and certainly in a male dominated profession, this has made it more difficult for our peers.

This blog aims to celebrate and crow about all that is good within the realm of women and their IT achievements, to draw attention to the inequalities that can still persist, and give hope that there are others out there who are dealing with the same issues as you.

We aren't THE voice, but we want to be a louder voice, and you can help us!

Welcome to WITSend!

Blogging for and about women working in IT

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Women falling out of love with IT, Thousands of women go missing from IT, Service desk women paid less than men, Women in IT believe they are paid less than men - these are just a few of the rather depressing headlines we've featured on in recent months on the subject of women in the IT industry.

On the face of it, the news isn't good. Flicking through the pages of our latest print issue, out on 3 March, for example, I counted 4 pictures of women to just under 20 of men. And that's including the ad showing a soft-focus couple getting hot in the server room...

But it's not all bad news. Within the industry there are plenty of women - and men - who see such headlines more as a call to action than a great big FAIL stamp. There's the Girl Geek Dinners network; the campaigning work of Wendy Hall (made a Dame in this year's Honours List) and the British Computer Society's Women's Forum, currently headed by Rebecca George; and initiatives such as Ada Lovelace Day, launching this year on 23 March.

And that's where this blog comes in. We'll be aiming to join our voice to the others in raising the profile of women working in the IT and computing industry and to examine the issues facing women in IT today. We hope you'll join us!


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This page is an archive of entries from March 2009 listed from newest to oldest.

April 2009 is the next archive.

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