5 Influential Women in STEM to Celebrate Ada Lovelace Day
Why is Ada Lovelace Day Celebrated?
Next Tuesday is Ada Lovelace Day. It's an opportunity for techies and non-techies everywhere to reflect on the impact women in the STEM community have made on the world we live in today. You don’t have to be programming whizz or software engineer to know everything about Ada Lovelace. But, you should at least understand why her national day is important.
STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. It’s the term coined to represent all of these academic disciplines and is mostly used when referring to curriculum in schools, colleges and universities.
Women in STEM are notoriously underrepresented. Despite increasing amounts of passionate and effective movements for women in STEM, the numbers are still lower than those of men.
In the U.S., 73% of STEM workers are men. Whereas, in the U.K., just 35% of STEM professionals are women. When broken down, the numbers can be even more startling.
In 2018, it was reported that the U.K. STEM workforce was dominated by men. Women make up 39% of the Physical Sciences industry, 37% in Mathematical Sciences and just 19% in Computer Sciences as well as Engineering & Technology.
Who’s Ada Lovelace?
Ada Lovelace was born in 1815 to Lord Byron, a poet, and Lady Byron, a mathematician. When she was 18, her mathematical talents didn’t go unnoticed by the ‘father of computers’, Charles Babbage.
Her work with Babbage has been recognised as some of the most important contributions to the invention of the computer. Her algorithms and vision demonstrated her deep understanding of the potential of computing.
Ada tragically died of uterine cancer at the young age of 36. But, her observations and calculations for the ‘Analytical Engine’ contributed to how our world works today.
Instead of viewing the engine as something to work out calculations, like Babbage’s did, Ada saw and recorded the potential relationship between human and machine. From her notes made in the early 1800s, today’s society has benefited infinitely.
Influential Women in STEM You Should Know About
To celebrate Ada Lovelace, we’ve hand-picked four other female pioneers in STEM you should probably know about.
Rear Admiral Grace Hopper
Before she joined the navy, Grace Hopper earned a Ph.D. in mathematics from Yale University and went on to teach as a professor. During WW2, Hopper attempted to join the navy but was initially rejected because she was 34 years old.
Instead, she joined the navy reserves and started her computing career working on the Harvard Mark 1 in 1944. She became invested in programming languages and went on to co-author three papers based on her work on the Harvard Mark 1.
While working on this project, it's said that a moth kep getting caught in the machinery and Hopper would be the one to 'debug' it.
Hopper retired from the navy in 1986 and went on to share her computing experiences as a consultant for the Digital Equipment Corporation. A Yale college was named after her, she received the National Medal of Technology and she was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Obama.
Abigail Harrison, or Astronaut Abby, was born in 1997 in Minnesota. Abigail’s lifelong dream is to be the first person on Mars. She serves as the President of the Executive Board for the non-profit that she founded, The Mars Generation. She’s also a full time science communicator.
The Mars Generation offers three programs: The Future of Space Outreach which encourages STEM education, The Student Space Ambassador Leadership Programme is a dual mentorship programme designed to support students ages 13 – 24, and finally a programme that helps students get paid scholarships into U.S. Space Camp.
Deena Pierott is an international keynote speaker and founder of iUrban Teen. iUrban Teen is a programme based in the U.S. bringing STEM education to teenagers. The program is open to youths who aren’t usually the target audience for STEM learning. The project’s target demographic is Native American, African-American and Latino males.
That doesn’t mean the program isn’t open to girls or teens with special requirements. The program has equal amounts of both according to Deena’s LinkedIn. The overall goal of the programme is to expose “non-traditional” STEM learners to career opportunities in tech. Pierott’s overall goal is to see more diversity in tech.
Born December 18th 1951, Radio Joy Perlman is an American network engineer and computer programmer. She holds an M.S. in mathematics and a PhD in computer science. While studying in the late sixties, she was one of just 50 women in 1000 or so strong students.
To date, Perlman holds over 100 patents and is the author of a textbook on interconnections and co-author of another on network security. She invented the spanning tree algorithm and the spanning tree protocol. She also developed network bridges to locate loops in a local area network (LAN).
Perlman was added to the National Hall of Fame in 2016 and the Internet Hall of Fame in 2014. She has won various computing and technology awards and was most recently awarded the honour of Fellow of the Association for Computing Machinery in 2016.
She’s currently employed by Dell where she specialises in network routing protocols and network security. She’s also a Fellow at Dell Technologies.
Born in June 1902, Barbara McClintock was an American scientist and cytogeneticist. She’s recognised for her dedication to the world of STEM and her career which resulted in the production of the first ever genetic map for maize.
After extensive studies throughout the sixties and seventies, Barbara and her collaborators published the seminal study, ‘The Chromosomal Constitution of Races of Maize’. This then led to a wildly successful career and dozens of accolades including becoming the first American woman to win any unshared Nobel prize for Physiology or Medicine in 1983.
She also has a place in the National Women’s Hall of Fame and received the Benjamin Franklyn Medal for Distinguished Achievement in the Sciences.
How to Celebrate Ada Lovelace Day
#ALD21 will be celebrated all over the country with grassroots events as well as the traditional flagship event held in London every year. Plus, the Finding Ada Network includes speakers who are women in STEM, advocates of gender equality and businesses.