Ada Lovelace Day: Make Your Own Path

Today is Ada Lovelace Day; organised by Suw Charman-Anderson, the day was inspired by her female friends in technology who felt they were “disenfranchised and invisible”. The idea of recognising the women in our lives who inspire, support and surround us is a good, noble one. I hope it can make a difference and change the lives of younger women who are deciding what career to aim for when they grow up.

But… I wouldn’t say I’m thrilled with the event. It leaves me feeling uncomfortable and on edge, like I’m politely standing still for a picture but my nose is itching hopelessly. It’s the sentiment that the motivation behind this day is that women feel they are being cheated out of the technology roles they strive for.

First, some background on why I feel this way. I’ve been working in and alongside the tech world for some ten years now; first in computer science publishing, where authors were generally male, but the editorial team often overwhelmingly female. Moving to my next role in web marketing, I was mostly surrounded by developers, designers and occasionally another marketing person. Mostly guys.

The ultimate realisation was in the next move to the mobile industry. I wish I had an areal photo of the first large-scale mobile event I attended: Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. I was standing in the open outdoors square wearing a fuschia pink cardigan, surrounded by a sea of men in grey and black suits. Not another woman in sight. At that point, it really hit me that I’d landed in one of the most male-dominated industries. And somehow, rather than worry me, it made me smile.

Over these years in tech, I have met some strong, determined women who are very much respected in their field. I’ve also met shrinking violets who felt they should get more recognition for one reason or another. Yet, at no point have I met anyone who was able to truly tell me that the reason they didn’t get where they wanted was purely due to being a woman. At no point either have *I* felt that being a girl made any difference to how my career has progressed.

There are a million reasons not to be where you want to be; lack of drive and passion, poor understanding or knowledge of an industry, chronic shyness or fear of putting one foot in front of the other and walking into a room full of men. But using sex-based discrimination as the sole reason not to be where you want to be today is bullshit.

The topic of gender imbalance at tech conferences often crops up in conversation. Yes, it’s true there are less women speaking at tech events. Yes, it’s true there are less women in tech generally. But it’s changing and fast; mainly due to strong girls choosing to walk into that classroom of blokes. Of these girls, I am truly proud. Of those who spend more time complaining about the lack of recognition rather than DO something worthy of recognition, I’m a lot less proud.

So girls, grab every opportunity that comes your way to learn, gain experience, and don’t be afraid to screw up along the way. The men didn’t always get it right the first time either. Just be bold, gutsy and you’ll be respected for your smarts and wits, rather than for your boobs.

And to those who have done it and continue to prove that girls rock, thank you all for being an inspiration!

4 responses to “Ada Lovelace Day: Make Your Own Path

  1. pa

    Who (me?) would have thought that this ‘Candy’ girl ( Canadian ) would fit so well in the technology world of guys and geeks. And accomplished so much! She rocks.
    Bravo Vero! Ça explique ta fascination pour ton charmant prince charmant.

  2. Julie

    Hells yeah!

    Girl power. C’est drole parce que j’porte justement tous mes macarons de féministe aujourd’hui, Non c’est non, Mettons fin à la violence faite aux femmes, Pro-choix et Toujours rebelle.

    Ton post m’a fait penser à ma toune de ce printemps c’est Rise Up (j’sais qu’est vieille, mais est inspirante aussi: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AjHSu4wNTyw) le vidéo est coooool au boute!

    Pis yo. J’viens de me commencer un twitter… mais mautadine que j’sais pas comment ça marche! ni à quoi ça sert (parce que j,ai pas de blogue ou de site web actif)

  3. Andrew P

    Julie – i think you need to re-read the post, you may have missed the point. Its not a Pro Feminism post in any capacity.

    In fact, it hints that some of the “females in tech” have no real place there and are just complaining that they aren’t getting recognition “because they are a woman”, where in actual fact, they are not being recognised because they are strong enough technically.

    I truly believe that if somebody is highly competent in their field, they will get recognised and rewarded regardless of their sex.

  4. Vero,

    I have a bit of trouble with the whole Ada Lovelace concept as well, and I’m with Andrew when I think no girl should EVER get a job if she’s not the best candidate for the job.

    BUT I think it’s a great thing to encourage women to go into tech, and for that reason, recognizing the few ladies we have in there already is good. The reason that the experts in these fields are mostly men is because the experts are usually the top 1%…. and if women don’t have a big part of that pie in the first place, there’s no way there’ll be that many in the top rungs. That’s just basic math.

    Same as you, all my early experiences with tech have been sausage fests (my computer classes in high schools rarely had more than 2 or 3 girls in them, and even my company right now is all male except for me), but I don’t think encouraging women to have heros, even if they’re not so great as the male ones, should be something to be uncomfortable about.

    I personally want to get involved in mentoring young ladies in tech, because, as you say, it’s intimidating walking into that room of men, if you’re not confident (read: flirty, I’m sure) ladies like us…and until we make it really a lot less scary, it’s not going to level out.

    Good post!

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Oh hello there!

I'm Véro - a crafty, knitty, spinny gal who enjoys making (and drinking) a cocktail or three. If you've stumbled here, you might enjoy browsing some of my older posts with the tags over to the right or finding out more about me.

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