October 13, 2015 | By Annelyse Gelman

Ada Lovelace Day: Celebrating the Achievements of Women in Technology

Happy Ada Lovelace Day! Please join us in commemorating the life of Ada Lovelace by celebrating the achievements – past and present – of women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

Ada Lovelace was born two centuries ago this year, and is widely recognized as a visionary who saw the potential of computational machines long before the development of the modern computer – a prescience often credited to her devotion to metaphor-heavy “poetical” science. Lovelace’s mother provided her daughter with a thorough mathematical education, both to dissuade her from following in the footsteps of her father – the famed poet Lord Byron – and to provide her with intellectual and emotional stability. At age seventeen, Lovelace witnessed a demonstration of Charles Babbage’s difference engine, and eventually worked with him as he devised the analytical engine, furnishing Babbage with her own original set of groundbreaking notes.

Though never actually built during her lifetime, the analytical engine inspired Lovelace to write what many consider to be the first computer algorithm, a set of instructions for computing Bernoulli numbers. She also foresaw the potential for machines to perform operations using symbols rather than calculating using numbers alone, even suggesting that they might one day be used to create music. Lovelace is remembered for her early contributions to computer science, for her metaphorical imagination, and for achieving all of this in an age when women seldom undertook serious studies in mathematics.

You can attend a local Ada Lovelace Day celebration by searching for events around the globe here – and if you don’t find one, you can always add your own. If you're interested in supporting organizations that provide for women in STEM, check out the Geek Feminism Wiki’s list of groups that work with girls in technology, like Black Girls Code and the MIT Women’s Initiative. We also highly recommend taking a look at the Ada Initiative’s resources on supporting women in technology, including tools for combatting impostor syndrome, conference harassment, hiring bias, and more.

This is also a great time to take advantage of opportunities provided by organizations that explicitly seek to diversify STEM fields. Feminists of all stripes should take a look at Bitch Media’s three-month technology fellowship for emerging writers, which includes a stipend and mentorship. Outreachy is also offering paid, full-time internships in FOSS (free and open source software) to people of a wide variety of backgrounds underrepresented in tech. EFF is a participating organization; our tech interns will be helping to port Privacy Badger to mobile devices.

The current round of internships is open internationally to women (cis and trans), trans men, and genderqueer people. Additionally, it's open to residents and nationals of the United States of any gender who are Black/African American, Hispanic/Latin@, American Indian, Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian, or Pacific Islander.

We invite you to honor Ada Lovelace by spreading the word about this important day on social media. You can use the official hashtag #ALD15 to share stories about what Ada Lovelace Day means for you. Which women in technology inspire you? Who are your favorite female inventors and role models?

I'm proud to support Ada Lovelace Day, celebrating women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics: https://eff.org/lovelaceday2015

Image: Modern illustration based on Chalon portrait by Kaldari, released under CC0


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