How to get women more involved in technology as a career is a conversation that we've been having lately at CNET.
We hosted a Women in Tech panel at CES in January, with (at the time) Google Vice President Marissa Mayer, Cisco CTO Padma Warrior, and Caterina Fake, co-founder of Flickr and successful entrepreneur. CNET editor Molly Wood wrote a column back in May about why we need to keep talking about women in tech. If you question why there's still a reason to keep focusing on this issue, all you have to do is read some of the comments on our site to see that sexism is still thriving. For example, here's a choice one, "If she can work multiple kitchen appliances at a time, she's a woman in tech to me." Nice.
That's why it's cool that today is Ada Lovelace Day, a day named to honor women in the fields of science, technology, education, and math (STEM). The day is about sharing women's stories to raise the profile of women in these traditionally male-dominated careers.
Ada Lovelace has an interesting story. She was the daughter of the poet Lord Byron and Annabella Milbanke, who lived during the first half of the nineteenth century. Encouraged by her mother, as a child she was educated in the areas of math and science. Later, she worked with Professor Charles Babbage on a never-built device called the Analytical Machine. Due to this work, she is thought to be the world's first computer programmer. Alan Turing even used Lovelace's notes in his work on the first modern computers in the 1940s.
Suw Charman-Anderson founded Ada Lovelace Day in 2009, with the idea that we need to have more visible female role models to inspire women to get involved in the fields of STEM. According to the event's Web site, FindingAda.com, Charman-Anderson was inspired by psychologist Penelope Lockwood, who in a study found that it is crucial and motivating for women to see female role models, even more so than it is for men to see male role models.
I can relate to Lockwood's findings. I'm a daughter of the mid-'70s and I saw women of my mother's generation work hard to create opportunities for future generations. I was told I could be anything I wanted to be. But I've still gotten messages about where exactly a women's place is in the world. Seeing women succeed in fields that are traditionally male-dominated does help me see the possibilities.
I asked some of my female colleagues here at CNET for their thoughts and stories:
Lynn La: Modern technology affects everyone around us, including women, and it's foolish to believe that we have no interest in what makes the world, and the many fascinating gadgets that inhabit it, tick. I have encountered many women in my life who have just the same sort of curiosity and robust appetite for math, science, and technology as the next person, and the more we see males dominate the hard sciences, the more younger generations of girls will believe it must be so because of inherent gender differences. This just isn't true, and I'm glad that Ada Lovelace Day exists to serve as a reminder.
Karyne Levy: Technology is omnipresent. The reason I like tech is because it's found in everything we do. It's so important. And because it's important, we need to get many different perspectives -- including the female perspective.
Molly Wood: I will fight to the last breath for women in tech because the field I work in is, quite simply, the business of the future. The tech being developed all around me, the tech we're reporting on every day, has already changed the way we live and will change everything about our world in the years to come. Women have already made incredible contributions to the version of the "future" we live in today, and the more voices and contributions that are welcome in tech, the better the world we'll all end up in. I wish I had studied so much more science and math and engineering than I did, but I consider it a privilege to tell the stories of the future as it's happening, and I am so amazed by the women engineers and scientists who are helping to shape it. Who would ever want to shut us out? It's our future, too!
If you're interested in participating, events are being held throughout the world to celebrate the day, mostly in the U.K., but there are some in the U.S. Check out the Finding Ada site for stories about women in these fields, or even add one of your own. You could also take some time to talk with your kids (both daughters and sons!) about the successes of these women and careers in these fields. It's a conversation that needs to continue.