Sitting in my office looking at the people around me, it is hard to imagine working in a world where women aren’t an equal and integral part of the tech environment, yet, there’s still more that needs to be done to make this a normality. With only 14% of the tech workforce identifying as women; a number which has decreased over the last 20 years, what can we do?
With Ada Lovelace Day approaching, I've been reflecting on her experience as the original women in tech, and what she has done, without even knowing, for future generations.
Computing as we know it would not exist without women. Ada Lovelace was not only a mathematician, but a creative, and it was this that allowed her to see that computer programming could unlock people's imaginations. As a trained mathematician, she saw the beauty in numbers and the importance of unlocking this magic. After being mentored by her mathematician mother, husband and most significantly, Charles Babbage, she designed the first analytical engine.
However, her work in the 1840’s was not recognised until Alan Turning, who, in the 1950’s brought it to light during his work on breaking the enigma code. But even then, over 100 years later, her work was not taken seriously, because she was a woman.
But Ada never wanted recognition, or applause, she worked because she believed it was important for society “My ambition should be to be great, rather than be thought to be so” .
All of Ada’s past was the starting point for other women to move into STEM work. Continuing her work, were women such as Hedy Lamarr, inventor of Wifi and bluetooth; Grace Hopper, who changed programming from numbers to words plus coined the first use of the term ‘debug’ and the Top Secret Rosies, the world’s first computer programmers. Without Ada, women wouldn't have the platform they do in tech. Yet there is still work to be done to have full equality in this sector. The language designed by the military, named after Ada, is more well known than her.
For me, my past experiences in the tech industry have mostly consisted of white, male-dominated environments, and so when I joined Thoughtworks as Office and Community Manager five months ago, I knew that one of my core focuses would be to champion an inclusive and open environment. In doing so, I wanted to feel confident encouraging other women and minorities to join me in trying to fill the tech space with people from all backgrounds and walks of life. I also want women who move into the tech space, to have the confidence that Ada had “As soon as I have got flying to perfection, I have got a scheme about a steam engine.” She saw no limit to what she could do, and this is something that has followed me throughout my career.
Having the opportunity to work with groups such as #FemaleTechFounder ‘Code and stuff’, CodeFirst:Girls and the Social Mobility Foundation, I have been able to work with a community who are building up mentors for girls to move into STEM roles. This is invaluable, as we see in the case of Ada, without mentors to uplift and educate, the road can be much harder.
I have been fortunate enough to meet incredible female technologists who understand the need to fight for women to have an equal platform in STEM careers. These women are becoming leaders and future role models for those considering tech as a career path.
We’re very fortunate to be able to partner with these groups at Thoughtworks, and in doing so, we’re able to provide training and insight to women who might not be able to access these resources otherwise. Together, we help to grow our tech community in more diverse ways, and for the benefit of everyone.
Whilst it is important to uplift those wishing to move into this environment, I can’t help but feel privileged to work alongside so many intelligent, fearless, and independent women at Thoughtworks. These women are more than aware that complacency isn’t an option, especially not in this field. So internally, we must continue to ensure that women are a part of every dialogue we have.
For me, any event I run for women focused groups, I ensure that our female Thoughtworkers are the representatives for our industry and are given the space to celebrate their successes and become leaders in getting more women into tech! It’s important to me that we value them internally as well as externally.
My time at Thoughtworks has passed so quickly, it’s hard sometimes to take note of the work happening around you, but not of the progress that's been made. We thank Ada for setting us off on the right path.
Disclaimer: The statements and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the positions of Thoughtworks.