How Not to Do Ada Lovelace Day

I’ve seen a couple of ways of observing Ada Lovelace Day that seem to be missing the point a little. Here’s what it would be great if Ada Lovelace Day ended with: the end of invisibility of women in science and technology. There are thousands, hundreds of thousands, of us. And yet, when people are asked to name prominent scientists and technologists, many are capable of coming up with a list entirely of men’s names, and even when asked especially for women’s names some people draw a blank. A blank. From hundreds of thousands of possibilities.

There are a few examples of posts that don’t help with this, and which in fact contribute to the invisibility of women by suggesting that the author couldn’t think of even one specific woman and the work that she does:

  • a general non-specific celebration of women: “I want to salute all women in science and technology! Yeah!”;
  • doing no more than naming a woman and highlighting her as a woman you’ve heard of in science or technology; no hint of what she does or why you admire or remember her in particular; or
  • highlighting a woman or several women for facilitating your own work in tech with their non-technical activities. The most obvious example is “thanks to my significant other, for allowing me to spend time on technical hobbies.” It’s absolutely good to acknowledge the shoulders your own work stands on, but it doesn’t advance the goal of ending the invisibility problem if you choose to use Ada Lovelace Day to do it.

Ada Lovelace Day is about women’s own work in science and technology. Contribute to women’s visibility with specific names and with examples of work you admire deeply or use every day or can’t imagine how to do in such an elegant way as she did.

Let’s spin this around! Commenters, which woman in science or technology is more visible to you today as a result of someone else’s Ada Lovelace Day entry? Did you discover a new heroine? Or find that someone’s achievements were twice as big as you’d ever heard? Link us up!

6 thoughts on “How Not to Do Ada Lovelace Day

  1. jadelennox

    I had a great time this afternoon using the Finding Ada Map to find posts from women outside of the Americas and Western Europe (although sadly, I am monlingual and couldn’t read many of them). I loved the post about Dr. Abi Jagun, who “got her PhD from the University of Strathclyde, U.K. in 2006 following research into telecommunications and the structure of economic organisations, focusing in particular on the textile sector in Nigeria“. The was a neat post about “Isabelle Guyon“. Also Mary Wilton Calkins. And a beautiful post about the poster’s first mentor, Claudia.

  2. Josh Matthews

    I discovered FionaSarah and her work on pygame-fenix, which looks really interesting. And holy crap, she used it and created a game which got 2nd place out of 121 entries in Ludum Dare. That is rad.

  3. Shauna

    I have a deep and abiding love for historical lady scientists and mathematicians (if I ever have daughters, I will name them Hypatia and Ada) but my favorite part about Ada Lovelace day is reading about all the modern women succeeding in science & tech. I’m only really aware of women in my field (psychology/neuroscience). Most fields only have a handful of people that are known by the educated laymen. It seems to me that a lot of women don’t reach quite that level of recognition, even when their work deserves it. I could name twenty ground-breaking female psych researchers – but how many could a non-psychologist name? Anyway, I love getting that sort of glimpse into other fields. (It would be kind of cool if specialists in each field could do a round-up to give outsiders a lady-focused lay of the land.)

    Anyway, my Ada Lovelace post was on Barbara McClintock, kick-ass geneticist.

  4. Naphtali

    I was too busy handling RL stuff to do Ada Lovelace stuff on time, but I may have to write a blog entry to give a shoutout to Dr. Kim Binsted, who was my first-ever ICS prof. She’s done some interesting and important work in AI and interfacing, including stuff on computational humor. She also does some stuff in Astrobiology with NASA that I’ll admit to not really understanding, but it involves NASA and Space and stuff, so I’m willing to bet that its pretty awesome.

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