Ada Lovelace Day: Jane of See Jane Compute

Wednesday was Ada Lovelace Day!

Ada Lovelace Day is an international day of blogging to celebrate the achievements of women in technology and science.

The first Ada Lovelace Day was held on 24th march 2009 and was a huge success. It attracted nearly 2000 signatories to the pledge and 2000 more people who signed up on Facebook. Over 1200 people added their post URL to the Ada Lovelace Day 2009 mash-up. The day itself was covered by BBC News Channel,, Radio 5 Live, The Guardian, The Telegraph, The Metro, Computer Weekly, and VNUnet, as well as hundreds of blogs worldwide.

In 2010 Ada Lovelace Day will again be held on 24th March and the target is to get 3072 people to sign the pledge and blog about their tech heroine.

Ada Lovelace Day is organised by Suw Charman-Anderson, with design and development support from TechnoPhobia and hosting from UKHost4U.

I encourage you to check out the rather extensive list of posts celebrating women in science and technology. It's truly inspiring.

A couple of days late (as usual) I'd like to add a name to the list of women deserving of a bit of celebration: Jane of the sadly departed blog See Jane Compute (and here for deeper archives).

Way back in 2005 or so, See Jane Compute was the first science blog I started following regularly. Her keen insights into the world of computing was what first drew me in, but it was the warmth and personality of the blog that kept me coming back. I'd done a computing degree myself way back in the 1980s and I saw a lot of what I went through as a student mirrored oddly through her experiences as a prof.

Also, as a callow youth way back then, I don't think I realized the challenges that the women in my program faced just being there, and that's something that Jane's writing really brought home to me, hopefully making me much more aware and sensitive now.

Over time, we also became blog buddies. It was always a thrill to see Jane's name pop up in the comments because I knew that someone who cared about the computing field and the people in it was contributing.

Jane also let us all into her life, let us experience the ups and downs of academia, of being a woman in computing, of everyday life. As all friends are, I was thrilled and happy when Baby Jane came along bringing great joy to the Jane household. I was also dismayed by some of the ups and downs of academic life and the weird tenure process.

Unfortunately, Jane's voice is mostly silent now -- I'm happy to report that she does still show up in the comments occasionally (here, for example). I'll also have a small little regret -- See Jane Compute closed down on Science Blogs on May 5, 2009 while I joined only a couple of weeks later, on May 18. Longtime blog friends, we missed being blog siblings by only a whisker.

So, slightly late Happy Ada Lovelace Day! And take a minute to go read some terrific insights by one of the great women technology bloggers here and here. And check out the interview I did with her on my old blog.

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Computer Engineer Barbie!

Mar 09 2010 Published by under women in science

Yesterday was International Women's Day and since I'm a firm believer in International Better Late Than Never Day, I thought I thought I'd add my little contribution to the celebration. Or at least highlight a great post from someone else.

Computer Scientist Amy Csizmar Dalal's recent blog post Does Barbie's career matter? has some great things to say about the importance of role models and positive examples for girls who might be interested in scientific or technical careers:

I was a somewhat normal (don't laugh too hard) but nerdy kid growing up who loved math and science. And while I had wonderful role models growing up, I had no technical role models at all. So I had these nerdy interests but no real idea what people could do with them, career-wise. It was my high school guidance counselor who clued me in to the world of engineering, and the rest, as they say, is history. And it's not like you can just accidentally take a class in engineering and decide to major in it--you have to know going in to college that engineering is what you want to do. So that intervention by my guidance counselor was crucial to where I ended up, career-wise. And more importantly, this intervention from my counsellor was the one and only message I heard about engineering while growing up. But that's all it took: one message from an adult I greatly respected.

So what messages do girls hear about technology growing up, and about their place in the technical world? Unlocking the Clubhouse, the seminal book by Jane Margolis and Allan Fisher, tells us that girls often aren't getting the message at home that being into computers is socially or intellectually acceptable. Peer pressure in junior high (and even before then) sends the strong message to girls that being a computer nerd is often a social death sentence. And the media? Well, how many images of successful women computer scientists have you seen on the news, on commercials, on TV, in movies, online, etc. lately?

Barbie is an icon, like it or not. And she can send a powerful message to young girls. So in the face of all the other negative messages about computer science that our girls are hearing, why not have Barbie rail against that message and present an alternative, a role model and anti-stereotype?

There's a nice pic of Computer Engineer Barbie here.

One small contribution I did make is to set up a display of books on Women in Science & Engineering in my library. We have a couple of shelves where I can display 30 or so books on a theme for students to look at or check out. It's a real quick and dirty display, one that's easy for me to set up and easy to maintain for the month it's up. The themes vary (January was career books, February on green technology) but every year in March I get out a pile of books on women in science and put them out. Over the course of the month, maybe a dozen or so get checked out; as they do, I just replace them with other books.

This year, as an added bonus, we're also highlighting my display on the York University Libraries home page: Women in Science: On display in March on the Steacie Science & Engineering Library Spotlight Bookshelf. Hurry up and catch it before the display changes.

Here are a couple of pictures of the display:


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