Ada Lovelace Day

Have you heard about Ada Lovelace Day?

If you’re a girl who likes programming, who are your role models? Too few and far between, says UK-based freelance software consultant and tech blogger, Suw Charman-Anderson. Which is why she’s named March 24, 2009, Ada Lovelace Day, the first of what could become an annual Internet event.

Ada Lovelace Day is meant to be an international day of blogging to highlight women in technology – more than 1000 people have pledged to write a blog post today focusing on women and their contribution to technology. Charman-Anderson called for the day after observing the feelings of disempowerment experienced by her female friends in the tech industry, and after recent research showed that women need to see positive female role models more than men need to see male role models.

Via mental_floss Blog » Happy Ada Lovelace Day!

First. I love Ada Lovelace! “Lovelace” was actually one of my first online handles. (Although it was back in the old AOL chatrooms, so it was probably more like Lovelace2575820582.)

But I’m rubbed the wrong way by the kind of female empowerment that makes a big fuss when a woman does the same thing a man does. If we were really equal, there wouldn’t be this excitement when a woman does something men do all the time. Commemorating Lovelace as a brilliant proto-geek is awesome, but the focus on her gender bugs me. It makes it seem like smart girls are really unusual.

I’m a bit of a hypocrite in this, because I blog over on my gaming site about women in game development whenever I can. It’s pretty much the same thing, highlighting a woman for doing what guys do all the time, because even though I want everything to be equal, there just aren’t as many female game devs. I’m also connected to a bunch of female China expats, like Gabrielle and Anna, it’s a stronger connection because there are so few girls in the expat blogosphere.

What do you think? Does Lovelace Day have a bit too much amazement that someone can have a uterus and be good at math? Or is a long-overdue appreciation of women in technology?

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0 Responses to Ada Lovelace Day

  1. Alex says:

    The thing is, women and men *aren’t* equal yet, Meg. When we hit that point, maybe Ada Lovelace Day will seem a quaint idea. Until then, I think it’s a good idea to remember the women who have made a name for themselves in what are generally “boys’ clubs” – just to show young girls that things like programming, or nuclear physics, or whatever, do not have to be those boys’ clubs, to tell them that yes, they can make that their career if that is what they love to do. Besides, we do have days for famous men – all the freakin’ time. Why not for women who *should* be famous for their contributions to society or science? I’d also point out that while yes, Ada Lovelace did the same thing as a man (and did it damn well), she did it in a society that told her that wasn’t something a woman could do, nor would she have received the same opportunities for education or work. So she did the same thing, when everyone told her she couldn’t, and likely had to put up with a lot of crap from the men around her. She probably worked twice as hard as she would have had to if she’d had a penis, to get the same respect and opportunity.

  2. bethie says:

    I think days for people like Ada Lovelace are not really celebrating women doing what men do all the time because when a woman does something like Ada Lovelace it’s not “wow, look a woman is smart too!” it’s “wow look a woman finally overcame all the other stupid barriers and actually achieved her potential. And you can too!”

  3. Meg says:

    Thanks for commenting! I definitely didn’t mean that it was quaint, here are boys’ networks everywhere, women make less than men with equivilent skills, etc. We do need more smart women as role models, and Lovelace is an extra good model because biographers say she was an excellent social dancer and conversationalist, blowing the bluestocking stereotype out of the water. I just feel like there’s a bit of subtext, that it somehow reinforces that math and technology are a man’s field. Not sure what the alternative is, maybe there isn’t one until we really do have lots of successful women in tech.

  4. G says:

    I do indeed know Ada Lovelace! I’ve written a paper or two about her back in the day…she’s a pretty awesome dame. I always loved her name too; for a while I thought it was so movie-star-ish, that she must’ve made it up! But no, Lovelace is indeed her given surname.

    In response to the idea that celebrating women’s achievements reinforces the idea that these achievements are unusual: I disagree. A woman with the ability to program isn’t unusual, what’s unusual was the fact that she overcame society’s conventions and expectations of a woman and DID program. I think we need to have things like Ada Lovelace Day and Women’s History Month to recognize that we have come a long way as a gender and that we can break the stereotype.

    Because let’s face it, there’s still that ridiculous notion running around that girls are good at English and history whereas boys are better at math and science. That theory’s bullshit, in my opinion. You’re right, it shouldn’t be a big deal that a woman can program. It shouldn’t be a big deal that women are capable of playing professional league football or becoming a Fortune 500 CEO or becoming priests or directing an Oscar-winning film (the last of which hasn’t been accomplished yet). Brows shouldn’t be raised at the idea of a woman in the White House. Hilary Clinton and Sarah Palin’s gender shouldn’t even be an issue. But they were! In the public’s eye, it IS still a big deal otherwise nobody would take notice. So everytime a great woman and achieves something in a world that used to be dominated by men, I think it’s right to give her kudos. It’s sort of like a “BOO-YA!” to the former (and in some areas, still current) patriarchal system.

    PS: Sorry that last paragraph morphed into a rant. I get excited sometimes.

  5. Meg says:

    I think I’m more irked that we *need* a day to celebrate that girls can do math.

    Also, to make Lovelace an even cooler name, I think her birth surname is Byron, since she’s Lord Byron’s daughter. How awesome would it be at a family dinner in that house!

  6. Meg says:

    PS — Rants welcome, Miss G!

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  9. DarkTouch says:

    Several vaguely related thoughts:

    The connection to Byron would be slightly cooler if she’d met him more than a couple of times before he died when she was like eight.

    Ada seems like a popular name for cool chicks. Ada Comstock is a big deal for her contributions to education.

    Lovelace on the other hand sounds like the sort of name you’d find hanging out with Lady Chatterley.

    I feel the Ada Lovelace story is a good one that I’m surprised hasn’t seen more fictionalization. Something along the lines of how Crowley and Tesla are handled these days.

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