Three women, separated by time but united by their pioneering spirit:
The first was the daughter of a famous poet and womaniser;
The second, one of Hollywood’s biggest stars and
The third is a young woman from Glasgow, who left school at 16 with no qualifications.
Just to show that we’ve always been there at the cutting edge and we will continue to be there in the future! 24th March. Ring any bells? It’s Ada Lovelace Day of course!
Ada Lovelace? The daughter of Lord Byron and his wife Arabella, (who was a keen mathematician), she not only wrote the worlds first computer programme, for inventor Charles Babbage’s Analytical Engine but in the mid-nineteenth century she alone saw the potential for computers which stretched way beyond mere number crunching. In the last couple of years many women have honoured her mainly unacknowledged contribution for pushing the boundaries of technological thinking, by celebrating Ada Lovelace Day, where they pledge to write at least 1000 blog posts telling of other women in the technology field whom they also feel are inspirational.
The Ada Lovelace Day Facebook site can be found here and here is a short video about Ada
My second woman is someone I watched many times as a child, as I compulsively consumed Hollywood movies on the TV: Hedy Lamarr.
Considered by many as the most beautiful woman in the world, starring in countless films she also co-invented a revolutionary communication system, using frequency hopping to help radio-guided torpedoes escape detection by the enemy. Although patented, she and her co-inventor generously gave the idea free to the US Military during WW2, but they told her to go back to raising war bonds. Her idea later became the basis for spread spectrum communications technology, behind mobile phones and WiFi.
Here’s a video about Hedy’s remarkable achievement.
My third inspirational woman is not famous and has not yet turned 30.
Leaving school with no qualifications, (she found lessons boring) it wasn’t until Arlene McConnell went to Iraq as an army reservist that she discovered her talent for engineering. Whizzing through qualifications and gaining a First in Electrical and Electronic Engineering at Glasgow in record time, Arlene started inventing parts of highly complex electronic radar systems almost as soon as she became employed on a graduate scheme with a major electronic engineering company. Now still only a Systems Engineer, Arlene skips in delight as she tells you she can’t believe she is paid to do work she loves so much.
Her employers are thrilled that she is on the final shortlist for the Young Woman Engineer of the Year award. Fingers crossed for Arlene in the final later this month.
Three women separated by 150 years, but united by their gender, their curiosity, their abilities and their determination to go the extra mile.
Having studied history myself, I’m keenly aware that just because we may not be in all the history books, it doesn’t mean that we weren’t there. We need to celebrate and record our achievements. The bloggers contributing to Ada Lovelace Day, for example, will do much to ensure that women technologist’s insights and inventions are ignored no longer. Then more young women like Arlene McConnell might discover their talent for technology sooner and not by chance.
Videos by Information Pioneers, BCS Chartered Institute for IT