I mentioned this in the Quickies this morning, but today is Ada Lovelace Day, a day-long blogging event to celebrate women in technology and science. Named after the woman commonly considered to be the first computer programmer, the idea behind the day is to write about a woman in tech or science, past or present, who deserves a little heroine-worship love. I posted the following earlier on my personal blog about my own inspiration.
It was difficult for me to pick a woman to write about for Ada Lovelace Day. While, as I grow older, I continue to meet and discover women in technology who are naturally, admiringly wonderful at what they do, they were so lacking in my immediate environment when my impressions were being formed that no particular one stands out as someone who impressed upon me such a thing was possible. No one heroine, no one woman to thank.
However, there is one individual I think about a lot when I think about cultural expectations, pressures and possibilities for women in STEM fields. She’s not a woman, not quite yet. But she will be. And considering what her life and opportunities will be when this is the case is why the inspiration I have to offer for Ada Lovelace Day is my four-year-old daughter, Elizabeth.
Of course, as my daughter, Elizabeth has been familiar with computers from almost day one. When she was two, she inherited my PowerBook, which is still her main computer. It’s mostly used at this point for playing games on NickJr.com, but the ease with which she finds the site she wants and navigates the site through a variety of activities still impresses me. I didn’t have a computer until high school. I didn’t have the internet until college.
I always felt that if I had more exposure to technology earlier in my life, I would have been that much farther ahead in the career in which I ended up. Maybe instead of just ending up there, I would have been able to identify what I wanted to pursue and put myself on the proper path. I still feel as if I’m only now discovering what I want to do and what I can do. I also think that this knowledge would have helped me overcome one of my major hurdles during my computer science education by cutting down on how much I felt like a cultural outsider and how much the rest of the students kept me at arms’ length. It probably goes without saying seeing other women around me doing this as well would have also made a huge difference.
I realize Elizabeth is never going to know a world without easy access to a computer. She is never going to know the idea that computers aren’t for her. The thought will never cross her mind – unless someone else puts it there. That’s why I work so hard towards making a place where the chance of that happening is increasingly low, and hopefully, eventually nonexistent. That way, no matter what path she chooses for herself, I know it will come from her own abilities and desires, not because of what someone told her she can or can’t do.