Celebrate Inspiring Women in Technology—It’s Ada Lovelace Day!

By Raena Jackson Armitage
We teamed up with SiteGround
To bring you the latest from the web and tried-and-true hosting, recommended for designers and developers. SitePoint Readers Get Up To 65% OFF Now

Ada Lovelace Every few months, it seems as if there’s yet another debate about why we see so few women in technology. I think a lot of it is because we just don’t hear about women role models as often as we do the men. For every woman you see speaking at a conference, there’s several guys — in fact, at some conferences you hardly see any women speakers at all. And as a woman in IT, I’ve seen it first hand — I’ve too often been the only techie girl in the room, and most of the more senior folks in my career have been guys. It’s tough!

The good news is that today is a day for celebrating female role models in technology. March 24th is Ada Lovelace Day, and it’s a chance to highlight your favorite females in geekdom. Ada Lovelace is widely credited as being the first computer programmer–not just the first female computer programmer, but the first at all–and she’s a great reminder that women have been an important part of this industry for many, many years.

So, how do you participate? You can blog about it, make a video or podcast, tweet about it–in fact anything at all that you can put online is welcome. When you’re done, add it to the list — there’s already a growing collection of posts from people who have something to say about inspiring geek women.

Here are three inspiring geek women who, to me, are great role models.

danah boyd

danah boyd (yes, the use of lowercase is deliberate) has been thinking, writing and speaking about how we interact online since well before most people had even heard of the phrase ‘social network.’ danah’s a well-known speaker, a prolific blogger, and is currently part of the Microsoft research group in New England–check out a recent interview with her about the work she’s doing there. danah’s eloquent, passionate, and switched on. If you aren’t already reading her blog, and you have even a passing interest in the Social Web, you’re missing out.

Susan Kare

Susan Kare is a graphic designer who was involved with the first Macintosh. Her work on the Mac’s fonts, icons and interface helped make the Mac such a groundbreaking achievement in user interface design. It’s because of Susan’s work that the Mac is so fun, friendly, and personal. She later worked on all kinds of projects, such as icons and interfaces for OS/2 and Windows, Facebook’s gift icons, handheld applications, and even the Chumby. She’s a pioneer in the field of interface design — if you’re interested in web design or user experience, there’s a lot you can learn from Susan Kare.

Molly Holzschlag

Among markup gurus and CSS fiends, Molly is one of those people who doesn’t need a surname — like Sting, Bono, or Madonna. Molly’s a consultant, trainer, speaker, author, and an overall rockstar in terms of getting the word out about Web standards. Molly’s writing, blogging and speaking have been relevant for years and I’m sure they’ll stay that way for some time. Right now she’s working with the team at Opera as a Web evangelist, spreading the good word about Web standards.

How about you? Who are your favorite female geek role models?

(Image: public domain)

We teamed up with SiteGround
To bring you the latest from the web and tried-and-true hosting, recommended for designers and developers. SitePoint Readers Get Up To 65% OFF Now
  • You go girlfriend!

  • Jake Archibald

    I get confused by this subject every time it comes up. I used to work in an HR department. My boss was female, her boss was female, 90% of the staff were female.
    I managed to look up to my bosses and respect my co-workers despite this. I can’t say I felt oppressed either.

  • LynneAbt

    Let’s remember Grace Murray Hopper also!

    (short biography i found quickly)

  • Nonie

    Hooray for Raena! Great topic!

    I have always thought there should be tons more women in IT and that they have a lot to contribute. Females can often be more complex thinkers and will have a better overview of systems etc! (This will be controversial but it’s true!!)

    So many girls appear to be put off IT careers in school – I think we would have many more females in IT if the real truth was revealed as to how much fun IT can be.

  • jsh11

    I would have liked to see more comments on this post, but thank you Raena for calling attention to this holiday. I’d heard of Ada Lovelace, but did not know that there was an Ada Lovelace Day. Cool!

  • @jsh11, thanks! It’s the first ever Ada Lovelace Day, so it’s quite new to everyone!

    @JakeArchibald, it’s interesting that you mention being in the reverse position—on the Finding Ada website there’s a link to a study that suggests that while males don’t really concern themselves with the gender of their role models, women do. Some of the commenters then point out that it’d be interesting to see what a similar study would show about people of colour. I’m curious about that too… I mean, to me it makes sense to feel more inclined to look up to people who are like you cause it shows you that it’s achievable by someone who’s like you.

    I also noticed you don’t actually point out whether your whole team was working in IT, or in HR; I feel like the issue with women in IT isn’t just about whether there are women around in general, but whether there are women who are working in a position you aspire to work in yourself.

  • Rachael Wilson

    Yay for the geek-fem’s! With over 9 years in IT always in the minority I can appreciate Ada Lovelace Day! At one point I was one of 2 females out of over 30 staff which can be tough when you’re having a girlie moment (or day!)

  • zephoria

    ::blush:: Thanks Raena! –danah

  • I never saw Jina Bolton. I don’t know many women in IT, especially in front end web development and/or design, but her name is one of the few famale ones that has stuck.

    As far as backend web development is concerned, I’ve also heared of PHPWomen.org – a group for women working with PHP (though not exclusive to women, if you believe the about page).

    Keep this up, and you’ll stuck permanently in that above mentioned list of mine ^_^.