The textbooks at school will teach students about Albert Einstein, Isaac Newton, and Thomas Edison, for their contributions to STEM. What the textbooks tend to neglect are the women who have equally been influential.
And while the men in question are undoubtedly figureheads in these fields, WiT’s Vice President Marie Howarth urges us to acknowledge the successes and key inputs that women over the years have offered; one notable name being Ada Lovelace.
Ada Lovelace, widely regarded as the first computer programmer, was highly influential with her work on Charles Babbage’s mechanical computer, the Analytical Machine. Lovelace and Babbage met in 1883 and discussed the possibility of creating a machine that could complete calculations.
“Babbage thought a machine should be able to do the calculations. But Ada was the person that analysed and applied the mathematics that was necessary so that it could work,” said Dr Calvin Irons, Co-founder of ORIGO Education.
In the end, the machine was never officially built, until the British Science museum built their own machine in 1990, the Difference Engine, based off of Lovelace and Babbage’s earlier design. According to them, the machine worked flawlessly!
Dr Irons says that in the history of computing only two computer languages have been named after people – Pascal (Blaise Pascal) and Ada (Ada Lovelace). Many people have not even heard of Ada as a computer language despite Lovelace’s contribution being far more significant than Pascal’s.
Lovelace died a young age and was not able to contribute further. Today, organisations like WiT are giving women around the world the opportunity to take that step forward and work towards making their own contributions in STEM.
Howarth says that gender bias and stereotypes can discourage girls from a very young age from even considering careers in STEM, but at WiT “we represent women from all fields of science and technology and are all about helping them build the confidence, skills, recognition and networks they need to truly unlock their potential,” she says.