This year Ada Lovelace Day fell on Tuesday 8th October, and female STEM workers of today are facing the same challenges she did 200 years ago. Originally founded in 2009 by technologist Suw Charman-Anderson, the day celebrates the achievements of women in STEM careers, and was created in memory of one standout individual: Ada Lovelace, the first computer programmer.
Ada Lovelace worked in the early 1800s and many would expect that the challenges and barriers she faced throughout her career would have been eliminated almost two centuries later. But Janet Macmillan, Senior User Experience Team Lead at MathWorks explains that women still face many challenges when pursuing a career in STEM, but that more is being done to increase the number of women in these industries and improve the experience they are having.
She commented: “More women in tech means more diversity and creativity. Having female team members brings different perspectives, and ones that better reflect the people we serve. I work in a cross-functional team with both male and female colleagues. I’d like to think that the diversity has contributed towards the success of the team and the products we design.
“Growing up I was fortunate to have a father who was a lecturer in Mechanical Engineering and did not mind getting his hands dirty at home. As a child I observed how he came up with ideas and used them on a day-to-day basis. Having a parent like that gave me a forum to ask questions, and I realised that I enjoy problem solving and I am interested in building practical things. That’s why I believe role models play an incredibly important part in shaping peoples’ lives.
“Given that the presence of a strong role model can strongly influence what people will do later in life, I am trying to do my part by sharing my knowledge and experience with women through conferences I present at. For example, I recently delivered a deep learning workshop, demonstrating how to use a cutting-edge deep neural network to detect real-world objects. The workshop was attended by women from different backgrounds, some young professionals and others studying STEM degrees.
“Software engineering skills are needed in almost every industry, not just software companies. Therefore, the opportunities are numerous – and we need more women to take them.”