In the history of computer sciences, the contributions of women are often omitted. History has always wanted heroes, individuals who do not need to collaborate to create world-changing work. In these cases, history books show that it is usually the man who gets the credit and is remembered. This is the way the story goes for many women in STEM fields and it is the way the story goes for Ada Lovelace.
Ada Lovelace was an English mathematician and writer who lived from 1815 to 1852. She wrote the first computer algorithm in 1842 and thought up the idea of artificial intelligence. In 1843, Lovelace presented her notes on computing to the English scientific journal Scientific Memoirs. The editors of the journal told her colleague, Charles Babbage, that he should sign his name to the notes. Thus, Lovelace was written out of history and someone else received credit for her work.
This is far too common, leaving girls without historical role models, without proof that women are capable and have been successful in this field before. This leaves young people with the view that men have always been the successful, active members of the technology field and allows for the stereotypes that men are simply better at math to pervade our culture. The lack of role models and the stereotypes about men being better at STEM fields creates a culture in which girls are not supported in their interest in computer science and lose their passion for it early, leaving only .4 percent of female college freshmen to state they are pursuing a major in computer science.
“If women had been more prominently talked about tin computing, both in the history books and schools, we literally would not have the lack of women programmers that we do today. It’s about role models. You can’t be what you cannot see.” says Reshma Saujani, founder and chief executive of Girls Who Code, in this New York Times Article.
So how can we change this? We can start by celebrating Ada Lovelace Day, celebrating women in science, technology, engineering, and math. And we can continue to talk about women’s role in the history of technology every day of the year.