Celebrating Ada Lovelace, and the modern female tech pioneers

Today is Ada Lovelace day. Lovelace, the daughter of poet Lord Byron, created the first organised algorithm akin to a computer code back in 1843. The algorithm Lovelace produced was then used for Charles Babbage’s Analytical Engine. As the picture above shows, she hardly resemble a modern day hacker!

Lovelace’s life, while influential, was tragically short. She died aged just 36 from cancer of the womb.

Sadly one of Lovelace’s legacy’s is not a rebalancing of women in STEM fields, today only 25% of the STEM workforce is female. However, their are certainly some powerful women in technology, and in particular social media, so it seems apt to celebrate some of them today.

Every discussion of this nature must inevitably start with Sheryl Sandberg. The Facebook COO is becoming nearly as synonymous with the brand as Mark Zuckerburg himself, and she helped  turn the site into a viable business. As important as her business success, she regularly speaks about encouraging more women into technology, and business more widely. Sandberg is joined at the Silicon Valley top table by Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer. New to arguably one of the most difficult jobs in tech, Mayer is the youngest person at the helm of a fortune 500 company, and was the first female engineer employed by Google.

Journalist Shira Lazar has taken a distinctly social look at the way we deal with stories in the social media age. With her now daily ‘What’s Trending’ web broadcast, Lazar is at the centre of what is happening in the social web, curating the good, the bad, and the bizarre. In a similar vein are high flying bloggers and tech pundits Alexia Tstotsis (Editor, TechCrunch), Jolie O’Dell (VentureBeat), Sarah Lane (The TWIT Network) and Veronica Belmot (Tekzilla). All of those women  are at the forefront of social news and the technology industry.

Gina Trapani is an prominent developer and media presence. She has  developed various apps “that try to change the world”, including a site that compiles data to highlight gender pay inequality. A prominent and engaging user of social media, Trapani was included in the New York Times nice to follow amongst millions. She also wrote the lifehacker blog and subsequent book, which aimed at guiding people to use technology and coding to make their lives more efficient. Very much a modern day Ada Lovelace!

Perhaps a predecessor to modern day women hackers like Trapani is Grace Hopper, or Rear Admiral Dr. Grace Murray Hopper as she is more properly known. Hopper built on the work of Lovelace in programming some of the first computers while in the US Navy, and tried to conceptualise wider use of computers, as well as being responsible for building the first large scale digital electronic computer.

Lovelace’s life and contribution to technology is more than worthy of recognition and celebration. Pleasingly, there are a growing number of women following in her footsteps across the modern technology industry. However, a lack of women in STEM careers shows we still need more modern day Ada Lovelace’s.