Interview with Sydney Google Women Engineers Group

One of our donors at the Analytical Engineer level is a consortium, the Sydney Google women engineers group. We asked the members of this group to answer some interview questions and tell us a little more about themselves, the Sydney Google office, and why they donated.

Tell us more about the Google Sydney women engineers group.

Alice

The Sydney Google Women Engineers group is an official network, and all of the women engineers are included. We have lunch together once a month and we have an ongoing budget for events that promote and encourage women in computing, group activities and off-sites. For example, recently we took an acrylic painting class together; for a bunch of engineering types, the opportunity to splash paint onto canvas was certainly novel!

Why did you decide to donate to the Ada Initiative?

Eddy: I am concerned about the lack of women in computer science – were missing out on a lot of talent, and its not easy being a minority! – and the Ada Initiative is poised to make a difference. Its important that women become involved in technical jobs that shape the world around us.

Kendra

Alice: I have seen first-hand the work that both Mary and Val have done in the Open Source and geek feminist" communities, and Im certain that if anyone is going to make a dent in the issues facing women in Open Source, these are the people for the job. The seed funding round was a perfect opportunity to put my money where my mouth is, as well as get a very cool Lovelace and Babbage poster for our Ada Lovelace meeting room in the Google office.

Katie: It seems to be a common problem for women who are passionate about gender diversity in IT to burnout. Its hard to have a good work-life balance at the best of times without the extra work and stress involved in organising communities and events. The Ada Initiative will alleviate some of this burden on the volunteer time of many by turning it into a full time job for a smaller number of people.

Susannah

Susannah: Like many women in technology, I would like to see more women entering and remaining in the field. Though I have the resources to affect change at Google, the problems are systemic and far broader. The Ada Initiative has the potential to make a bigger impact on computing culture than I can myself.

The Google Sydney office has meeting rooms named after historical women in computing. Which women and why?

Eddy

The names of the meetings rooms are: Antonelli, Lovelace, Hopper, Spärck Jones, Liskov and Perlman. The names were chosen by the women engineers group by consensus, after much discussion.

  • Ada Lovelace and Grace Hopper were obvious choices as some of the most well known (and hugely influential) women in the history of computing.
  • Kathleen "Kay" McNulty Mauchly Antonelli was one of the original ENIAC programmers.
  • Karen Spärck Jones work on information retrieval, and her invention of the Inverse Document Frequency measure in particular, is especially relevant to Google as a search company.
  • Barbara Liskovs well-known work in object oriented programming language theory earned her a Turing Award, John von Neumann medal and numerous other honours.
  • Finally, Radia Perlmans work on network design, in particular her Spanning Tree Protocol is also fundamental to our daily work.

Katie

The room names were voted on by the entire office, so we needed to promote our idea to everyone. It took the support of the whole office, men and women, for the idea to be put into place, and we're really proud of seeing the names there today. Here is what we wrote to promote the idea:

The women in computer science's history are too seldom celebrated, despite the fact that they have been an active part of the field since its very inception [...]. By naming our meeting rooms after the women who have helped make our field what it is today, we can make a positive statement about Google's commitment to promoting gender equality in computer science, while paying tribute to these pioneers and reflecting the Sydney office's openness to diversity.

In addition to being named after women in computing, each room has a picture and biography of the woman its named after.

Is the Ada Lovelace meeting room where your print from the Lovelace and Babbage comic will end up or do you have other plans for it?

Yes, the Lovelace and Babbage poster will take pride of place in the Ada Lovelace meeting room once it arrives, along with the photo and bio of Ada Lovelace that is already there.

The Ada Initiative Seed 100 campaign: donate in June to support women in open technology and culture