Category Archives: Women in open and tech and culture community news

Ada Lovelace Day 2013: women you should know of!

October 15 2013 will be the fifth annual Ada Lovelace Day, an international celebration of the achievements of women in science, technology, engineering and maths. Ada Lovelace Day is about sharing stories of women — whether engineers, scientists, technologists or mathematicians — who have inspired you to become who you are today. The aim is to create new role models for girls and women in these male-dominated fields by raising the profile of other women in STEM.

Photograph of Suw Charman-Anderson

Suw Charman-Anderson, , Ada Lovelace Day founder, self-portrait CC BY-NC-SA

Yesterday, we asked Ada Lovelace Day founder Suw Charman-Anderson about plans for Ada Lovelace Day 2013, and how Ada Lovelace Day has changed and grown. Today she shares some of what she’s learned about women in STEM through Ada Lovelace Day, including four women who are less invisible to her as a result.

What’s your favourite Ada Lovelace fact?

Suw: I love the letter that Ada wrote to Faraday when she was trying to convince him to tutor her. She was a real fangirl:

Dear Mr Faraday,

I am exceedingly tickled with your comparison of yourself to a tortoise. It has excited all my fun (& I assure you I have no little of that in me).

I am also struck with the forcible truth of your designation of my character of mind:

“elasticity of intellect“.

It is indeed the very truth, most happily put into language.

You have excited in my mind a ridiculous, but not ungraceful, allegorical picture, viz:

that of a quiet demure plodding tortoise, with a beautiful fairy gambolling round it in a thousand radiant & varying hues; the tortoise crying out, “Fairy, fairy, I am not like you. I cannot at pleasure assume a thousand aerial shapes & expand myself over the face of the universe. Fairy, fairy, have mercy on me, & remember I am but a tortoise“.

Given that he was a devout Christian, very humble and self-disciplined, I can’t imagine that he was hugely impressed, but Ada’s so charming and playful it’s hard to imagine anyone could hold her enthusiasm against her!!

Tell us about some of the women you’ve been introduced to through Ada Lovelace Day.

Suw:

Photograph of Patricia Bath

Ophthalmologist Patricia Bath, Ada Lovelace Day heroine (image public domain)

Patricia Bath, born 1942: Patented a method for removing cataract lenses using a laser which quickly and almost painlessly dissolves the cataract. Her device has successfully restored vision to people who have been unable to see for decades.

Hedy Lamarr, born 1914: She was a Hollywood starlet in the 1940s who also invented frequency hopping, a technology that is still used in wireless devices today. She offered it to the US Navy for use in encrypting the signal to radio-controlled torpedoes during the Second World War, but they rejected the idea and it wasn’t finally implemented until 1962.

Rear Admiral Grace Hopper, born 1906: One of the first programmers of the Harvard Mark I, inventor of the compiler, and a driving force behind the development of COBOL. Also popularised the use of the word ‘bug’ to mean a mistake in code, famously locating an actual bug – a moth – in the relays of the Mark II.

And going back a little further in time we have, from 2285 BCE, EnHedu’Anna High Priestess of the Moon-god Nanna, at Ur in Sumeria (now in Iraq), who was responsible for monitoring the movements of the stars via network of observatories as a part of her duties. She created the first collection of astronomical observations. Modern astronomy and maths follows almost continuous line from Sumeria to the present.

More about Suw

Suw Charman-Anderson is the founder of Ada Lovelace Day, an international celebration of the achievements of women in science, technology, engineering and maths. She is also a social technologist and, as one of the UK’s social media pioneers, has helped clients worldwide use social tools for collaboration and communication internally and to build customer relationships externally.

A freelance journalist, she has written about social media and technology for The Guardian, CIO Magazine, .Net Magazine, Computer Weekly and FirstPost.com. She currently blogs about publishing and crowdfunding for Forbes.com.

In 2005, Suw co-founded the Open Rights Group with the aim of raising awareness of digital rights issues and campaigning against bad legislation in Britain and the EU.

Suw’s blog is chocolateandvodka.com and you can follow her on Twitter (@suw).

You can join Suw at Ada Lovelace Day Live! in London on October 15, with performers including Fran Scott, a science communicator who designs demos for CBBC, live stage shows and the Science Museum; Prof Molly Stevens, a leading bioengineer from Imperial College London whose work includes growing human bones in the lab; and Hazel Gibson, a geologist studying how geological processes affect our lives, and who is out to prove that women and geology is a combination that rocks!

Other events are being held around the world.

Ada Lovelace Day 2013: fight the invisibility of women in STEM!

October 15 2013 will be the fifth annual Ada Lovelace Day, an international celebration of the achievements of women in science, technology, engineering and maths. Ada Lovelace Day is about sharing stories of women — whether engineers, scientists, technologists or mathematicians — who have inspired you to become who you are today. The aim is to create new role models for girls and women in these male-dominated fields by raising the profile of other women in STEM.

You can participate in Ada Lovelace Day by attending Ada Lovelace Day Live! in London; attending one of the more than 20 other worldwide events; or by writing about a woman in STEM whose work has inspired you, publishing the story on October 15, and adding it to the Ada Lovelace Day story collection.

The Ada Initiative (which is also named for Ada Lovelace) is planning to share stories of our inspirational AdaCampers. We spoke to Ada Lovelace Day founder Suw Charman-Anderson (@suw) about Ada Lovelace Day 2013 plans, and how Ada Lovelace Day has changed since 2009.

What changes does Ada Lovelace Day 2013 bring?

Ada Lovelace Day wikiathon: two women work on laptops in front of a blackboard with wikiathon instructions

Ada Lovelace Day 2012 wikiathon, by Maia Weinstock CC BY-SA

Suw: As ever, we’re holding Ada Lovelace Day Live! on 15 October, this year at Imperial College London with the support of the Biochemical Society, Texas Instruments and our other partners and sponsors. We also have nearly 25 grassroots events around the world which have been organised independently. I am very excited about how widely the day is going to be celebrated this year!

For the first time, we are also going to be publishing a book, A Passion for Science: Stories of Discovery and Invention, a collection of 17 essays about pioneering women in science and technology. It is an exploration of how we passed some of the most important milestones in science and technology, from the identification of the Horsehead Nebula, to the writing of the first computer program, the development of in vitro fertilisation and the detection of pulsars. All of these discoveries and innovations were achieved by women. Frequently unsung, often underpaid and under-appreciated, and sometimes misrepresented, these women defied social convention and endemic sexism to excel. There stories are compelling and inspirational, and I am very excited about publishing this anthology, which will initially only be available from findingada.com.

Ada Lovelace Day’s aim is fighting the invisibility of women in science and technology? Are you measuring its success? How successful has it been?

Suw: We’ve grown incredibly since the first Ada Lovelace Day in 2009, which started by simply asking people to write a blog post about a woman in technology who had inspired them. The idea attracted people to participate in ways I could never have imagined: We had people from all over the world writing in many languages with very little promotion, although we also garnered a lot of media and press coverage.

Since then, we’ve added the Ada Lovelace Day Live! ‘nerd cabaret’ as well as inspiring grassroots events all around the world. There are so many events, I often hear about them after the fact rather than before the day.

Whilst originally the day was focused on blogging about women in tech, blogs are less popular than they were in 2009. We are now encouraging an emphasis is on Wikipedia editathons, to increase the number and quality of articles on women in STEM. Those contributions are powerful and long-lasting, and editathons are open not just to people who are able to attend in person, but to anyone online who wishes to join in.

Ada Lovelace Day has grown far beyond the day itself, and there are a range of events throughout the month. I also give talks about women in STEM at schools, libraries and to professional organisations throughout the year.

What are some of your future plans and ambitions for Ada Lovelace Day?

Suw: I’ve love to do more, including creating educational materials, more books and even creating a professional network to allow women in STEM to support each other. At the moment, it is an issue of resources. To organise ALD I draw primarily on my own time and money, with a small group of volunteers to help, but I am actively seeking foundations and corporate sponsors to develop a sustainable base for which our activities can grow.

Tomorrow: more about Ada Lovelace Day heroines, and what Suw has learned about Ada Lovelace herself.

PyCon 2014 (Montreal, April): Call for Proposals is open!

This is a guest post by AdaCamp DC alumna Jessica McKellar, organizer of the Boston Python Workshop for women and board member of the Python Software Foundation.

The Ada Initiative’s founders attended PyCon 2013 and ran our first feminist hacker lounge there, and we’re thrilled to hear that the PSF and PyCon are continuing their strong track record of outreach to women.

The PyCon 2014 call for proposals is open, and we want to see talk submissions from you!

About PyCon

PyCon is the largest annual gathering for the Python community. It is a volunteer-run, supportive, happy, diverse conference for people of all programming backgrounds, from beginning to advanced Pythonistas and for professional and hobbyist programmers alike. The conference has tutorials, talks, poster sessions, development sprints, and more.

PyCon and the Python Software Foundation have taken a strong stance on supporting diversity outreach and cultivating a welcoming environment for people of all backgrounds. In December, the PSF passed a resolution requiring a public Code of Conduct for all conferences receiving PSF sponsorship. PyCon has had a Code of Conduct inspired by the Ada Initiative’s template since 2012.

PyCon 2013 saw a record number of women giving tech talks, and the Ada Initiative had its first ever Feminist Hacker Lounge at the conference!

Speaking at PyCon

PyCon is in beautiful Montreal in April of 2014. Need help getting to PyCon? No problem: the conference has a robust financial aid program (and the best way to ensure assistance is to be giving a talk).

Talks are 30 or 45 minutes long. Beginners can give talks. Hobbyists can give talks. You, yes you, would give a great talk on something that excites you about Python. Proposals are due by September 15th.

Check out:

Need some inspiration? Have a look at the talk list from last year.

A project you’ve been working on, a fun library, a cool language feature, how you use Python at work: these are all good talk opportunities.

Pick a topic and get started!

Join Robin Hammerman and other Ada Lovelace researchers and fans at Stevens Institute of Technology in October

In January, we shared with you the call for papers for the Celebrating the Achievements and Legacies of Ada Lovelace conference:

CALL FOR PAPERS
Celebrating the Achievements and Legacies of Ada Lovelace
18 October 2013
Stevens Institute of Technology, College of Arts and Letters (Hoboken, New Jersey, USA)

An interdisciplinary conference celebrating the achievements and legacies of the poet Lord Byron’s only known legitimate child, Ada Byron King, Countess of Lovelace (1815–1852), will take place at Stevens Institute of Technology (Hoboken, New Jersey) on 18 October 2013. This conference will coincide with the week celebrating Ada Lovelace Day, a global event for women in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM). All aspects of the achievements and legacies of Ada Lovelace will be considered, including but not limited to:

  • Lovelace as Translator and/or Collaborator
  • Technology in the Long Nineteenth Century
  • Women in Computing: Past/Present/Future
  • Women in STEM- Past/Present/Future
  • Ada Lovelace and her Circle

Please submit proposals or abstracts of 250-500 words by 14 May 2013 to: Robin Hammerman (rhammerm@stevens.edu).

Submissions are still open, and organiser Robin Hammerman shares more about the conference and her interest in Ada Lovelace:

Q. Tell us a little about yourself.

Robin: I teach Literature and Communications at Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, New Jersey. Most of our students major in STEM. To me, it is amazing to see how well our students build on their strengths and face their challenges in humanities courses. We are a relatively small school of only around 6,000 students with a strong spirit of collaboration. Our College of Arts and Letters is an ideal venue for hosting the upcoming Ada conference. We are a warm and welcoming part of the Stevens community, dedicated to mindful exchanges and – in my estimation – a perfect match for the Ada world. My research interests include science fiction, comics and graphic novels, and British Romanticism. I am chiefly a Byronist, so my initial connection to Ada was forged through my exposure to her father’s life and works. Additionally, it has been my honor to serve the Byron Society of America as its Director of Membership and Academic Services since 2007. As you might imagine, we have many Ada fans in our membership!

Q. What motivated you to create a conference about Ada Lovelace?

Robin: The time is definitely right to bring Ada to campus. Stevens was a male-only school until 1971 and now we have a flourishing community of women on campus. We are constantly generating fantastic opportunities for women so that they might thrive here, and it has definitely been working. Within the College of Arts and Letters alone we developed an excellent Gender Studies program, and our new program for Science and Technology Studies – also within CAL – strongly anchors women in STEM. Additionally, in 1982 Stevens became the first major educational institution in the U.S. to implement a personal computer requirement for its students. Back then, a pioneering technology project resulted in the networking of the entire Stevens campus, creating one of the nation’s first Intranets. Clearly, Stevens is well-positioned to host a conference celebrating Ada’s legacies and achievements.

Q. Who should speak at or attend this conference?

Robin: I anticipate an interdisciplinary extravaganza of past/present/future with people of varying interests represented in the audience and the speakers. Really, all are welcome – faculty, students, independent and rogue scholars, enthusiasts…the call for papers is rather open. In addition to topics on women in STEM, the history of computing, etc. we are interested in developing panels on new media. I would really like to hear some work at the conference on Ada’s collaboration with Charles Babbage as well as Ada’s larger circle. She had some very interesting friends, including Charles Dickens. While we are on the subject of literary topics, we are developing a panel on Ada’s iconic status in Steampunk Literature – so you see, there is hardly a limit to what we might include. You don’t have to be a passionate supporter of women in STEM to attend or speak at this conference, but it helps!

Q. What is your favorite Lovelace fact or story?

Robin: To me, the coolest ever Lovelace fact is that NASA named its first computer program after her. As a Byronist, I think that Ada never meeting her father is an interesting part of her story. Nevertheless, this fact seems to say more about her father than it does about her.

Q. What are your plans for next year?

Robin: I am interested in seeing how our Stevens community and beyond will be enriched by the conference proceedings. Next year will provide us with unique opportunities to expand our Ada-inspired knowledge bases. If it seems appropriate, perhaps we might consider developing a publication including papers from the conference. Most of all, this conference will bring together people who might otherwise not have met. From this act of coming together, I anticipate long-term benefits in our collective thinking about what it means to have true, interdisciplinary engagement.

The Empowermentors Collective: a group for women of color and queer people of color

Students for Free Culture write:

The Empowermentors Collective is a new space by and for women of color and queer people of color within free software and free culture.

We recognize the need to address deep-seated cultural norms within the free software and free culture communities which, under the guise of openness, have excused and perpetuated alienating behavior. It is imperative that we acknowledge that there are systemic structures of control embedded in our society which permeate our movement. Refusing to do so in an effort to compartmentalize and focus on our own goals is detrimental to our success. We cannot afford to be an inward-facing movement.

To expose and undo this culture of exclusion, we would like to support the recently established Empowermentors Collective, a community for intersectionally marginalized identities. This type of intentional space also opens up the potential for much needed coalition building and advances our own understanding of how technology and media are inseparable from our experiences and ourselves, our bodies.

As the description reads:

The Empowermentors Collective is a skillshare, activism, and discussion network by and for women of color and queer people of color. We are a group of community members with a strong commitment to furthering free software and free culture through an intersectionally marginalized lens and making a more welcoming space out of these communities. We therefore necessarily also work against and do not tolerate oppression in all its forms: ableism, racism, cissexism, heterosexism, sexism, classism, etc.

The Empowermentors Collective strives to be an affirming and safer space for people with disabilities, people of color, women, and people self-identified as queer or LGBT.

We are called Empowermentors because we focus on education and encourage participants to host workshops and skillshares geared towards intersectionally marginalized identities.

  • We maintain a safer space for marginalized identity groups.
  • We address issues of oppression within the free software and free culture communities.
  • We equip each other with skills and knowledge of free software and free culture.
  • We file, catalog, and help solve bugs related to race, gender, and accessibility in free software projects.
  • We take on mentorship positions and run targeted workshops, classes, and skillshares.

Students for Free Culture and the Free Software Foundation are proud to support this effort to identify, expose, and confront crucial issues within our communities; to bridge our movement with our contemporaries in the critical intersectional analysis of oppression, hierarchy, and domination; and to develop our own philosophy at the cutting-edge of feminist, queer, critical race, and cyborg theory.

If you are a woman of color or queer person of color in the free software or free culture community and are interested in being a part of the Empowermentors Collective, please join the mailing list and the #empowermentors IRC channel on freenode. If you are an ally to these issues, please help spread the word!

85% of JSConf US participants donate to support women in open tech/culture

JS community logoToday, the organizers of JSConf US 2013, a popular Javascript conference, announced a donation of $5000 to us here at the Ada Initiative, a non-profit dedicated to women in open source software and similar communities. We are grateful for the $5000 donation, and excited about the work we’ll be able to do with it, but we are more excited by this number:

85% of participants in JSConf US donated $10 of their own money to support women in open tech/culture.

This is an amazing number, and shows broad support for the goal of increasing the participation of women in the Javascript community!

In addition to the money donated by JSConf US attendees, the JSConf organizers donated personally to bring the total to $5000. The organizers also consulted the Ada Initiative on how to increase the diversity of speakers and participants at the conference.

The silent majority speaks

One reason we founded the Ada Initiative was a belief that the majority of people in the open source community wanted more women involved in open source, but didn’t know how to make their voices heard. The JSConf donation system is one way to give that often invisible majority a voice. In this case, 85% of the people who attend JSConf US were able to say that they would rather give their $10 to a non-profit supporting women in open tech/culture than uncheck a box and keep it for themselves. Without the creativity and support of the JSConf US organizers, we might never have known that 85% of the people at this conference supported women in open tech/culture at this level.

Conferences as agents of social change

Almost imperceptibly, open tech/culture conferences have gradually become agents of social change. Conference organizers and participants alike have realized this simple truth: Either we are supporting the status quo by doing things the “normal” way, or we’re trying to change it by consciously making better decisions. No matter which way we go, we’re still making a choice.

Many people joined the open tech/culture movement to make the world a better place. So it’s no surprise that many open tech/culture conferences are making their choices in favor of social justice: serving environmentally responsible food, cutting down on wasteful schwag, reducing unconscious bias in favor of white male participants, and now partnering with and donating to charitable organizations that support the community’s goals. JSConf US, and the Javascript community in general, are at the forefront of this change in the way open tech/culture conferences interact with their communities and the world as a whole.

A mandate for diversity and equality in the Javascript community

If 85% of JSConf US attendees support women in open tech/culture, that’s a strong argument for a similar level of support in the Javascript community as a whole. If you’re part of this community, you may have thought about speaking up in favor of including women or increasing diversity in other ways but kept quiet because you thought you were in the minority. If that’s the case, this is your signal, both to speak up in the future, and to support people who speak up as well. Consider this an encouragement to reply with a “+1” to a statement you agree with, or a “I disagree entirely,” to an opinion that doesn’t reflect your view of the community. Learn more about how to support women in your community as an ally through the Allies Workshop.

More about JSConf

Unfortunately, JSConf US 2013 is already completely sold out, so you won’t be able to join them this year at a Florida resort (!!!). However, you can still sign up for upcoming JSConfs and related events around the world (in Australia, Singapore, and Europe, to name just a few).

More about the JSConf family of conferences, in the words of the JSConf organizers:

JSConf is a unique conference organization, because we aren’t really a conference organization at all. We are a very loose federation of developers who share the same general idea about how a technical conference should be held. We don’t believe that one model or process fits all communities, in fact we are big advocates of locally run events driven by passionate individuals dedicated to the community. We make events that aren’t from the standard conference playbook because we believe you (attendees, speakers, and sponsors) deserve more than that. We focus on two things, pushing the boundaries of what is thought to be conceivable with JS and providing exceptional human social activities that encourage community and friendship building. That sets the general tone for each of our events and from there, local individuals from each region drive the conference to its own incredible level of excellence. Our mission is to make the technology community better, more diverse, and more human; in short, we just want to make things better. JSConf does not focus on what is popular or cool now, but on topics that define and revolutionize the following year of technology. We have been the launching point for some of the most revolutionary products, services, and technologies on the web. We have also been the inspiration point and support base for a wide range of conferences beyond the “JSConf” name, but still retain the very essence of what makes JSConf special.

The Ada Initiative thanks the JSConf organizers again for making this generous donation possible, and for showing the depth of support for women in open tech/culture in the Javascript community!


Want to partner with the Ada Initiative on a similar or different project? Contact us at contact@adainitiative.org and find out how we can work together.

Meet and greet: BlackGirlsCODE, January 31, Washington DC

BlackGirlsCODE are having a volunteer meetup in Washington DC on Thursday January 31. BGC volunteers from multiple cities are attending, and current and potential BGC in the District volunteers are invited to attend.

The event will be held at UNCF corporate office located at 1805 7th Street, NW, Washington, DC, from 6:30 PM to 8:30 PM. RSVP at EventBrite. General volunteer signup for BGC through the United States is also available.

Got open tech and culture news to share with women in the Ada Initiative’s community? Email share@adainitiative.org.