The Lasting Legacy of Ada Lovelace

200 years ago, the world we now live in would have seemed inconceivable, impossible, and unimaginable to the entire world – the entire world, save perhaps for one person, Ada Lovelace.

A brilliant mathematician, Ada, was the only one of her peers at the birth of computing who envisaged their new technology of having power beyond numbers and calculations. That numbers could be used to represent letters, musical notes, or other things. Ada foresaw modern-day computing a century before Alan Turing broke the enigma code.

At the time, and for many ensuing decades, this notion was derided as a pure flight of fancy, the imaginings of a poet’s child, and of a woman no less.

But Ada was right.

Computing and technology have long been more than numbers and calculations, embedding themselves in every aspect of people’s lives, and becoming the engine upon which the world runs.

Ada is widely believed to have written the world’s first computer code. Even though some may dispute this, point to alternative examples, and question her authorship, what is irrefutable is the fact that at the time of its invention, Ada was the only one who understood the potential that computing held beyond calculations.

Ada Lovelace, founder of coding, software and algorithms, influencer in the emergence of computing, highly regarded mathematician, daughter, wife, mother. She lived a remarkable life for one who died tragically young of cancer at just 36. Juggling a work-life balance that is not so different to what many working women manage today.

Currently, in Scotland, women make up around 22% of the technology workforce. The underrepresentation of women in the sector is a massive loss of innovation, talent, and opportunity for both the individual and the organisations involved. Many studies have shown the boost that a diverse workforce can bring to organisations, introducing new ideas, perspectives, and skillsets to drive success and innovation.

There is a lot of work to be done right through the leaky pipeline to try to retain more women and girls on STEM pathways. From schools to colleges and universities, the provision of apprenticeships and graduate placements, opportunities for professional development, organisational commitments to equality, diversity, and inclusion practices, and policy change to support positive action and flexible working models.

Overall, there has been an alarming reduction in the number of children -boys and girls – choosing to study computing at school, with so many emerging jobs in one of Scotland’s fastest-growing sectors, the knock-on effect of this could be catastrophic. It is estimated that of the children choosing to study computing only 14% of them are girls.

There has also been a 25% decrease in the number of computer science teachers since 2005, with 17% of Scottish schools unable to offer a specialised computer science teacher. This significant barrier to accessing opportunities and pursuing a career in one of the most rapidly growing economic sectors is very dangerous, potentially locking out a large portion of Scotland’s young generation, who will miss out on developing skills and careers in IT, data science, and computing.

Women students make up roughly 22% of computing and tech university and college courses, and many fall through the pipeline before they can establish their careers in computing, data science or technology.

The skills gap in technology is growing exponentially, with increasing demand for skilled, driven, and experienced workers going unfulfilled, without enough homegrown talent to step into these roles. Encouraging and supporting more women and girls to pursue careers in tech and computing is an essential step in closing that gap.

Equate supports women in STEM at every stage through their career journey, if you are a woman in tech then you can register for some of our free networking or CPD events. Find out more here. We also provide free career clinics with an expert career advisor who can help you figure out the next steps on your career ladder to achieve your goals. Apply here.

How many more undiscovered Adas do we have in the world? Women with the innovation, intelligence, and imagination to envisage the future of technology. How many are lost through the leaky pipeline of women in STEM? Barriers to access in education, careers, and opportunities that stubbornly remain in place.

To celebrate Ada Lovelace Day 2021, Equate is hosting a Meet-Up with influential women, role models from CodeClan, Dell, and N-able, so join to learn more about their experience, ask your questions, and get inspired. Register here.

So, what is Equate’s advice on how to celebrate Ada Lovelace’s legacy? Aspire to be like Ada, think outside the box, ignore the naysayers, and pursue your ideas and passions. After all, the mother of computer coding was proved right in the end.