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AHEAD OF HER OWN TIME AND OURS?

November 19, 2013 — You likely missed it, but October 15 was Ada Lovelace Day. Now who is or was Ada Lovelace, and why, you’re no doubt asking, should we care? Well, Ada, Countess of Lovelace, also known as “the enchantress of numbers,” is widely credited with having written the first computer program, at age 27.

In 1842.

Lovelace — the only legitimate child of the great Romantic poet and flamboyantly scandalous aristocrat, Lord Byron, and his wife, Anne Isabella Byron — was steered toward an interest in mathematics, logic and writing by her mother, who didn’t want Ada to fall prey to her father’s “dangerous poetic tendencies.” (Lord Byron had left Anne and Ada — and England — five months after Ada’s birth. Some not-small amount of bitterness resulted.) Lovelace referred to herself as a “poetical scientist,” and her mathematical gifts led to a working relationship and friendship with the polymath and inventor Charles Babbage, who originated the concept of the programmable computer: the “Analytical Engine.” In a series of painstakingly detailed notes, Lovelace developed what was essentially an algorithm designed for a machine to process. That is, she created the first computer code.

It’s important to remember this fascinating, trendsetting, individualistic woman in part because, sadly, more than 170 years later, women are still clinging to the lower rungs of the tech ladder. According to the security firm Symantec and the Anita Borg Institute, women software developers earn 80 percent of what men with the same jobs earn. A paltry 18 percent of computer science degrees are awarded to women — shockingly, down from 37 percent in 1985. Fewer than 5 percent of venture-backed tech start-ups are founded by women. And all this serves as the context within which the debate surges around such news as why Twitter, launching its IPO, has not one woman on its board — and not only that, but also has nothing but male investors and an overwhelmingly male-dominated executive staff. Forbes notes that only 17 women at media and technology companies are on Fortune’s 50 most-powerful-women-in-business list.

As the women at Frank celebrate a woman who may have redefined the way the entire world works now and into the future, we can’t help asking, “Why is this the case?” Is the glass ceiling made of virtually impenetrable steel rather than mere glass? Or is it something about tech? Are women not interested in an entire professional field or is something, a stereotype or stigma, in place that keeps women from even trying to get in the game? And as marketers, what does this mean for brands both inside and outside the tech space? What’s next, and where will it come from? Perhaps the future lies in another revolutionary woman out there who is, right this very moment, generating the next technological breakthrough that’s so advanced it’s not even considered “tech.” If you think you know or just want to vet your theories, contact Shaun Stripling, chief marketing officer of Frank About Women, at 336.774.9397, or email her.

Happy belated birthday, Ada Lovelace!

Source: The New York Times

Carol Emmet About the Author
Carol Emmet Copy Editor

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