Thursday, March 26, 2009

Ada Lovelace Day: Women in Technology

Okay, Ada Lovelace Day was actually March 24, so I am a couple of days late, but I believe the bad cold I am finally getting over is a good excused to be a little bit late and doesn't really diminish one of my great sources of inspiration in technology.

Two inspirations, really.  Ada Lovelace herself was one of my first inspirations to pursue computing, when I found my self taking a programming class in Ada88 at Indiana University-Purdue University at Fort Wayne (IPFW, for short).  I was a completely undecided major - literally taking calculas and Ada programming for fun, while otherwise focusing on core electives - English, Philosophy, etc.  The text book came with an excerpt explaining who Ada was and why the language was named after her, and I found myself inspired. Surely if she could accomplish technical work more

I transfered to the Purdue main campus the following year, fairly sure I wanted to pursue computer science, but dismayed to find that my two Ada courses would count for nothing and I would need to start over again with Introduction to C++ (CS180).  Was it going to be worth it? That's around when I met a wonderful woman, Barbara Clark, who was an advisor for the school of science undergraduate students.  Barbara, a former mathemitician turned punch card programmer, was positively beaming with energy around the Purdue Computer Science department and was actively engaging women in computer science and the science department in general.  She taught me first hand the importance of diversity in any program, all the while seeking out funding from the School of Science head and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation to move these initiatives forward.  Barb didn't do all of this alone, but she did draw people into her cause (including me) and inspire us all to stay in technology, network and strive to aim even higher. Under Barb's watchful gaze, the Women in Science program has flourished at Purdue, there are dedicated floors in dorms to women in science majors, and retention rates of women in these areas are up.