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The Study of Change

Today is Ada Lovelace Day - an international day of blogging to celebrate the achievements of women in technology and science.

Augusta Ada King, Countess of Lovelace was born on 10th December 1815, the only child of Lord Byron and his wife, Annabella. Born Augusta Ada Byron, but now known simply as Ada Lovelace, she wrote the world’s first computer programmes for the Analytical Engine, a general-purpose machine that Charles Babbage had invented.

Our very own Geek Girls were on Jon Gordon’s Future Tense yesterday, repping for Ada Lovelace Day. They’ve posted more here and here.

Growing up I didn’t have many strong female role models. I’m sorry to say I was surrounded by unhappy housewives or working mothers who clearly hated their clerical level jobs. Nowhere in sight were any women involved in technology or science. With my love of Omni Magazine and fueled by other nerdy passions I often felt like a Tomboy-ish freak. My interests didn’t line up with those of most females around me. I do remember idolizing aviation pioneer Amelia Earheart when I was in grade school but things didn’t end so well for her. I even recall having mad respect for Margaret Thatcher. Hey, she was Prime Minister of the UK during my formative years and that’s pretty powerful. But we don’t share the same politics so instead I turned to a very different Margaret…Atwood. Which led to finding the work of another feminist fantasy/science fiction author, Ursula K LeGuin. As a teenager I found other women to look up to in the world of music. From the British Siouxsie Sioux of Siouxsie and the Banshees to local ladies of rock, Babes in Toyland.

Over time and with the advent of the internet I found there were other women out there, even closer to my own age and skills and interests. Especially inspiring were (and are) early web pioneers like writer/blogger/librarian Jessamyn West of (who is also a MetaFilter moderator) and Heather Champ, now of my beloved flickr but of many web other projects as well.

In the beginning we were few but now we are many. At some point along the way it felt like the floodgates opened. I’m continually awestruck by other women online. Photographers, bloggers, vloggers, programmers, musicians, cartoonists, designers, physicians, scientists, creators of things. We’re everywhere! Doing everything! But we still have a long way to go. In the real world women still earn less than men for the same work. Here’s the tale of a woman who started a web business but only became successful after changing the name of her business and her own name, pretending to be male. And one of my favorite cartoonists - the amazing Kate Beaton of Hark, a vagrant - recently posted a web comic that bummed me out while also resonating with me: “Foiled again. Thus we end the conversation on sexism” More distressing still, reading through Ofrenda’s reposted Sexual Assault Prevention Tips from Colleen Jameson (with the onus on the attacker to hey, NOT attack).

But enough of that! For now let’s celebrate gains made, globally, and my own personal progress. I’ve been really lucky to have carved out a rewarding career pursuing the things that interest me. And for that I can thank the women who came before me. Beginning with Ada Lovelace.

Zena getting SHOCKED

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