Today is Ada Lovelace Day, when we celebrate the achievements of women in science and engineering. I am not a scientist or an engineer, but I do work in an industry that’s overwhelmingly male-dominated at every level, and one thing Ada Lovelace Day tries to do is to encourage more women into those spheres which are traditionally occupied by men. I have met women software engineers over the years, but I’ve only worked with three or four, as opposed to dozens of men – and that includes my spells at large, forward-looking, right-thinking organisations of the kind you might hope and expect would encourage a more equal gender split.
It’s too late for me: I can look at code and understand (sometimes) what it’s doing, but I’ve tried to learn to write it and I hit a mental block that goes: this is silly, [whoever I’m sitting nearest] could do this much faster and I could get on with the stuff I’m actually good at. But the only reason [whoever is sitting nearest] is faster and better is that he started doing it when he was a teenager, and has been learning ever since. So if you have, or know, or are, a teenage girl, get to it now! There are lots of places to start: school is probably one of them, and there’s also Code Academy which seems to work for lots of people (I confess, I got stuck on week three, but don’t take me as a guide), and a whole internet full of free lessons on everything. I would love it if, in twenty years’ time, we could get to the point where when someone says “I hired a new software engineer last week”, people would be shocked if someone said (as they always do) “Oh yeah? Who is he?”
If you aren’t, or don’t have or know, a teenage girl, go and read about Ada Lovelace anyway. It’s quite a life.