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Ada Lovelace Day: October Highlights Celebrating Women in STEM #WiSTEMspotlight

31st October 2016
 | Suze Kundu


Image Credit: Rachel Ignotofsky

We’ve reached the end of a remarkable month – a month where people have come together to debate and discuss the issues facing women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) disciplines. Digital Science passionately supports the work that so many do to bring this conversation to the ears of those who can make a difference, and Suw Charman-Anderson, founder of Ada Lovelace Day, an international celebration of the achievements of women in STEM, is a woman who does this better than most. With support from her organisation, we hosted our own satellite event, ‘Championing Success and Avoiding the Echo Chamber‘ using the hashtag #WiSTEMspotlight to collate our activities. We managed to organise a panel of dedicated women and men to present and debate with our eager audience – free beer and pizza was included!

If you don’t have time to watch the full talks provided below, here’s a teaser of the event:

Full talks:

A huge thanks to Poppy Illsley who made the videos. Do also take a look the Twitter action from the event.

Dr Suze Kundu finished her talk by saying, “let’s make a plan” – talking is one thing, doing is another! For that reason, we went on to create a working document where people can share their thoughts with us on how to best support women in STEM. We’ve already had some great responses – anything you’d like to add?

What’s inspiring about events like this, is they seem to encourage altruistic actions from all those involved – an audience member, Elodie Chabrol, a researcher in neuroscience at UCL London and the French director of Pint of Science, volunteered to write a piece listing practical take-homes from the evening.

Hosting an event was not the only Ada Lovelace Day activity our team committed to. Keeping in the spirit of our #WiSTEMspotlight event, we reached out to a number of prevalent scientists, artists and publishers and asked them to contribute to our blog – the response was overwhelming!

“Life is all a matter of perspective… A person’s perspective is likely influenced by a whole host of conscious and unconscious psychological factors, shaped by both genetics and experiences…To investigate a topic deeply and exhaustively, we need a diversity of voices.

Rhianna made a strong argument about including a more diverse range of people in the pursuit of evidence based thinking:

“However, imagine the possibilities if we invited more different voices to the debate. Voices that can ask new questions that had not previously been thought of.”

  • To help usher in a new generation of voices, Leonie Mueck, Physics Editor at Nature, talked about the importance of mentoring men:

“There are binders full of men who “get it”, I know many myself, and if they carefully mentored men who don’t, pointing out situations in which they could have reacted better, they would do an invaluable service to womankind that we would be eternally thankful for.”

  • Kimberly Arcand, popular science writer and Visualization Lead and Production Coordinator for NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory, looked to the stars and wrote about women in Astronomy and Computer Science, touching on her own experiences:

“Unfortunately, success in these STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) disciplines is not a given for many, especially women and people of color.”

Key points from Kimberly’s post included:

  1. In Silicon Valley, major employers such as Google, Apple, and Facebook, have shown that about 70% of workers are male.
  2. Over 560 people have trained to be astronauts to date. Of them, 75 astronauts have been female.
  3. Out of 18,000 civil service employees, about 6000 are women, according to Business Insider, and the current class of eight NASA astronauts is made up of 50% female, and 50% male members.

“It takes a combination of science and history to learn about the mechanics of the world we live in and my goal is to empower people to make educated decisions.”

  1. An unerring positive attitude
  2. A commitment to a cause/communal good along with a vision of the future
  3. An inner compass which is not swayed by public opinion
  4. Sound communication skills encompassing listening as a key component
  5. Readiness to embrace change as well as being creative and innovative
  6. A resilient and persistent attitude
  7. Making others look outside themselves in order to become part of a larger whole

Barbara closed off her blog post with some poignant remarks:

“My major life inspiration is this: if you take from the land, you must give back to the land. Each of us needs to find a way to give back and make it a part of our lives.”

  • Dr Brenna Hassett, an archaeologist whose research looks at using human remains to understand the past, focused her guest post on a famous female archaeologists. She started the Trowel Blazers in order to set the record straight and dig up the dirt on the under appreciated contributions of women in the earth sciences in the past and in the modern day. I guarantee that when you read her piece you’ll realise there are far more Lara Crofts then you realised!

What a month! Thanks to all those who contributed and below you will find links to all our other incredible posts that celebrated Ada Lovelace Day!

Articles in the Ada Lovelace Blog Series: 

Delia Derbyshire inspiring the next generation of electronic music composers Caro C

Why Are Girls Not Capitalising on Current STEM Opportunities? Mimi Keshani

To Change, Or Not To Change Is Not The Question. Where to Change However… Tom Hunter, director of the Arthur C. Clarke Award

How to Improve Diversity in the Workplace Lauren Martin

The Discomfort Puzzle – Career Advice Diliny Corlosquet