A day to remember that the first computer programmer was a woman

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Augusta Ada King, Countess of Lovelace, is known as the first programmer because she designed a program for the unbuilt machine.Credit Hulton Archives, via Getty Images

In 1842, Ada Lovelace, known as the “Enchantress of Numbers,” wrote the first computer program.

Fast forward 171 years to today (which happens to be Ada Lovelace Day, to emphasize women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics), and computer programming is dominated by men.

Women software developers earn 80% of what men in the same jobs earn. Only 18% of computer science degrees are awarded to women, up from 37% in 1985. Less than 5% of corporate-funded tech start-ups are founded by women.

These statistics, released by security firm Symantec, and the Anita Borg Institute, which works to recruit and promote women in tech, provide context to recent debates in Silicon Valley, as to why Twitter has no women on his tray.

As the girls start to turn away from IT when they are young, due to a lack of role models and encouragement from parents and teachers, perhaps a short history lesson on Ms. Lovelace would be helpful.

She was the daughter of Lord Byron, the poet, who separated from her mother shortly after birth. Her mother encouraged her to pursue mathematics to counter her father’s “dangerous poetic tendencies”.
according to University of California, San Diego.

Meanwhile, in Silicon Valley, some people are feeling change in the air.

“There’s a lot more attention than we’ve seen in the past and a lot more difficult conversations,” said Telle Whitney, CEO of the Anita Borg Institute.

The Symantec report and Anita Borg tried to find a silver lining: the pay gap is smaller in technology and engineering than in other fields, and employment opportunities are plentiful.

Astia, which offers programs for women tech entrepreneurs, on Tuesday announced a partnership with Google to expand its lunch series to introduce women founders to investors.

And two scientists, sponsored by Brown University, are organizing a Wikipedia mass edit session Tuesday, for people to create and develop entries for women in science and technology.

Have a nice day, Ada Lovelace.


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