Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Ada Lovelace Day, Blogging for women

Commit to blog to inspirational women in technology they said. So this is my pledge for Ada Lovelace Day (#ALD09) Where do I begin? With the observation that it must be partly due to their scarcity factor that women in technology are inspirational?

At the University of Southampton I am in Electronics and Computer Science. We are lucky to have Wendy Hall, our previous head of school, first out of US head of the ACM, previous president of the BCS and professor and dame of the British empire. Wendy is a first class role model, fabulous and inspirational, which is a good job because there are only three female academics in ECS, among the 100 so total number of academics, so she had better be inspirational!

I'm trying to do my bit - I have got some cash from our diversity committee and have set up a self support scheme (called CareerStep) to empower female colleagues to progress up the career ladder. Other female colleagues contribute too. We work through ECSWomen for female undergrads and post grads in ECS, Theano supporting female undergrads and postgrads across the Faculty of Engineering, Science and Mathematics and WISET working with women academics in our Faculty.

And when I think about it, I have to suggest that alongside Professor Dame Wendy, I have to list each one of our ECS Academic female colleagues; reader; senior lecturer; lecturer ( conveniently one representative at each academic level! I also want to recognise every one of our women senior researchers, researchers, postgrads and undergrads. I want to recognise the mature role models who have made their life choices ( and who help embody our understanding of the work life balance) and to the young women who I see coming of age and emerging as strong independent female computer scientists. I want us to recognise all the strong women (who have families as well as work roles, who have a life outside of their working hours and some of whom have made difficult life choices, challenging their family's assumptions, or throwing off their hijab to provide intelligent, independent statements which step outside of stereotypes) I want to acknowledge all those strong women who by their daily interactions in our male dominated environment show that women are just people who do stuff, and like all the members of our very special research group ( the Learning Societies Lab ) are making change happen.

LSL is special because its one place in the whole of ECS where we have a much larger proportion of females than anywhere else in the School (female academic ratio soar to 1:10.5, overall in LSL its 22:66) Its also a new research group which has grown phenomenally, and attracts a wide range of interests, and does research which is interdisciplinary mixing technical rigour with social areas of study/focus.

As a feminist and socialist, I believe that humanity should be treated with equal respect, women who work in contexts against the odds deserve respect for their doggedness surviving and flourishing in a climate which is sometimes hostile, and often uncomfortable. Our academic school is richer for its diversity, and will be stronger and even richer when it embraces diversity with greater enthusiasm.

LSL Women
EA Draffan, Jessie Hey (we share her with IAM), Yvonne Howard, Debra Morris (we share her with the Library), Susan Walters, Su White, Pei Zhang, Lauren Dampier Noura Abbas, Kikelomo M (Maria) Apampa, Ani Liza Asnawi, Norhidayah Azman, Lisha Chen-Wilson, Roziana Ibrahim, Ilaria Liccardi, Athitaya Nitchot, Dade Nurjanah, Asma Ounas, Clare Owens, Yulita Iskander, Reena Pau, Onjira Sitthasak

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