October 9, 2014
(Ashland, Ore.) — When historian Victoria Law was a young computer programmer in 1984, she felt very comfortable working in a profession where close to half of the employees were women. She didn’t realize at the time that she was working at the peak of women’s inclusion in the high-tech industry.
In 1984, more than 37 percent of computer science undergraduates were women. Today that number is less than 13 percent. In 2009, leaders in science and technology fields set about to make some changes. Out of this movement came the first Ada Lovelace Day.
Ada Lovelace Day was founded by Suw Charman-Anderson in London and aims to raise the profile of women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) by encouraging people around the world to talk about the women whose work they admire. This international day of celebration helps people learn about the achievements of women in STEM fields, inspiring others and creating new role models.
Ada Lovelace, born in 1815, was the daughter of English poet Lord Byron and was a mathematician and writer. She has long been considered the world’s first computer programmer and wrote the first computer algorithm in 1843 for Charles Babbage’s early mechanical general-purpose computer.
Southern Oregon University will host the first Ada Lovelace Day celebration in Ashland on Oct. 14. It will take place in the Meese Room inside Hannon Library from 7-9 p.m. The celebration will include a brief presentation by Law on the life of Lovelace and her role as the world’s “first computer programmer.” This will be followed by a panel discussion on increasing diversity in the STEM fields. Priscilla Oppenheimer, a local software and network designer, will lead the panel, which is composed of business and academic leaders in science and technology.
Oppenheimer is an educator and author with ties to Silicon Valley where she worked at Apple Inc. and Cisco Systems. The panel includes science professors, IT managers, and entrepreneurs from SOU, Oregon Shakespeare Festival and the Sustainable Valley Technology Group. “This presentation about Ada Lovelace and diversity should attract anyone interested in history, science, math, Lord Byron, or innovation,” Oppenheimer said. “The presentation isn’t just for women. Everyone should come and enjoy the first Ada Lovelace Day event in Ashland.”
The event is free and open to the public. Refreshments will be provided.