Each year on the second Tuesday of October we mark Ada Lovelace Day at Edinburgh Napier University as part of the worldwide celebration of women in science, technology, engineering and maths. The purpose of this activity is to showcase role models who will encourage more girls into careers in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM), and to support women who are already working in STEM.
It is interesting that Ada Lovelace Day this year falls within a fortnight of (since suspended) Cern scientist Professor Alessandro Strumia’s delivery of an offensive workshop presentation about the role of women in physics, in which he claimed that the domain was “invented and built by men” (Hypatia anyone?) and is “becoming sexist against men” (so what about the widely held views on unconscious bias against women in science?) This news was then followed by the announcement that the 2018 Nobel prize for physics is to be shared by three scientists, one of whom is a woman, Canadian Dr Donna Strickland. Then this Sunday the BBC introduced the first ever regeneration of Dr Who as a woman, much to the joy of those who believed that this was long overdue (myself included).
At our celebration on campus today we can’t promise news that grabs the headlines in the same way as the three stories cited above. However, this afternoon from 5pm onwards at our Craiglockhart campus we’re hosting a Tech Fun session. Girls of secondary school age have been invited to sign up to have a go at making an Engima code breaker, create a network using their mobile phones, program wearable computers, and control robots (as well as play arcade games, and eat pizza and ice cream). Afterwards, Sharon Moore MBE, Industry Technical Leader for Travel and Transportation IBM UK, and an excellent role model for women in STEM, is delivering the University’s annual Ada Lovelace Day lecture. Sharon will be joined on stage with Equate Scotland’s Allison Johnstone, who will outline some of the initiatives underway to make a difference for women in STEM. The talk will be followed by a drinks reception.