So today is Ada Lovelace Day, a day organised to highlight the wide-ranging contributions and achievements of women in science and technology.
While in general I try to stay away from the whole gender debate surrounding these industries, I don’t think that anyone can deny that women form a very definite minority in these areas. There are a whole host of reasons for this, none of which I particularly want to go into and none of which are going to be that quick and easy to solve. But I believe that everyone has the ability and opportunity (however small) to help change mindsets, throw out the old stereotypes and encourage a more open and welcoming atmosphere.
In regards to today’s post, it can only be a good thing that women are being publicly recognised for the work that they do. This will hopefully lead to them being inspired to keep up with the good work 🙂 and stand as encouragement for others just starting out or looking to join the profession. One day I hope that we won’t really need events like these as they’ll have served their purpose, and our industries will be freed from the stigma and issues that arise from having such a wide gender ratio.
I should also point out that throughout my time working as a developer, I have received a massive amount of help and support from both friends and colleagues, male and female, and I would really like to thank all of you! You’ve been brilliant!
But in the spirit of Ada Lovelace Day, I am going to highlight one person in particular who has helped me such a lot in past, both personally and professionally, and to whom I owe a great deal.
While many of you will already know Lornajane and all the great work that she does. For those of you who may be less familiar here’s a brief summary of just some of the things that she does:
By day she works as a senior developer and trainer for Ibuildings, as well as being the editor-in-chief of their techportal blog and heading up their PHP Centre of Expertise. In addition to her busy work schedule she is also rapidly gaining a reputation for being a great conference speaker, and as a glutton for punishment has also helped organise a number of these events. Check out her feedback ratings on joind.in, which by the way is a project she is also involved in. In between these larger talks, you can often find her speaking at various user groups and other smaller technology related events. And as if that all wasn’t enough, she is also a key member of PHP Women and works tirelessly aiming to move the group forward as well as give her personal encouragement and support to whoever needs it.
Believe me when I say that that was just a summary, and doesn’t even cover her other more personal passions such as crafting or netball that she also manages to find time for.
As it’s Ada Lovelace Day, her work with PHP Women should be particularly highlighted. PHP Women is a group that is open to both men and women but that aims to encourage and support women in particular that work (or would like to work) with PHP in whatever they can. There’s a forum, open source partnerships and a mentorship scheme among other things, and I know many people who have personally benefited from being a member. Groups like this would not be possible without the hard work put in by people like Lorna. Maybe now would be a good time to suggest helping them out by getting involved and giving back to the group yourself? This works for all groups, communities and networks – while it is great to receive help and support, is it not greater to be able to give your own help and support to others?
Lorna also aims to inspire others by her example. Her conference speaking did not start because she felt a huge desire to stand spotlit on a stage in front of lots of people. Rather she was aware that women are very often under represented in many conference schedules and if she really wanted to do something about that then the best way was to get up on stage herself as an example to others. This way she could also encourage others to do the same and offer advice based on her own experiences.
A real human dynamo, Lorna’s level of activity alone is often enough to inspire me to get off my arse and just do things! Personally she’s given me a huge amount of encouragement and support, ranging from quick comments and pep talks which really help when I’m feeling a bit down or overwhelmed, to letting me crash at her house during a particularly bad time when I had nowhere else to go.
I know I for one shall always be enormously grateful for all the help that she’s ever given me.