Saturday, March 21, 2009

Friday Five - Finding Ada (Role Models of Women in Tech)

How quickly can you answer the question "Who are the leading women in tech?"

This week's Friday Five will not only help you anwer this question, but will also challenge you to contribute to the number of female role models students and adults are exposed to as they explore the areas of science, technology, engineering and math. (often referred to as S.T.E.M.)

How many of you had Ada Lovelace's name at the tip of your tongue?

Ada Lovelace wrote the world's first computer program for the Analytical Engine, a general-purpose machine that Charles Babbage had invented. She also wrote the very first description of a computer and of software. Ada died an early death in 1852 at the age of 36 and never had a chance to explore her understanding of computing. The high level computer language "Ada" developed by the U.S. Department of Defense was named after her.

If you were not familiar with Ada's significant contribution to the computer world or had trouble naming at least 10 leading women in tech, this week's Friday Five will serve you well. It includes a list of sites where you can easily locate names, pictures, stories of female role models to share with your students or colleagues. And best of all the list is about to expand exponentially!

March 24, 2009 has been designated as Ada LoveLace Day, an international day of blogging to draw attention to women excelling in technology. On that day, thousands of bloggers have pledged to publish a blog post about a women in tech who they admire using the tag AdaLovelaceDay09 for Delicious, Technorati etc. or #ALD09 for Twitter.

The data continues to show that the challenge of attracting women into technology related careers continues. While the causes are complex and the solutions are many, everyone agrees that female role models have a huge impact on the career choices of girls.

Bachelor of Computer Science Degrees (Men vs. Women)

Outstanding women can function as inspirational examples of success,
illustrating the kinds of achievements that are possible for women around them.
They demonstrate that it is possible to overcome traditional gender barriers,
indicating to other women that high levels of success are indeed attainable
(Penelope Lockwood, University of Toronto)

One of the most rewarding activities I organize to provide girls exposure to female role models year are the Power Lunch with Women in Tech offered at annual TechSavvyGirls activities. The female role models who attend continue to talk about the value they feel being able to offer advice and inspiration to girls in their formative years. Not only do the girls leave the luncheon with enough pictures, audio, and video to create a webpage about their new role model, but they often refer back to the advice and inspiration they received that day in 'college applications', 'scholarship applications' or in their own mentoring of younger students.

If you desire to organize an activity that will connect girls to role models face to face, organizations like the Society of Women Engineers , AAUW, or other networks of women are great resources for role models. The National Girls Collaborative can help you get started by providing resources, a program directory of organizations and projects and mini grants to support collaborative projects between organizations. The Anita Borg Foundation Tech Bridge Program has compiled a fantastic guide called Get Involved to help prospective role models inspire girls in technology filled with practical suggestions and strategies.

I challenge you to consider how you might use this week's Friday Five Resources to design a classroom activity that introduces female role models to your students (both girls and boys). The images and stories of women in tech are beneficial to all students, and to society as a whole. The next generation of innovators will come from the curiosity and spirit of innovation we inspire in today's students. Helping girls see their future as women in tech will give birth to a more diverse wave of infinite thinkers. What can we as educators do to help?

  • Perhaps you might display some of the photos on your school bulletin boards.
  • Perhaps you might assign reading or writing assignments from the collection of stories featuring women in tech
  • Perhaps you might brainstorm with your students ways to publish your own blog post for AdaLoveLace Day. If you don't have a place to post a blog, you can always post an entry in the comments of this section. Don't forget to tag it--AdaLovelaceDay09
  • Perhaps you might introduce a lesson on using Technorati or the way "tags" can work to assimilate collective knowledge using the power of tagging.

So I challenge you to use the comments sections to share your ideas of how to use AdaLoveLace Day or to add to the collection of post that will be published. Looking forward to having you join me in fulfilling my #4 on my New Years Resolution post.

Friday Five - Sites with Role Models of Women in Technology

    Probably the most impressive and global collection of role models were free albums from all 7 continents.

    The most influential women in technology according to Fast Comapny is broken up into the following categories
    Women in Tech: The Executives
    Women in Tech: The Entrepreneurs
    Women in Tech: The Gamers
    Women in Tech: The Evangelists
    Women in Tech: The Activists
    Women in Tech: The Bloggers
    Women in Tech: The Brainiacs

    Fast Company's 2008 picks as Most Influential Women in Web 2.0

    Although, this project appears to be a newcomer and has a smaller collection of role models in the technology area, it uses design elements with higher appeal to younger students.

    This collection of role models from the Sally Ride Science Web Site includes role models in several S.T.E.M. careers including
    -Contributions of 20th-Century Women to Physics Website:
    -Role Model Project for Girls sponsored by ACM's Committee on Women in Computing
    -The Archives of Women in Science and Engineering Iowa State UniversityWebsite:
    -Women of NASAWebsite: