Ada Lovelace Day shines a light on inspirational women in STEM.
Founded in 2009 by UK social media pioneer Suw Charman-Anderson, October 10th marks Ada Lovelace Day – an international day of celebration that recognizes the achievements and raises the profile of women in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).
Due to concerns over “the invisibility of women in technology,” Charman-Anderson named this day in honour of a female 19th-century historical figure whose contributions to computer programming were, at one time, largely overlooked.
Who was Ada Lovelace?
Born in 1815, Lovelace enjoyed a unique upbringing, having been schooled in math and science unlike most young women during her time. Eventually, Lovelace would work closely with her friend and professor of mathematics Charles Babbage on a plan for his mechanical analytical engine – a machine that would input data using punched cards.
While the engine was never created, Lovelace developed what were essentially the first computer programs, allowing Babbage’s machine to make calculations. It wasn’t until 1953 when her notes were republished, however, that she received recognition for her work. Lovelace’s notes inspired Alan Turing’s work on the first modern computer in the 1940s. Hailed as the first computer programmer, the US Department of Defense decided to name a programming language created in 1980 after Ada Lovelace.
A modern role model in engineering
One young woman whose efforts are making such an impact is Mina Dezz, EIT, the founder of the popular IronRingGirls Instagram account. OSPE sat down with Mina to learn more about the community of over 19.9k followers that she’s created to support, inspire and encourage women in engineering.
- Why did you start IronRingGirls? Have the objectives changed over time?
I started IRG in October 2016 because I felt like I needed to connect with more like-minded women who were experiencing similar milestones and challenges as me. When I couldn’t find a community that I felt comfortable with, I decided to create my own. My goal has always been to ensure that young women have the right mindset when they enter engineering school or the workforce.
Since I’m in the engineering profession and can speak from my own experience, I figured I had something to offer. That being said, I find women in the police force, accounting and military often message me and say they can also relate to the content. Since I’ve started IronRingGirls, the message hasn’t changed, but the community has grown! I think more young women are starting to realize that they can achieve big goals if they focus and don’t let negative opinions interfere.
- Which meme or posts receive the most comments or likes?
Memes that have truth behind them are the ones that people can relate to and typically garner the most feedback. I find one of the best ways to talk about serious issues is often through humor. One time, I posted a meme about an email that said, “thank you gentlemen” and left out the “ladies.” Because the situation has happened to many of the girls, they had a good laugh about it started sharing their own experiences. It’s amazing how much we all connect through similar experiences.
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- How did you come up with the name IronRingGirls?
I wanted a name that had a story behind it. There’s a tradition in Canada where you receive an iron ring to wear on the pinky finger of your dominant hand once you obtain your undergraduate engineering degree. The ring reminds you of your professional and moral duty as an engineering graduate.
- What is the most frequently asked question you get from followers? What feedback do you receive from women and men in engineering?
I often get asked about how I motivate myself. Students ask this a lot because engineering isn’t easy an easy program, and it often requires a lot of adjustment, dedication and positivity to succeed. Young women who are early on in their careers or who are looking for a job usually ask me about my career and how they can find good opportunities.
And the feedback has been absolutely incredible! I don’t really get any negative comments. Everyone is supportive and gives great advice. No one judges anyone. I’ve never seen anything like it in the Instagram world.
- How can employers, post-secondary institutions and government better support and retain women in engineering?
Give them opportunities, confidence and access to resources. Women in STEM are just as capable as men and do all the same work as their male counterparts. But in any environment, when people don’t feel welcomed or supported, it makes it hard to reach their full potential. Once women see that they are treated equally and are given the same opportunities as men, they can carry on and do exactly what they are capable of. The more successes these women witness and experience, the more likely and willing they are to choose and remain in the profession.
- Why should engineering students, interns, or graduates follow IronRingGirls on Instagram?
To strengthen their mindset. Once you see other females succeeding, it’s a lot easier to start believing in yourself and to get answers to some of your biggest questions. My followers often say they get a boost of self-confidence and determination when they see my posts. They slowly get up and do the work even if they don’t feel like it, because they know they’re the only ones who can build their own future.
Want to learn more about Mina and IronRingGirls?
OSPE is thrilled to have Mina participate in our highly anticipated event, “Navigating the Glass Obstacle Course,” on October 28th at The Forth! Stay tuned for live social updates from the event.
Who is your #WomeninSTEM role model? Is there a particular woman in engineering that you’d like to honour today on Ada Lovelace Day?