Why I’m taking the Ada Lovelace challenge

Costigan Quist says he’s not taking the Ada Lovelace challenge. But I think he’s missed the point, and in my own rambling fashion, I’ll shortly explain why.

Before I do though, what is the challenge? Suw Charman-Anderson set up a pledge on PledgeBank, saying “I will publish a blog post on Tuesday 24th March about a woman in technology whom I admire but only if 1,000 other people will do the same.” Within a week, 1,000 other people signed up, and I can’t wait for 24th March, to read about all those amazing women! The pledge is still open to sign up, and there’s more about the background on the Finding Ada blog, if you’re interested.

Costigan says he’s not in, because the women he knows in technology are just as anonymous as the men. He says ‘all I can do is to say of someone “she’s achieved the same as a man, but she’s only a girlie – well done you!”‘. Which, to give him his due, he recognises as rather patronising :) I think he’s missed the point big-time though.

“Blog about a woman you admire” doesn’t mean “blog about someone you think should be famous”. There’s nothing wrong with being an unsung hero – or heroine! But women have a greater need for female role-models than men have for male role-models. And Ada Lovelace Day is about showing women that there are role-models out there. A role-model doesn’t have to be someone famous, or even necessarily the top of their field. A role-model is just someone who occupies a role to which you aspire. It’s someone who does something that you would like to be doing, or gotten somewhere that you would like to go…

Ada Lovelace Day isn’t about saying “she’s achieved the same as a man, but she’s only a girlie – well done you!”. I don’t even think it’s about giving the women we blog about their 15 minutes of fame. It’s about showing the women who need female role-models that those role-models exist. It’s about showing the men who need a role model – male or female! – that there are role-models out there for whatever it is you want to do, or be, or have. Maybe they are famous. Maybe they’re completely anonymous. Maybe they don’t even know that they are a role-model to someone. But they’re there.

Maybe what they’ve done is stupendous. Maybe it’s fairly ordinary. A recent example I came across was someone desperately wanting to know if there were any women who’d gotten promoted to a particular level while they had a young child, because the person asking could only find male examples of people who’d gotten promoted to that level while they had a young child. And there were women who could say “yes, I have”. And that made a difference. They were doing the same things as the men around them. They got their fair due. But this isn’t for those women. It’s for the people who are asking. Who want to know if it’s even possible. Who just need, on whatever level, to know that there are women out there who’ve done it.

And Costigan, even if it’s only namechecks, knowing that there are role-models out there makes a difference, to many, many people.

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