Today is Ada Lovelace Day!

Ada Lovelace, the infamous Lord Byron’s daughter, wrote the first computer program ever, for Babbage’s difference engine.   Ok, so the difference engine couldn’t be built because of  limitations in manufacturing technology, however, both the engine and Miss Lovelace’s program have since been analyzed and declared functional.

Ada Lovelace
Ada Lovelace

Today we honor her by posting about women in technology (I’m stretching to include science as well).  Women have few enough role models in the sphere of science and technology, and I’d like to highlight a few and bring to everyone’s attention the need to address sexism in these areas.

First, my technology pick is Jade Raymond, the producer of Assassin’s Creed who has worked on many other games at Ubisoft.  She has made a place for herself in a largely hostile environment and thrived, in spite of multiple assheads claiming her success is due solely to her appearance.  I’ve blogged about her here before, and the bad behavior of fanboys towards her, blog posts #30 (linked with her name) and #29, I believe.

My current science pick is Sheril Kirshenbaum, who is now blogging for Discovery blogs.  The blog she writes with her blogging partner Chris Mooney, Intersection, has been a staple at Scienceblogs, but has recently been wooed away by Discovery.  I’ve not read many of their articles, but the few I have read have been interesting and insightful.  But what I want to bring your attention to here, is the response of male readers to Sheril’s picture.  PhysioProf covers this brilliantly

Seriously, guys, Sheril is not there to look good for you.  She is there to write insightful posts about the intersectionality of science and politics.  It doesn’t matter what she looks like.  And if the fact that she’s conventionally “hot” is what makes you read her stuff, you’re an idiot, regardless of what you learn from her. 

The fact is that for an awful lot of people a woman’s worth comes primarily in the form of her attractiveness to them, and this is broken.  When’s the last time you heard someone talk about how well Henry Kissinger was filling out those slacks before they listened to him speak?   Or heard someone complain that they couldn’t take Charles Darwin seriously because of the facial hair?  Or said Einstein couldn’t have been a decent scientist because he was slovenly and didn’t take care of his hair?  I could go on for days, here.  However, women who speak up on any subject are frequently derided and ignored either because they are too “fuckable” or considered unattractive.

The attractiveness thing is a double-edged sword.  For every person who only reads Ms. Kirshenbaum because she’s “hawt,” there will be dozens who won’t take her seriously for that same reason. 

So, today, remember that there are, have been and will continue to be women in the fields of science and technology who are there because they have busted their asses and put up with a lot of sexist crap to get where they are, regardless of hotness.   I raise a glass in their honor. 


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