Ada Lovelace Day

For some reason this year I feel like doing a post on this day. I’m generally a critic of the language and philosophy of geek feminism. Most Ada Lovelace posts strike me as patronizing and play in to tokenism, even though I’m quite sure the authors don’t intend that in any way.

So why am I contributing to Ada Lovelace Day? Because I woke up this morning, read the blogosphere and three thoughts came to mind:

  1. I can still count the number of women in FLOSS that I’ve personally met or worked with on one hand.
  2. Whether it be my math-phobe wife or math-loving labmate now doing her postdoctoral research at Wayne State University,  every woman I’ve talked to about gender issues in science and math has had a negative math/science experience. They all felt at some point (usually in elementary school) that they were either being discouraged from math/science or treated differently because they were doing math/science.
  3. A common thread I’ve encountered in talking to women about their struggles and experiences in math/science/technology is that relationships are key. Negative relationships during the learning experience seem to have a great impact.

So what conclusions did I draw? How can we make math, science, and technology fields a welcoming place for women? As Lydia just pointed out, role models are key.  Safe places and support community are key. But also very important is that we remember that the learning experience (attitude, tone, etc.) can be just as important as the material being taught.

Lastly, I know I rarely see rude/sexist/derogatory speech in official Ubuntu channels I hang out in, but I know the crap women in FLOSS have to put up with on a daily basis on IRC is incredible. If you see people being rude or harassing people online, don’t let it go, confront it! Chances are, 99% of the channel will be (perhaps silently) thanking you.