People I follow on Twitter mentioned that today was Ada Lovelace Day, which led me over to www.findingada.com. Ada Lovelace was a remarkable 19th century woman, considered to be “the first computer programmer.” October 7th is dedicated to her and is a day to commemorate women in the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) fields. According to the website, the movement began after a psychologist found that women need to be inspired by female role models, so the movement is all about sharing stories of women in the STEM fields who have served as an inspiration and can encourage more women to join these traditionally male-dominated fields.
As a Biochemistry major who attended Wellesley College (a women’s college), I have been fortunate enough to have no dearth of female role models in the STEM fields. Some studies have suggested that women are more reserved and less engaged in co-ed science or math classes because their male colleagues dominate the class or are just more willing to speak up. Since I was in a sea of women in all my college science classes, I have no idea if I too would have been less engaged in a co-ed environment. What I do know is that I was surrounded by some incredible students and was taught by some brilliant women who never made me feel that a career in the STEM fields was out of my reach. My female professors were articulate, intelligent, and skilled at explaining a wide array of subjects, including calculus, organic chemistry, cell biology, physics, and physical chemistry. I never felt like they were floundering or less capable than their male peers, and I never knew there was this disconnect in the outside world where people actually thought women can’t be good scientists or engineers. So I would just like to thank my wonderful professors in Wellesley’s Math, Physics, Biology, and Chemistry departments, as well as the students and friends I made in these classes who helped me work through countless problem sets, puzzle through various laboratory experiments, write papers, get through my thesis, and never questioned my ability to pursue a career in the sciences.
If this is a cause you are interested in, definitely check out www.findingada.com. Write your own story and honor the female teachers, scientists, mathematicians, computer programmers, and engineers who are role models to women everywhere and remind us every day that there should be no such thing as a “male-dominated” field. And remember that encouraging women to enter these fields is something that should be championed all year round, not just on October 7th.