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Women in science
Today, October 16, is Ada Lovelace Day. Now, you might be wondering who Ada Lovelace is and how she managed to get a whole day in her honour. The short answer is Lovelace was an English mathematician and writer (1815-1852) widely considered to be the first computer programmer, thanks to her ground-breaking work on Charles Babbage’s analytical engine in the late 1800s. More than that, Lovelace is also a foremother to women who work in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, collectively known as STEM.
STEM is a globally male-dominated field where women continue to be paid less for the same work and hold few senior positions, says Ada Lovelace Day (ALD) founder and social software consultant Suw Charman-Anderson. Although ALD has garnered global support since its founding in 2009, Charman-Anderson says it’s still too early to gauge the impact. “There are certainly a lot of people who support the day and feel that it’s incredibly important to highlight the achievements of women in STEM,” London-based Charman-Anderson said via email. “What we’re essentially trying to do is change the perception of women’s abilities and contributions to these very male-dominated areas, and that’s something which is going to take years. Cultural change is slow and difficult, but I believe by creating new role models we will help girls feel more able to choose to study the STEM disciplines.”
The ALD site, Findingada.com, shows 2012 events taking place in the UK, Brazil, Canada, USA and even Italy, Sweden and Slovenia. So what’s the T&T connection? While no official events are listed for T&T on the site, there are women who celebrate the day locally. T&T has also produced some world-renowned women in STEM, including aerospace engineer Camille Waldrop Alleyne. In the National Institute of Higher Education, Research Science and Technology (Niherst) 2011 publication Caribbean Women in Science and their Careers, 21 of the 41 women featured are from T&T. Niherst registrar and co-editor of Caribbean Women Jocelyn Lee Young says the publication fills a much needed space and is one of few to focus specifically on Caribbean women working in STEM. “We noticed while doing research that we came upon a lot of men but we knew there were women working in these fields and we decided there was a need to highlight our women,” she said.
Niherst’s president, Maureen Manchouk, has worked in STEM for the past 30 years at the forefront of various science and technology research projects locally and internationally. Manchouk is also responsible for the National Science Centre— the only permanent science exhibit and science resource centre in the English-speaking Caribbean. Lee Young added that the book was by no means exhaustive. Chemical engineer Jacqueline Morris is an avid ALD supporter. She told the T&T Guardian in a telephone interview that her celebration of ALD is usually done online by participating in discussions groups and posting about little-known women on social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter.
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