Ada Lovelace Day at Oxford

There is a piece in this week’s Times Higher about the challenges of engaging young women in computer science ‘How to switch on the IT girls‘, and another in the Guardian about the female IT brain drain.

The article suggests that:

“Women are consumers and users of technology, but they are not taking the opportunities to be involved in the development of new technologies or the profession. The problem appears to be…the lack of positive role models for girls as they make their career decisions and as women look to return to work…As a profession we also need to recognise the impact that unconscious bias has.”

Addressing the “image problem” surrounding computer science is crucial. In order to do this “we need more positive media coverage, which highlights the career opportunities available in technology and the positive aspects of working in this profession – the profession of the future”.

“lack of visibility of women in the workplace and the classroom – the lack of role models, champions and mentors – is perhaps one of the most cited barriers to getting more women in tech.”

This university includes in its strategic plan a committment to working towards an increasingly diverse staffing profile. It makes mention of Athena SWAN for academic departments and involvement of under represented staff groups at senior levels.

In this spirit I am very much looking forward to our activities to support Ada Lovelace Day 2013  (15th October),  an annual celebration focussing on the achievements of women in computing, science, technology, engineering and maths. The target audiences to engage are:  women who work in computing, libraries and IT support roles; and women who research, study or teach in the relevant academic disciplines.

The day is marked in a variety of ways around the world particularly by online communities and by women who work in computing, or use social media tools.  The focus of activities is in raising awareness of women’s contribution to science via social learning and engagement tools: social media, online events, twitter discussions, community blogging and writing. Last year tens of thousands of people mentioned #AdaLovelace day on Twitter.

My hope for this year is to run another edit-a-thon during the day (possibly to include geo-location tagging, mashware, places and museum objects ) but also to enhance the day with other events including  presentations by visiting speakers.  Please let me know if you would like to be involved.

What we did last year

For Ada Lovelace Day 2012 teams in Oxford University IT Services and the Bodleian Library joined with the Royal Society Librarians, and their resident Wikipedian to organise a day long Wikipedia edit-a-thon[1] designed to improve and increase the information included in Wikipedia about women scientists.

Despite the widespread popularity of Wikipedia, its coverage of women scientists is far from comprehensive. It is also true that Wikipedia is edited primarily by men[2]. The Ada Lovelace Day edit-a-thon was designed to redress this imbalance.

We will have an afternoon edit-a-thon bringing in new contributors from academia, and some existing volunteers. Female editors are particularly encouraged to attend. It’ll be hosted by the Royal Society, who have a very strong history-of-science and biographical library which they’ll be making available to us for the day. The Society’s library holds a rich collection of printed works about women in science, including biographies and works authored by scientists. At the event the Society’s librarians will explain more about the collections and provide guidance on finding sources.[3](Wikipedia)

The event was a great success, gained international media coverage[4] and greatly improved the quality of online information[5]. As well as the face-to-face gatherings in London and Oxford hundreds of online editors joined in at a distance.

[1] A wikipedia edit-a-thon is: a scheduled time where people edit Wikipedia together, whether offline, online, or a mix of both; typically focused on a specific topic, such as science or women’s history; a way to recruit new Wikipedians and teach them how to contribute.  Edit-a-thons improve the encyclopedia and can be a great way to help new Wikipedians learn to edit.
[2] ‘Surveys suggest that less than 15 percent of its hundreds of thousands of contributors are women.The Wikipedia Foundation has set a goal to raise the share of female contributors to 25 percent by 2015’.  ‘Where are the women in Wikipedia?’ New York Times 02/02/2011
[3]‘Wikipedia:WikiProject ‘Women’s History/Ada Lovelace Day 2012’
[4] ‘Wikipedia edit-a-thon brings women scientists out of the shadows’ The Guardian 19/ 10/2012

[5] ‘Edit-a-thon gets women scientists into Wikipedia’ Nature, 22/10/2012

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