There is nothing wrong with lionising Ada Lovelace, but as we near International Women’s Day for 2021, let’s not forget that there are plenty more inspirational women to discuss in a computing context. Brian Runciman MBCS reports.

Over the last few months BCS has interviewed a lot of tech women for the Gem of all Mechanisms podcast. The title of the BCS podcast itself is a reference to Ada Lovelace, based on a remark attributed to her on seeing Babbage’s Difference Engine No. 1 - essentially a mechanical precursor of all computers - first created in 1821.

The podcast interview series aims to get views from people in the know from many different disciplines, to discuss the complexities of 21st century tech and how it affects us all. And there are plenty of women in this category.

Here’s a quick overview of recent guests...

  • Dame Steve Shirley CH, who has been a champion of women in IT for longer than anyone else on this list, spoke about her coming to the UK in the kinder transport in 1939, through her experiences as a female software entrepreneur and her campaigns for autism.
  • Dr Dorothy Monekosso, the UK’s first and only (to date) black (Afro-Caribbean) female professor of computer science discussed her work on smart homes and her lifelong passion for engineering.  
  • Rebecca George OBE, President of BCS in 2020, talked about ethics in AI and the diversity agenda. 
  • Reema Patel, whose area of expertise is stewardship of health data, discussed what should happen with our genomic and biometric data – and where does diversity agenda and facial recognition come into the conversation?
  • Sue Black OBE, founder of the BCSWomen Group and a campaigner for Bletchley Park, told us a fascinating social mobility story.
  • Amanda Brock, CEO of OpenUK, discussed open source and whether business understands its value; her work with pop star Imogen Heap and the three opens: software, hardware and data.
  • Suzanne Doyle-Morris, author of The Con Job, spoke persuasively about the value of competence versus confidence – and that impostor syndrome can be viewed as a superpower.
  • Cecilia Harvey, CEO of Hyve Dynamics talked about leadership and responsibility in technology.
  • Catherine Miller talked to BCS about her view that we shouldn’t focus on tech having gender or ethics problem, but rather on smart, thoughtful, caring people building tech.

Outside of the podcast, we interviewed Chen Mao-Davies in 2018 about a fascinating project she was developing that falls squarely in the ‘good for society’ bucket. 

Chen gave us a series of great tips for start-ups and in the next few weeks we will be updating her story - which has moved in in a great direction, so look out for that!

There is no problem in finding computing and IT roles models amongst women - and we don’t need to go back to the nineteenth century to do so.

Listen to the Gem of all Mechanisms on Apple, Acast or via Spotify.