Ada Lovelace Day

Well, I wasn’t really sure who I should blog about for Ada Lovelace day… and actually I was kind of stumped because ‘technology’ always sounds to me like such a corporate thing and whilst I admire women who get in there and do things (a la Marissa Mayer in Google) I always feel my usual distrust of things material and corporate. Then it hit me, technology also covers research and scientists and researchers I can always get behind.

So this blog is about Athene Donald and mostly because she’s a scientist and only slightly because I heard her on Desert Island Discs and enjoyed much of her choice in music as well as being amused by some of her anecdotes.

The thing is she’s a physicist and so I can’t help but admire her, an appreciation and curiousity about the world around us should be what motivates scientists in my book and what should push technological advances. There can be no gender biases when it comes to living within the world. The world is here for both men and women and it is unfolding in constant wondrousness around us. She’s got a name for having an inter-disciplinary approach to her science which seems to be fashionable at the moment and i’ve heard sociologists claim that it’s become fashionable because having more women leading in fields like science and technology allows for more connected thinking…I don’t know, I think I’ll leave that one well alone. It spills too much into the notion women think one way and men another – which I don’t deny we have genetic pre-dispositions to but the way people talk about multi-tasking or map-reading sometimes leads me to suspect that people have forgotten that it’s an analogue scale not a digital statement.

I will be happier though, when it is not just women who regularly talk about how to balance family and work when they’re interviewed. Men just don’t seem to talk about the work-family balance as often and they really should. I was amused by Athene Donald saying she doesn’t do dainty dinner parties and blaming it on her having kids…I don’t do dainty dinner parties either and thats just plain because I’m not dainty. (I may be beginning to be converted to the milk jug).

Back to her in any case, I can well understand being the sort of child who wanted to take radios apart (though I could never put them back together again) and also never really being bothered by the fact that she was the only woman in the room when she got to a high enough level. This sentence alone again leaves me a little cold, a little concerned… why do people need role-models? Why do women need to see other women out there doing things to believe that they can…Ada Lovelace Day is a good idea but… there needs to be a generation of children brought up in confidence of their own abilities without looking to others… this is pure Mish escaping I think.

I like too that her physics is the practical sort (though to be truly admired by me the more theoretical the better), the sort that can be applied…that they’re even saying (because it’s about how particles interact and connect) could lend an understanding of Alzheimers. I was intrigued and almost saddened by her telling Harriet Swain that she anthropomorphises particles as she thinks of them…I was more saddened when I realised that if she’d been a man saying that I’d have found it sweet… A woman in technology must be uber-rational it would seem because that’s the historical argument against them being there in the first place…that they aren’t at all rational. No middle of the road thinking for my feminism then.

She’s the sort of woman I admire in that she does her own thing and she goes for it without worrying too much about her gender but being aware of it. Her research is actually doing visible things and hell…she’s a PHYSICIST. A very, very cool lady and another reason for me to regret going down the arts route.

[Addendum: In reading up about Athene Donald I was slightly disturbed to find out about the L’Oreal Award for Women In Science… yes on one level it’s great, on another it’s proof we’re still not in that gender-free society and on another it sends all my corporate dodginess senses a-tingling.]

Well, that’s me done for Ada Lovelace Day.

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