Happy Ada Lovelace Day

Wednesday was Ada Lovelace Day! (UPDATE: Apologies for the late post.)

In a nutshell, March 24 is set aside to promote the achievements of women in IT and software engineering.  And we can start by looking toward the achievements of Ada Lovelace.  Ada Lovelace-the daughter of the famous poet Lord Byron-was the first computer programmer and worked with Charles Babbage on the theoretical underpinnings of computing.  Without her contribution, modern computing probably won’t exist today.

Now I’m not into the whole feminist movement.  I don’t think the movement really represents what the majority women think or want. And the feminist equation of “woman == man” doesn’t make sense.  Neither does any equation that tries to equate one person with another.  All humans should have the right to own their own bodies and not being owned by others.  And I won’t get dragged into a libertarian versus non-libertarian political theoretical debate here.  However I was brought up thinking that women can think as well as men can.  Therefore women can do engineering, mathematics and computing as well as men can.  (<flamebait>Maybe even better.</flamebait>)  So I want to acknowledge in this post, women who I highly regard and who have achieved great things in IT.

@Home: Mom

OK so my mom doesn’t work in IT.  She in fact dislikes computing in general.  We still disagree over the fact that I chose software development as a career.  However I regard her highly and without her work I would of never been able to work as a software developer.  Mom not only brought me into existence, she also taught me.  She as someone with a Masters degree in Civil Engineering, she could of worked on engineering amazing structures. For various she gave that up, to teach and raise me and my brother.  When two public school boards gave up on me ever reading or writing, Mom taught me.  She taught me mathematics and gave me a solid base that carried me well into university level math.  And she always would point out how weird it was that Canada didn’t have as many female engineers as Poland did.  While there are many reasons why that was the case, it was Mom who taught me to believe that women can and should be engineers if that was their calling.  So while she doesn’t work in IT or software development, Mom brought up a pretty decent (IMO) software developer.

@Work: Jennifer Chung, Salina Behera , Safa Siddiqui & Monika Schigel

I am privileged to work with the above ladies at my current workplace, VisionMAX Solutions.  Jennifer and Safa works as developers.  Salina is one of our talented DBAs.  And Monika works in that dark, arcane magical realm known as data modelling.  Not only are they great people to interact with, they also possess a wide body of knowledge.  Jennifer is a whiz at Java and ExtJS, and I often find myself asking her for advice on how to solve various tricky problems.  Monika has a way to cheering people up and I’ve never seen her without a wide grin on her face.  Also she and Tom, our two intrepid data modeller have been initiating me into the dark art of data modelling and the business of retail and mobile telecos.

@University: Katarina Halan & Megan Foote

While studying Computer Science at the University of Toronto, I had the opportunity to study and work with these two incredibly talented ladies.  We helped each other out on assignments.  I can not stress how well they understood the various aspects of computer science.  Also they introduced me to some interesting parts of Japanese culture, namely anime and DDR.

In the Open Source Community

Finally, two ladies that inspire me to get more involved with the open source community as a whole are: Emma Jane Hogbin and Celeste Lyn Paul.  Emma works on creating and managing documentation at various open source projects.  Celeste is a HCI expert who helps make KDE applications have the best user experience of any desktop related project.   I’ve only had the opportunity to meet Emma in person at Ontario Linux Fest 2009.  But Emma, you sure inspired me to look at the various components of documentation.  And yes documentation can be sexy.  I don’t get the ponies though.  Celeste on the other hand inspires me to one day get back into university and work on getting a human-computer interface design.  Her work inspires me to improve the UIs and workflow of any piece of software I am involved with.

To all these ladies, I’d like to personally say thank you.  You made me a better software developer.  And you are an inspiration for all women in or thinking of working in IT and software development.  Thanks!

Echo: Good Little Girl Syndrome

In response to Marika’s post:

Hmm… ok my opinion might not be the most popular but since you asked.

Women are women. Men are men. They are built differently, so why shouldn’t they act, interact and work differently? I’m not endorsing sexist division of any form here. I firmly believe that every individual should be treated with respect and dignity. Note, EVERY individual, no exceptions, no compromises.

What many feminist ask women to do is to throw away their feminine attributes and embrace masculinity. Then what do you have, a man living inside a women’s body? If that sounds wrong, then it should. Cause it is. There is nothing wrong with the feminine/motherly attributes of caring and nurturing. Men really suck at this. We are better aggressive pursuits, endurance, etc.  And that is good too. As a race, we need a balance of attributes to make sure we survive in the face of changing conditions.

As for your question for women in business… If you ever read Guy Kawasaki’s The Art of the Start, he devotes a note specialled aimed at men wanted to start their own business. He writes, that if you are a guy and you come up with a business plan you should discuss with a women. You see society in general frowns on men’s urge to kill stuff. Except in terms of business. Tell a guy, this new business will kill Google or Ford or Motorola or <insert name of successful business here>, and he’ll say it is a good idea. But that is not the point of business. The point of business is to provide a product or service that someone values enough to they want to give up a portion of their earnings to get said product or service. So bringing your idea to a woman will get that insight, whether your idea is a sane business plan.

A woman’s contributions thanks to her feminine attributes doesn’t end there. Want someone to manage the day to day and juggle tasks effectively? Sorry, but not a gent’s strong point. Want someone to nurture good relationships with a client as a person and not as the next “kill”? Thats right, ladies you are better at that. Want someone to point out that your product is going to be used by a person? You get the idea. Women do bring a lot to the table in business. An enlightened businessman (whether the person is a man or a woman is irrevlant, I just hate using politically correct wording) will recognize this, and engage with working with men and women according to their individual skills, talents and attributes.

Now I understand the concern, that higher up men usually dominate. But it is also a very competitive and aggressive environment up there in the CXO world. Most women would not want to engage in overtly aggressive activities. But CXOs have to get out there and compete hard with others. Those are simply the attributes of the job. And hence the illusion of a glass ceiling for women in business forms in people’s heads. The uncomfortable truth is that most guys don’t mind if a women does work in CXO positions. In fact, they look up to those ladies who can tolerate the aggressive driving nature of upper level business. The other uncomfortable truth is most women dislike or operate worse in these kinds of environments.  Not to say that no woman should be a CXO. Some thrive in this environment and good for them! Every individual needs to be considered on a case-by-case basis. But in general, there are fewer women in CXO positions. Also there are many stories about women getting to the upper levels, and then realizing that kind of work didn’t suit them.

So it is not that women can not be successful in business. It is justsuccess must be measured not only in terms of salary and paid benefits. Success comes when a person feels like they are fulfilled in life. When a person feels whole and everything is in balance, that is success. Repressing your nature just for a higher position is not a sign of success. It is a rather an admission of failure to accepting oneself. That is why I think that your coworker’s thoughts are downright derogatory and demeaning. It does the opposite of its intent. It looks down at feminine nature as weaker than masculine. And is a blantant lie. Feminine nature is different than masculine nature. Different not worse or better.