While we do need to encourage more women into technology, the support and enthusiasm really is there at the heart of UK government to see that happen.
That was the optimistic message from the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) yesterday, which was simultaneously, of course, International Day of the Girl Child as well as the official date to remember that female pioneer of IT, Ada Lovelace, who is credited as having written what we would now call computer programs in the 19th Century (for Charles Babbage’s Difference Engine).
Writing on her experiences as a woman in IT today the Ministry’s Gemma Kirk put up an interesting blog on the Department’s site on the theme of ‘Ada and me: what we’ve got in common’. (Kirk now leads the DWP’s Central Statistics Team.)
For a start, she says Ada and her were both mathematicians – and also, perhaps more troublingly, on another front, too:
“[Ada] was a woman studying and working in STEM [but] it’s now more than 200 years after her birth and women working in digital roles are still in the minority,” Kirk points out.
“This is one of the reasons it’s so important to highlight inspirational women role models from across history – to ensure a gender balance moving forward we need to inspire a future generation of women,” she adds.
The good news, she also stresses, is how great her career is in central government IT, despite being one of the few women there: “My original placement gave me fantastic hands-on experience of coding and helped me to develop skills in communication and being part of a team. [Since then,] I’ve since had a number of roles working with data and statistics including working on customer insight, providing analytical support and working on national and official statistics data.”
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Kirk also says that DWP is a great place for women to work, as its diversity and inclusion policies are geared towards helping people get a great work-life balance.
“As a working mum I’ve benefited from a flexible working hours policy, allowing me to fit work around my home commitments. I’ve also been able to make use of the DWP’s childcare voucher scheme, which helped lower the cost of my daughter’s nursery fees,” she notes.
Summing up, for Kirk the value of looking back to Ada Lovelace is to “show girls that a career in digital and technology can be for them by providing role models like Ada that girls can relate to and see themselves in”.
DWP will now also run a short campaign about women in IT in government – track it using the hashtag #InspiredByAda on its @DWPDigital Twitter account.
“Join in the celebrations – follow us and find out how others have been inspired by Ada’s work,” she asks – which sounds like a great idea to us.
Think Digital Partners supports diversity and inclusivity in all parts of public sector IT.