Finding Ada

Posted by Stuart Herbert on March 24th, 2009 in Opinion, PHP In Business.

If you’re a regular reader of Planet PHP (and if you’re not, you should be), you’ll know by now that today (March 24th) is Ada Lovelace day. The idea is to throw a spotlight on female role models in tech, in order to encourage more women to get involved in technology work and roles in the future.

The need to do this was made very clear when I sat down to put this post together. I’m sad to say that I simply don’t work with any women in technology atm, and I’m struggling to think of any female programmers that I’ve worked with over the last 18 years. (I’ve sent Sara a patch or two for runkit, but I don’t think that counts as having worked with someone). I’ve worked with female product managers, project managers, and marketing consultants, but with only one notable exception I wouldn’t say they worked in technology, but around the male-dominated teams who did.

The research that has inspired Ada Lovelace day talks about women having a stronger need for suitable role models than men do. But the question that’s been praying on my mind today is this: what else do we need to do to make working in technology more appealing to women? Leaving aside the behavioural problems in male-dominated environments for a moment, are there changes to technical tools and practices we could make that would play more to the psychological strengths of women?


  1. Elizabeth M Smith says:
    March 24th, 2009 at 6:34 pm

    Unfortunately, most of the problems are from the male-dominated environments and behavioral issues, not in the technical tools or practices that are used. Women are a lot more apt to simply switch careers (or not choose a career) where they have to put up with – pardon the language – jackass guys ;)

  2. Juliette says:
    March 25th, 2009 at 9:26 am

    Agreed. It’s the colleagues behaviour that turns women away, constantly battling against it is tiring and depressing.

  3. Jennifer says:
    April 13th, 2009 at 6:06 pm

    I haven’t really had any problems with behavioral issues from male programmers, and I’ve had several jobs. Makes me wonder where these two ladies are working that they encounter so many “jackass guys,” and what constitutes jackassery… egotism? Sexual harassment? I’m curious because outside of college I’ve experienced nothing but professionalism. If anything I often feel extra-welcomed somehow.

    As for getting more women into technology fields, I don’t think you’re going to find some lure to bring them in. I think many women just aren’t interested in parking in front of a computer all day; they don’t get fulfillment from working with a pile of machinery. I doubt there’s some “female-friendly” IDE where you drag-and-drop kittens and rainbows instead of components and vectors that is going to magically make women interested in programming. If someone is not interested in a particular career, they’re just not interested.