Sticky floors, glass ceilings and Vote100

As you may be aware, 2018 marks 100 years since women in the UK were first given the vote (though not all of them, only women over the age of 30 – it would take another ten years until this was extended to all women over 21). This is being celebrated via the #Vote100 campaign.

The final rush to finish everything before the holidays is now in full swing, but if you can free up some time then there are two really interesting events coming up before the party season gets underway.  An event being held as part of a St Andrew’s Day at the University of Edinburgh this week is inviting anyone to go along and join a Wikipedia editathon to help record the achievements of the Scottish suffragettes. Another event run by Equate next week will focus on sticky floors and glass ceilings and how to manage them. Details of both events are below.

If you can’t escape the lab/ office/ field/ site/ library to attend an event then you may wish to follow the #Vote100 hashtag on Twitter instead.

Scotland’s suffragettes: a St. Andrew’s Day Wikipedia editathon for Vote100

When: 30th November, 1.30pm – 5.30pm

Organised by: Digital Scholarship Centre

Where: University of Edinburgh Main Library, 30 George Sq, Edinburgh

Registration

This event is part the 2018 celebration of one hundred years since the Representation of the People Act (1918) when women were finally given the right to vote. It is an opportunity to see archival material about Scotland’s suffragettes and a chance to learn about & celebrate the role these notable women have played in the campaign for Votes for Women through researching, writing & illustrating Wikipedia articles & timelines (full training is provided).

 

Sticky Floors and Glass Ceilings

Organised by: Equate

When: 4th December, 10am – 4pm

Where: Edinburgh Napier University, Craiglockhart Campus

Registration

There is a considerable body of evidence which shows that women can encounter structural barriers to their progression in the SET professions – the glass (or sometimes concrete) ceiling. This workshop will address these issues, help you to examine your abilities and leadership potential and consider your priorities. Open to all women in working in STEM and construction.

 

 

Inspirational, strong, badass women

Women in STEM have been trailblazing for centuries and their achievements include writing the first computer program (Ada Lovelace), discovering the structure of penicillin (Dorothy Hodgkin) and discovering pulsars (Jocelyn Bell Burnell).

Therefore, on #AdaLovelaceDay we thought we would share this brilliant video by Ingenious Woman and postdoctoral researcher Alejandra Aranceta (@aranceta) highlighting the amazing scientific breakthroughs of some of those badass women in STEM who experimented, discovered and developed before us. The video is based on the Beyond Curie project, a design project that focuses on women in STEM, by Amanda Phingbodhipakkiya.

 

The Enchantress of Numbers

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“A new, a vast and powerful language is developed for the future use of analysis.”

A.A.L., 1843

The history of modern computing is filled with stories and Hollywood films about geniuses such as Alan Turing and enterprising pairs like the two Steves of Apple, but a century before any of these famous inventors were born, Ada Lovelace was burning the midnight oil to write the first ever computer program.

In a time when women were rarely given opportunities for a scientific education, Ada had the advantage of being born into an upper class family and her mother arranged for first class education for her daughter. Demonstrating a strong aptitude for mathematics early on, Ada subsequently developed an interest in machines, designing a steam powered flying machine at the age of twelve, 15 years before a similar design was patented by two engineers many years her senior. This interest in machines and mathematics was encouraged by her mother, who was also concerned that Ada might develop the madness exhibited by her father, Lord Byron, if she did not have an appropriate outlet or distraction. Byron left his family when Ada was one month old and died when she was eight; despite having an interest in her father’s poetry and life, Ada never saw him after he left.

Ada’s health was often poor, but she continued to explore mathematics and machines and was encouraged by her tutors, even if they worried sometimes that she studied too hard or thought certain mathematical problems might be beyond her;

“The very great tension of mind which they [maths problems] require is beyond the strength of a woman’s physical power of application.” – Augustus De Morgan (one of Ada’s tutors)

Ada proved him wrong.

Ada met Charles Babbage, an early pioneer of computing, in 1833, when she was 17 years old. They were introduced by the Scottish astronomer and mathematician Mary Somerville, Ada’s tutor and friend. Ada was fascinated by Babbage’s machines and worked with him on the “analytical engine”, a design for the first general purpose computer. The two became friends and Ada continued to work with Babbage on the engine. In 1842, she translated notes on one of Babbage’s lectures that were written by the Italian engineer Luigi Menabrea, expanding and correcting the document as she translated. Her additional notes on the lecture were three times longer than Menabrea’s original and in them Ada penned several computer programmes; the notes were published in Scientific Memoirs under her initials AAL in 1843 and are thought to be the first ever computer programs to be published.

Although the analytical engine was never built due to a lack of funding, the designs and work that Lovelace and Babbage pioneered influenced scientists and engineers of the 20th Century including Alan Turing, who used Lovelace’s notes when he was working at Bletchley Park in World War II. The US Department of Defense named the computer language, Ada, after Lovelace in 1980.

Ada Lovelace’s life was tragically cut short at the age of 36 when she died of cancer, but her legacy and place in history as the first programmer is now celebrated on Ada Lovelace day, an international event that celebrates the achievements of women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. This year, Ada Lovelace Day (#ALD2018) will be on 9th October and a range of events will be held all over the world. At the University of Edinburgh there will be short talks, an edit-a-thon, a data hackathon, an introduction to supercomputing and Women in STEM inspired cake decorating. If you would like to attend then there are further details here.

 

Further reading

Charman-Anderson, S (2015) A Passion For Science: Tales of Discovery and Invention. FindingAda, 2nd edition. Amazon

Fuegi, J, Francis, J, “Lovelace & Babbage and the creation of the 1843 ‘notes’”, Annals of the History of Computing, IEEE, vol.25, no.4, pp.16-26, Oct.-Dec. 2003. Link

X-Factors, leaders & being high-potential

While listening to the radio in the car this morning , I heard that The X-Factor would be returning to our screens this weekend, marking the start of autumnal TV. I haven’t watched it since it first started, so most memories I associate with the series are fragmented, including Simon Cowell rolling his eyes frequently and performers such as Darius (or was he on Pop Idol?) crooning into the microphone, remember him?

 The reason I it stuck in my mind today is that I went to an event last week entitled “Have you got the Leadership X-Factor?” The event was presented by Gail Logan of Kore Transformation and organised by Sharon Moore MBE through the BCS Women Scotland and RBS Women networks and it was held at RBS Gogarburn just outside Edinburgh. The audience included women from large organisations such as universities, the NHS and banks, coders, team leaders and entrepreneurs.

The title was inspired by a book called The High Potential’s Advantage  by Jay A. Conger and Allan H. Church that focusses on how to be seen as a high potential leader in your organisation. As Gail highlighted during the session, most large companies have a talent list comprised of promising individuals that the company aims to develop and promote within their ranks. The list, and how to get your name on it, is usually a well kept secret: what are the criteria they are looking for in a future leader? What do they expect from people on the list already? This is where the X-factors come in.

Initial discussion in the room about the elements of inspiring leadership centered around authenticity, being visible and having a positive impact on those people around you. The session expanded to describe the five X-factors that differentiate those who make it on to the talent list:

  1. Situation sensing
  • You figure out what your boss needs from you and deliver it;
  • You understand how your boss operates so that you can be complementary and easy to manage;
  • You seek new opportunities and problems to solve, even if they are outwith the scope of your role.
  1. Talent accelerating
  • You motivate the people that work with you and manage them well, optimising your team’s performance;
  • You spot talented people and help them to develop, giving them relevant opportunities.
  1. Career piloting
  • You accept tasks that stretch you, give you broader experience and expand your skillset;
  • You are comfortable with ambiguity and ask for help to perform;
  • In pressured situations, you remain calm and help others to focus.
  1. Complexity translating
  • You are aware of how to communicate with everyone effectively at all levels of the organisation and others engage with you, no matter how complex or technical the subject matter.
  1. Catalytic learning (underpins 1 – 4)
  •  You regularly reflect on your career and how you can improve and develop.
  • You look to the future, are a lifelong learner and have a personal action plan based on your past experience.

 

Though these will not all necessarily apply to academic roles or entrepreneurs (who might be the creators of their own talent lists) as the book targets a more corporate setting, I found them interesting to reflect on and discuss with the other participants. In particular, complexity translating: entrepreneurs are frequently asked to communicate with customers or pitch to investors and this often requires putting together a more succinct, clear and easily understandable message; academics regularly do the same, explaining their research to a variety of audiences including undergraduates, policymakers, the public and interdisciplinary colleagues with the aim of educating, inspiring and collaborating.

With regard to X-factor 5, lifelong learning and personal action planning, this is something I’ve been thinking about more this year. Being self-employed, I find that I need to take more time to plan my own learning and development, as opportunities to do so are not necessarily as accessible as they were before. Attending events such as this is always helpful and makes me realise I should be doing this more regularly, not just for the subject but also because of the people you meet and the insightful discussions you have there.

Hopefully this short post has encouraged to think about your own X-factors. Alternatively, if it’s Darius that has stuck in your mind as you were reading, I believe you can find him performing in musicals these days…