Abbie Taylor, Business Systems Lead at Universal Wolf, reflects on International Women in Engineering Day 2020.
Did you know that the first computer programmer was active in the early 1800s?
Did you know they were a woman?
Augusta Ada Lovelace is widely recognised as the first computer programmer.
Encouraged by her mother to study mathematics and science – an extremely unusual stance in the 1800s – Ada was an incredibly intelligent and visionary woman. She met fellow mathematician, Charles Babbage, in 1833; and they struck up a friendship and working relationship which lasted many decades. It was Ada’s work alongside Babbage on his ‘Analytical Engine’ – a proposed mechanical computing device, designed to calculate large numbers – which is regarded as her greatest contribution to computer science.
In 1843, Babbage gave a seminar on his proposed machine at the University of Turin. It was transcribed into French by an attending professor, and Ada was commissioned to translate the text into English language.
Not only did she translate the 8000-word document, she also supplemented it with extensive notes on the machine’s functionality and potential, going far beyond the original content and unlocking insight which not even Babbage himself had conceived about the potential of the ‘Analytical Engine’. It was Ada who recognised that the machine’s functionality was not simply limited to mathematical calculations; but could be used to solve any complex problem. Although the importance of her work wasn’t acknowledged in her lifetime, these published notes are now widely accepted as containing the world’s first computer program.
Ada Lovelace is a brilliant example of the different perspectives and ways of working that women can bring to the world of Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths. As we reflect on a week of celebrations for International Women In Engineering Day here at Tharsus Group, let’s take a look at some of the statistics on women in the sector.
Just 12% of the sector is made up of female engineers – around 730,000 women. Girls and women make up less than 18% of higher apprentices in engineering and manufacturing, and 7.4% of all engineering apprentices. This is in spite of education statistics which continually show that girls are better at STEM subjects than boys.
According to Engineering UK’s 2018 State of Engineering report, the UK is seeing an annual shortfall of 59,000 graduate – that’s a significant deficit.
Engineering is a exciting career, with a wide variety of specialities and applications. Some of our own fantastic engineers across our Group took time to talk about why they love working in the sector, and why more people should consider it as a career. They are some truly inspiring interviews.
It’s our hope that by highlighting these opportunities, and through initiatives such as International Women in Engineering Day, we can encourage more women to enter the sector and make their mark on the world.