In 2013 I reviewed A Female Genius, the biography of Ada Lovelace, who played a key role in the development of computing. Today is Ada Lovelace day 2015. Two years on and there are three women leading the CIO 100 and an increasing number of women in the CIO role, but despite the welcome increase, more must be done to increase the diversity in IT leadership and teams.
In recent months Martha Lane-Fox has said there is an unconscious bias that prevents women from entering or succeeding in technology roles. Naomi Climer, the new president of the Institute of Engineering and Technology has called for quotas in business.
At CIO UK we have charted CIOs who are female at the helm of some of the most interesting transformation projects within our shores. Anna Barsby at Halfords, Christina Scott at the Financial Times, Sarah Flannigan at the National Trust and Sarah Wilkinson at the Home Office are all at and leading organisation undergoing some of the most significant change they have ever witnessed. They are also joined by CIOs leading change at Unilever, major NHS trusts, Thomson Reuters, the Royal Mail, Shell and local authorities.
Barsby, Scott and Flannigan are all in the top 10 of the current CIO 100, not because they are women; because they are transformative CIOs, who happen to be women. Read about these organisations and their recent stories and you'll see why they have the transformational CIOs they do.
The foundations of the technology world owe a debt of thanks to women and Ada Lovelace in particular. In A Female Genius, How Ada Lovelace, Lord Byron's daughter started the computer age, author James Essinger describes a character and story that the UK and technologists should be proud of, but it's also a story we should do more to live up to.
Lovelace was a close friend and collaborator of Charles Babbage, as well as being daughter to poet Lord Byron and friend to Charles Dickens. Babbage has gone down in history, rightly, as a great thinker and founding father of computing, but perhaps his lacking in direction was due to his wealthy up-bringing. Lovelace however is a woman ahead of her times and relishes the use of her considerable intellect to push forward Babbage's computing ideas. Lovelace had the makings of a great CIO and as Essinger quotes her saying:
"There is plenty of time, and if you lay a good and solid foundation, the superstructure will be easy, and delightful to build."
Essinger doesn't down play Babbage's role in the early years of IT. The author rightfully asks the question all the way through the title, if Babbage had been more accepting of the contributions that Lovelace could have made would he have advanced further? Babbage saw how Jacquard's punch card weaving loom invention could be used in information management.
But Babbage's brilliance in thought was failed by his poor communication skills and an inability to deliver, perhaps setting in train years of accusations of non-alignment between organisations and IT. If Lovelace and others had been given greater opportunities perhaps this issue would have been eradicated with the corset.
Essinger's titles are always well researched and he brings to life the history of the inventions that make up every day. This is still an engaging read into the struggles women have and do face in IT.
Ada Lovelace's story is poignant reminder of the need to increase the diversity in technology teams. I recommend everyone interested in business technology to read Essinger’s biography and to use today, Ada Lovelace Day - to do something to change the bias of your teams.