October 13, 2020 is Ada Lovelace Day, in honour of the English mathematician and writer who is often referred to as the first computer programmer. Designed to celebrate women, advocates, and educators in science and technology, Ada Lovelace Day seeks to combat the invisibility that often plagues women in STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art/design, and mathematics). A lack of female role models has historically been a problem for young girls, despite the considerable contributions of women to the rapid technological advancement we have seen in past centuries. Fortunately, things are beginning to change; this year, one of the Nobel Prizes in Physics was awarded to a woman scientist, and, for the first time ever, the Nobel Prize in Chemistry was awarded to two women scientists.
“Without role models, young girls may struggle to see themselves in careers in STEAM. Some studies have found that women who stop pursuing education in STEAM fields do it because they do not self-identify as scientists and they feel isolated or out of place in STEAM classes.”
Without role models, young girls may struggle to see themselves in careers in STEAM. Some studies have found that women who stop pursuing education in STEAM fields do it because they do not self-identify as scientists and they feel isolated or out of place in STEAM classes.¹ Initiatives designed to counteract this effect often aim to provide female role models that enable girls to envision themselves in STEAM careers.
One such initiative is Science World’s “Girls and STEAM” event, which 1QBit supports as a program partner. In addition to workshops and speakers, mentorship breakout sessions will connect women leaders in science, technology, engineering, art/design, and mathematics with small groups of girls aged 11–13. 1QBit computational physicist, Dr. Elisabetta Valiante, will be one of the mentors sharing her experiences.
Elisabetta credits her primary school teacher with inspiring her to pursue a career in science and technology. “She taught me that there was a time when women were considered less than men: they were not allowed to study, sometimes they weren’t allowed to work or to have certain jobs, and they were not allowed to vote, but that time is gone and women have more opportunities. I liked science, so I studied science. That was all the encouragement I needed.”
Elisabetta believes in the importance of mentoring girls, not only to inspire them to pursue their passions, but also to remind herself to be the best she can be. She hopes to teach these girls that any career choice should be made in accordance with their dreams, their passions, and even their practical needs, but certainly not in accordance with their gender. Above all, when it comes to STEAM, she wants these girls to know that “what seems impossible today could be reality tomorrow.”
The Science World Girls and STEAM event takes place on November 7, 2020. Girls aged 11–13 who are interested in science, technology, engineering, art/design, or mathematics are invited to register here.
¹ See Seymour and Hewitt (1997); Blickenstaff (2005); Dasgupta and Stout (2014); Shapiro and Sax (2011).