Ada Lovelace Day
“I will publish a blog post on Tuesday 24th March about a woman in technology whom I admire but only if 1,000 other people will do the same.”
Now, I could have written about tons of women in tech that I admire: game designer Jane McGonigal, musician Laurie Anderson, cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova, physicist Cinzia Da Via (she designs and builds 3D silicon detectors for CERN for Christ’s sake!) or even Suw Charman herself.
There are loads of women out there doing interesting, excellent, remarkable things in science and technology… and, yes, they are often overlooked in favour of the achievements of men in a similar field.
The guide on the Ada Lovelace Day site says, “It’s up to you how you interpret the phrase “in technology”. We’re not just interested in hardcore ninja programmers, but any woman who creates, invents, or uses any technology in an innovative way. Feel free to interpret it as widely as you like.” Therefore, I want to write about the women who I believe are the REAL unsung heroes in technology: the women “behind” the successful men- their wives/partners. They, I believe, are the most overlooked women of all.
They are the ones who look after the home and the children when their partner is off ‘at work’ (the fact that these women may have careers and lives outside their marriage as well, doesn’t come into it)- doing the shopping, cleaning the house, doing the laundry, putting the kids to bed, dealing with the bills, going to all the parent-teacher conferences at school, making sure their partner has clean clothes for his next conference… Sometimes they, themselves, are the most remarkable, intelligent, amazing, successful person, but no one really bothers to find that out because, you know, their geek husband is “so much more interesting”. They sometimes find themselves ‘dropping’ their careers and lives in order to move halfway ’round the world when their partner gets offered a really amazing job in Silicon Valley. Sometimes they are the ones who ‘tag along’ to the conferences, not really knowing anyone, sometimes sitting in the background shyly. Some of these women are ‘only involved because of who their husband is’ – well, that’s what people think anyway… Sometimes these women are entirely invisible- we never see them, meet them or hear about them at all, for all intents and purposes some of these women don’t even ‘exist’. At best these women are overlooked, at worst these women can be hated.
Occasionally, the feeling about these women is that they have “cashed in” or “bagged” their partners, implying, of course, that they are only in it for the ‘notoriety’ or ‘money’. Not only does this degrade the women, but their partners as well. Are these men really so stupid and shallow that they could have the wool pulled over their eyes by a woman who only wants them cos they had an idea for a website 10 years ago which eventually became successful? Surely these intelligent men are better people than that?
Sometimes these couples form business or creative partnerships bringing together both of their strengths, creating something more powerful than either one could create individually… yet the woman’s contribution is minimised or ignored by everyone else.
Sometimes the men ask their partners to take over or run part of their business, the feeling from outside is often that ‘she’s just got that job cos she’s his wife’. Clearly, if he thought she was incapable in that role, he’d know his business would suffer…
Sometimes these women have their own separate success within the tech fields, but should their career ever cross paths with their partner’s – eg working for the same company – then again, according to some, ‘she’s only got that job cos she’s his wife’…
Sometimes these women give up their own careers in order to fully support their partners and look after their families at home. Often people (admittedly mainly women) think this is appalling, entirely ignoring the important and valuable job these women are doing at home instead.
These women may not be programmers or designers or scientists or mathematicians or entrepreneurs or consultants or developers. Instead they are a Muse, a Test Subject, a Critic, a Collaborator, a Guide, a Teacher, a Student, an Inspiration, a Motivator… a Partner. They are the reason why their men are able to succeed in changing our world.
Don’t forget them.