Ada Lovelace Day – SETsquared ventures inspire entrepreneurs and #WomeninSTEM of the future
Tuesday the 9th of October 2018 was Ada Lovelace Day, annually celebrated worldwide to honour the first person ever to write a line of code. Ada Lovelace was a 19th Century mathematician, best known for her work with Charles Babbage to develop the ‘Analytical Engine’ computer, and cited as publishing the first ever algorithm and recognising that machines have applications beyond pure calculation. She also happened to be a woman.
To celebrate this international day of the achievements of women in STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths), the Bristol SETsquared incubator collaborated with Engine Shed to host a panel discussion featuring influential female tech entrepreneurs to discuss their careers in STEM, ranging from software engineering to entrepreneurialism.
SETsquared members, Laura Lafave, CTO and founder of OnCorps and Zara Nanu, CEO and founder of Gapsquare joined the panel, alongside Diane Douglas, CEO and founder of Vigiles Group, with Marina Traversari, UK Programme Lead for Oracle’s Global Start-Up Ecosystem chairing the discussion. These inspirational women gave the audience an insight into their different journeys to become leaders in STEM, and the obstacles they overcame to get there.
Laura LaFave thought she wasn’t good at maths at school, but during university she learned there was more to maths than just arithmetic and rote learning, such as real analysis, logic, and the philosophy of mathematics – and she was good at it. Laura’s varied career has led her to become CTO at OnCorps, a scaling business enabling people to make better decisions powered by machine learning and behavioural science algorithms.
“My advice to women would be not to overlook this sector because there is great flexibility and creativity in a tech career. With a background in tech, there are so many directions you can take your career, and not all of them are writing code. And even though it is called “computer science”, it’s as much art as science. The diversity of thought that comes from an individual with an understanding of STEAM (STEM including art) is immensely important when becoming an entrepreneur”.
There’s no right way to enter a career in STEM. Many of our speakers had unconventional routes eventually leading them to found tech companies, as well as their ‘can do’ attitudes, being spurred on by rejection, and not taking no for an answer were common traits of the inspiring panel and chair.
Zara Nanu has a background in education and politics, with a focus on human rights, specifically economic rights for women. She knew that technology was being used to disrupt the way we travel or win political influence, so she felt there must be a way of using technology to tackle social justice. Zara said “most artificial intelligence is built by men, so gender bias is already present within the development – something had to be done about this”. From there, she we went on to develop and create Gapsquare’s software, which helps companies analyse and understand the data surrounding the gender pay gap and diversity issues.
SETsquared Bristol Centre Director, Monika Radclyffe introduced the Ada Lovelace event alongside Engine Shed’s Operations Director, Karen Drake.
“SETsquared is committed to working towards creating a more inclusive and diverse space for entrepreneurs. This event was a great opportunity to bring some of the regions most inspiring women in STEM together – the Ada Lovelaces of today – to help empower future generations of girls and women. Bristol has a booming tech industry with over 24K jobs, but only 19% of these are taken by women – this needs to change.”
The event concluded with a great question from the audience: “what do you think Ada Lovelace would have to say to the young women and girls in the room? Answer – teach maths differently and look at the history and art within it”.
You can watch a summary of the event in this TechSpark video: