Sussex academics encourage more women into STEM careers

Event organisers Ioann Maria (left) and Dr Sharon Webb (right) celebrating Ada Lovelace Day
Event organisers Ioann Maria (left) and Dr Sharon Webb (right) celebrating Ada Lovelace Day

Academics celebrating Ada Lovelace Day have called for more open discussions regarding the lack of women in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM).

The Beyond Numbers event, held at the University of Sussex, saw a number of female speakers from STEM fields take to the stage to champion the achievements of women working in technological and creative industries.

Digital humanities lecturer Dr Sharon Webb, who helped organise the event, said: “The whole point is to try and reconfigure some of those male-dominated narratives. And say that there’s a historical narrative that we should recognise.”

Founded by technologist Suw Charman-Anderson in 2009, Ada Lovelace Day was originally established to celebrate women in STEM careers and honour the woman recognised as being the first computer programmer.

“The over-reaching aim of Ada Lovelace Day is to encourage more girls to enter STEM careers,” said Dr Webb during her introduction.

“Today we want to celebrate trailblazers.”

Male-dominated STEM industries are notoriously challenging environments for women, who make up just 23 per cent of the workforce.

Dr Webb noted the situation does not appear to be improving with female students comprising less than 17 per cent of Computer Science graduates.

“We want to go beyond the numbers of women in tech, and diversity in tech,” she said.

“It’s about saying this is a uncomfortable number, and recognising that.”

The day was also an opportunity for local women in STEM careers to network.

Research technician Ioann Maria, who also helped coordinate the event, said: “There are not many women [in STEM professions]. We don’t know one another, and I think these kinds of events are the first step to do something about it.

“The whole idea is to create this awareness, and to have this open discussion.”

Beyond Numbers was part of this year’s Brighton Digital Festival, an annual programme of arts and digital events across the city.