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Ada Lovelace
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Ada Lovelace Day: Are Women in Britain Frightened of Maths?

The event will be part of the annual global celebration of women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM)

by John Stevenson (Senior Communications Officer)

City University London will celebrate Ada Lovelace Day on 14th October by grappling with the question: “Are Women in Britain Frightened of Maths?”. This takes place at 7:30pm in Room C309 of the Tait Building in Northampton Square.

Shirley ConranmainFacilitated by Professor Lis Howell, novelist, journalist and creator of the e-book, ‘Money Stuff’, Shirley Conran and Senior Lecturer in Mathematics, Dr Olalla Castro-Alvaredo, will explore this and other related questions. Ada Lovelace (1815-1852) was a revolutionary female figure in the world of mathematics and computer science. She is chiefly remembered for her work on Charles Babbage’s Analytical Engine, one the earliest mechanical general-purpose computers. As was customary during her day, Ada’s interests in mathematics and logic were not seen as appropriate for young women. Despite this, her notes on the Analytical Engine include the first algorithm intended to be carried out by a machine and she is regarded as the first computer programmer. Ada Lovelace Day has become a global celebration of women is the intertwined fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

In 2015, the engagement of women in mathematics - from confidence in everyday money management to the passage from primary school to STEM professions – still lags behind men. A recent study carried out by Creative Skillset demonstrated that only 29 percent of the interactive media industry in the UK is female and the majority hold positions in art, design and communications rather than engineering or computer science.

Centuries of false indoctrination

In 2012, the Royal Academy of Engineering (RAEng) reported that males outstripped females in attaining undergraduate degrees in Engineering and Technology (85 percent) and Computer Science (82 percent).

Shirley Conran says “centuries of false indoctrination must be reversed".

She maintains that "it is falsely believed that mathematics is for boys and not for girls. Mathematics, can in fact, be a huge boost to the confidence of girls and women."

Olalla Castro AlvaredoEchoing this sentiment, Dr Castro-Alvaredo (an educator at City for the last decade), disputes the notion that men have a natural inclination to mathematics: “Many social issues, patterns and behaviours are today analysed in terms of a ‘nature versus nurture’ paradigm. I do not know of any natural reasons why women should be less well disposed to study science and mathematics than men. I must conclude that it is ‘nurture’ that creates the situation we see today.” City's Ada Lovelace celebration is a free event. Please register your attendance at this weblink.

Analytical Engine

The Analytical Engine was the first fully-automatic calculating machine. It was constructed by British computing pioneer Charles Babbage (1791-1871), who first conceived the idea of an advanced calculating machine to calculate and print mathematical tables in 1812. The machine was designed to evaluate any mathematical formula and to have even higher powers of analysis than his original Difference Engine of the 1820s. Only part of the machine as a trial piece was completed before Babbage's death in 1871.

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