Ada Lovelace Day: Why we need more female role models in STEM

Female chemical engineers working in a lab, role model concept


Ada Lovelace day, a celebration created in 2009 by Suw-Chrman Anderson to shine a light on all the unseen women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).

Throughout history, these inventors, pioneers and technologists have accomplished incredible things, yet remain largely unknown. Take Ada Lovelace herself, who created the first computer program in 1837 but only gained recognition in the 20th century at the dawn of the computer age.

As of 2020, not a single woman’s name features in the national curriculum for GCSE Science, while over half the population are unable to name a female scientist. Clearly, more needs to be done to increase the profiles of women in STEM both past and present to provide women with role models in this space.


Recent research from Microsoft revealed that having a role model was one of the most effective ways to prevent girls from falling out of love with STEM subjects and that whilst 53% of females believe there are encouraging role models out there, 62% of them would still like to see more encouragement coming from professionals and 23% still feel STEM subjects are geared towards boys.

Hana Rizvić, Head of AI at Intellias

Love for STEM starts early in life, and girls and boys have the same potential but initial interest only takes an individual so far – they need support from their peers, begins Hana Rizvić, Head of AI at Intellias.

“A child needs to have great teachers, access to education and a supportive family to develop from potential to profession. For me personally on that path, most of my challenges were tied to specific problems I was trying to solve or learn about. What made me successful is my persistence and dedication to finding a solution and my ability to recognise where I can get help if needed.”

While many people are interested in tech, more than 60% of people believe they are underqualified, stopping them from pursuing a career. However, the right encouragement, guidance and awareness of opportunities could help change this.

Agnes Schliebitz-Ponthus, SVP Product, Fluent Commerce.

“Organisations can make a huge difference here; supporting school initiatives designed to provide learning opportunities or by working with businesses to showcase their female software engineers,” explains Agnes Schliebitz-Ponthus, SVP Product, Fluent Commerce.

She points to alternative routes into the industry such as free online courses and programs like Girls Who Code. “There are also several initiatives designed to help older workers train and transition into a career in software engineering, proving it’s never too late to shift course.”


While attracting and retaining women in STEM industries is crucial, the sector continues to have a diversity problem. Research shows those with diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) processes in place will have the best chances of attracting top talent. However, change doesn’t happen overnight, and progress remains slow.

“The main drawbacks in women’s careers typically happen when they go on maternity leave or need more focus on family,” explains Intellias’ Rizvić. “Companies should help women by giving them enough support to balance maternity and profession.”

Kayla Underkoffler, Lead Security Technologist at HackerOne

Flexible working is a key consideration. “For those who choose to start families during their careers, or maybe they’ve come into a career with a family, dedicating 100% effort and attention to a job with no flexibility is often not feasible,” furthers Kayla Underkoffler, Lead Security Technologist at HackerOne. “More importantly, it should never be expected.”

She draws on her own experience and the impact it has had on her career: “As a mother of two, I am more than grateful for HackerOne’s support of employees with families. Never once did I question my ability to continue to grow my career after starting my family. That support will make all the difference for many women being able to reach leadership roles or even highly technical subject matter expert roles.”

To create a sector that is fully representative of the people we seek to serve, women need to be fully supported from classroom to boardroom. Only by attracting women into the sector, having the right policies in place to retain them, and then showcasing their achievements, can we set an example for the next generation to aspire to.


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