Ada Lovelace Day 2012 – Marissa Mayer

Ada Lovelace Day is an international day to celebrate the achievements of women in science, engineering, technology and maths.  Ada was the daughter of Lord Byron and friend of Charles Babbage and is often cited as being the first computer programmer.

Marissa Mayer is president and CEO of Yahoo but before that worked for Google as Vice President of Maps, UX, Gmail and a host of other well-known Google products.  We’re all well aware of the men, the brogrammers who have founded the big IT companies, Larry Page & Sergey Brin of Google, Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook etc. but definitely less aware of the women who although in the minority, hold senior positions in these companies.

I’ve picked Marissa Mayer mainly because she’s a dedicated Computer Scientist.

Unlike the Pages and Zuckerbergs, Marissa Mayer finished her undergraduate degree at Stanford and also her Masters in Computer Science, specialising in artificial intelligence for both.  As a teacher it’s quite often hard to motivate students to further study when they see the route to success being that of dropping out (it only works for a few!) .

from the Guardian

From what I have read about her, she seeks to understand the way in which people use the products she creates.  Her profile in Vogue from 2009 even suggests that she refused to get broadband at home until 2004 when over 50% of Americans had  broadband.  That’s a little extreme but given that even at that point, she was a wealthy woman, it’s a sentiment I admire.  She probably did all her Googling at work anyway.

Slightly controversially, I also applaud the fact that her appointment at Yahoo was announced at the same time as her pregnancy (she had the baby a couple of weeks ago).  I do think when discussing the issue of women and careers at any point, the baby can become the elephant in the room.  Sure there will be comments about her ability to afford a whole host of nannies and housekeepers, the fact that she might work such long hours she’ll never see the baby but that’s her business and nothing to do with me.  What I celebrate is that her confidence in herself and her abilities is such that it’s not an issue.  It’s another step towards company boards seeing that hiring a brilliant woman in her childbearing years is a good thing if that’s what that woman wants.


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