Heroines of computing are being used to encourage young women to consider going for careers in technology.
The inspiring stories of the pioneering roles women have played in the development of information technology is the central idea behind new Women in Computing Gallery in Milton Keynes.
Sponsored by Google UK, the gallery at The National Museum of Computing in Bletchley Park, has been opened by technology entrepreneur Dame Stephanie Shirley.
Dame Stephanie Shirley said: “Girls must take advantage of the revival of computing in schools and recognise and grab the opportunities that our wonderful sector offers. Britain’s economy demands that women are not just consumers, but rather creators of new technologies and applications. This new Women in Computing gallery at TNMOC will promote positive role models for women and so encourage girls and women in critical thinking and engineering. It shows the heroines of computing as historic facts to inspire the upcoming generation.”
The opening of the new gallery formed part of a Google-inspired Heroines of Computing event at Bletchley Park involving both the Bletchley Park Trust and The National Museum of Computing.
Peter Barron, head of external relations at Google said: “As a company we’re committed to encouraging more young people to explore the opportunities in computing. One of the challenges faced by girls in particular is a perceived lack of role models – a problem we hope this gallery can help redress.”
The idea for the gallery was sparked when the museum discovered that only 10 per cent of students coming from schools and colleges on its acclaimed Learning Programme were female. Together with Google the idea for the new TNMOC gallery took shape.
Artefacts in the gallery include a beautiful reproduction of a scrapbook of Dame Stephanie Shirley’s career at F International, the company she founded.
Chris Monk, learning co-ordinator at TNMOC, added that women’s part in the history of computing will not be confined to this new gallery alone. “As the museum grows their stories will be embedded throughout the museum. We encourage anyone with information relevant to the history of women in computing to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.”
Guests at the Heroines in Computing event included many of the women who have made outstanding contributions to the development of computing were present including Sophie Wilson, co-designer of the BBC Micro and the ARM chip, Joyce Wheeler, one of the first academics to use a computer (EDSAC) for research, Mary Coombs the first female commercial programmer (using LEO), and Margaret Bullen who worked on the wiring on the original Colossus computers.