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March 25, 2010

Ada Lovelace Day: Who Do We Think Are Great Women in Technology?

Yesterday was the day to celebrate the life of Ada Lovelace, one of the first female computer engineers.

Ada Lovelace Day began as a way to tout the success and inspiration of women in technology - so we asked some of the women of Ask.com to write a bit about the women that inspired them to take up their careers in technology - or that keep them interested in this field.

Valerie Lanard, Software Engineering Manager

I was inspired by the many amazing women around me at University of California, Berkeley's School of Information. There were two truly fearless and amazing female professors - Marti Hearst, a pioneer in search algorithms as well as translating information systems into usable user interfaces, and Pam Samuelson, who introduced me to the complex interactions between technology and law.  The student body itself was half women, technology leaders in their own right who came together from all over the country.  It was an amazing environment, where we were driven by the power of our collaboration rather than pure competition.  I had no idea how perfect the preparation would be for working at Ask.

Christine Vonderach, VP UK Product & Technology

The strength of women in technology resides not only in our ability run and lead technical organizations, but in our ability to shape the future applications, especially social technologies.  Women excel in connecting others and building networks – older generations may think of it as groups like PTOs,  or local book clubs.  But now, as social media moves to the top of the technology world, it allows individuals or groups to be influential over wider geographies, thus increasing the impact that each individual woman is capable of.  This is what inspires me…each woman making a big difference by using technology as a facilitator and making sure that she knows what is possible.

How can we build technology and applications to create opportunities on a massive scale?  Things like...expanding hobbies into careers using sites like etsy.com …empowering women in remote locations to participate in the worldwide stage through companies like Samasource …enable helping others who aren’t in our physical neighborhood via sites like Ask.com that make it easy to find ways to help when disaster strikes or sites like chipin.com where you can gather funds to meet goals.  Additionally, as a mother, I am inspired each day by my children who see technology in a new and fresh way – they see the world in a way that incorporates technology seamlessly with everything they do – no instructions necessary.  

The role of women in technology is not limited just to those of us who chose careers to build it but, as social technologies become more and more mainstream, women are poised to be the driving force behind what succeeds - making the world a better place in the process.

Lisa Kavanaugh, VP Technology

I was actually inspired by the LACK of women role models that I encountered in my education/career. I was inspired by my mom who went to medical school as a single mother, by my high school friend a year ahead of me who majored in civil engineering, by the tiny percentage of women in my computer science program, and the challenge of being one of the few women who made it through and graduated with a computer science degree.

I am inspired on a daily basis by the women I work with at Ask.com.  Smart, strong, powerful women from all different backgrounds who come together to solve challenging problems and contribute in a passionate way.  But most of all, I am inspired by the young girls who, because of the many women who have blazed a path before them, can say without hesitation "I want to be a Software Engineer" when I grow up. Or...as my best friend's daughter says "I want to be a Computer Girl like Mom's friend Lisa".

Carla Borsoi, VP Community

I continue to be inspired by the women around me who use technology in different ways, whether it’s using it to create a from-the-ground-up business (Willo O’Brien) or to help musicians connect with their fans (Corey Denis), or how to help non-profits and NGOs use technology to better help people (Rachel Weidinger). These three women constantly amaze me with the way that they think about using technology to do new things and bring people together.

How does Ask.com fare with females? Our total workforce is 26% female, but women constitute 32% of those with a title of VP or higher. We've created, in Lisa's words, a place to come together to solve challenging problems.

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Opinions expressed here and in any corresponding comments are the personal opinions of the original authors, not of IAC Search & Media and may not have been reviewed in advance.

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