Ada Lovelace Day: Tribute to Suw Charman-Anderson

For Ada Lovelace Day, it will probably come as no surprise that I’m choosing to blog about Suw, my wife and mad ninja geek soulmate. Suw came up with the idea for Ada Lovelace Day because she often went to conferences where no women were on the panels, even though she knew plenty of incredibly talented, intelligent women who would contribute to the discussion about technology and social media.

As she said when she launched Ada Lovelace Day:

Women’s contributions often go unacknowledged, their innovations seldom mentioned, their faces rarely recognised.  

It’s not necessarily a lack of women in technology that Suw was mourning, but a lack of visibility.

Suw also wanted to highlight the contributions of women in technology and science so they can serve as role models for girls. I’m from the US, and it’s long been known that girls start school with strong math skills but lose interest in their tweens, mostly due to social pressure. Suw said that the situation is similar here in the UK.

One of the reasons I chose Suw is because I think she’s a great role model for girls who want to study technology and science. When Suw and I first started dating, I remarked to a friend that she was probably the first woman I dated who out-geeked me, and while that might sound like typical male insecurities, I love her for it. Being a geek is not just about skills and knowledge but also about passion, and she has a passion for knowledge, not just in terms of computers and the internet but for all kinds of knowledge, whether it was the geology she studied at university, physics or psychology. Her curiosity is limitless, and if we share a common failing it is that we’re so curious about nearly everything that we sometimes find it difficult to focus on just one thing. She is a keen observer, and she quickly turns from noting a trend or a pattern to asking deeper questions about the underlying causes and motivations driving that trend. She wants to understand the world around her.

She also is a pioneer. I felt like a blogging charlatan when I met her. I started blogging in 2004 at the request of my editor at the BBC. I quickly fell in love with it, but Suw had been exploring blogs and other forms of social media long before. She set herself up as a ‘blogging consultant’, and many people told her that she couldn’t make a living with it. But she has, largely because she was years ahead of the curve of blogging and social media consultants that have sprung up in the past few years, and she remains ahead.

One of the things that keeps her ahead of the curve is not just her knowledge of the technology but also a deep understanding of people’s relationship to the technology and how social motivations influence our use of technolgy. I think the psychology of social media is fascinating, and I think Suw’s understanding that the fundamental human need to not only express ourselves but to communicate drives so much of the current trends online and on mobile.

She’s also a doer, and I think that Ada Lovelace Day proves it. She realised that highlighting women’s contributions in technology is important, and instead of getting frustrated, she did something, something that she hopes to build on. For all these reasons and more, that’s why I have chosen to blog about Suw Charman-Anderson, my wife and someone who I think is not only inspirational to girls looking to become tomorrow’s technology leaders but someone who inspires me.