Azimo Co-founder Marta Krupinska explains why the legacy of Ada Lovelace still matters so much today:
This week marked Ada Lovelace Day, an international celebration of the achievements of women in STEM subjects: science, technology, engineering and maths.
As a woman in the Fintech space, I'm a massive supporter of the annual Ada Lovelace Day. Lovelace was a trailblazing 19th-century maths whizz who collaborated with inventor Charles Babbage on his general-purpose computing machine, the Analytical Engine. Pretty cool, huh? Infact, she was so good at what she did, Babbage famously called her the 'Enchantress of Number' and with good reason- Lovelace wrote the very first published computer algorithm, foreshadowing the advent of modern computing more than a century later. In some ways 'she understood the machine more than its inventor, realising it's full capabilities and spotting his errors- typical really, you can always trust a woman to find fault with a man's work!
Today, she's still a role model for girls interested in STEM careers, and Ada Lovelace Day is often used to highlight the shortage of women in these professions. Rightly so. Computing's come a long way since then but the rise of women in the workplace, particularly in tech, hasn't kept pace. We're now facing a huge gender talent gap and it's something that we really need to highlight.
Two of the world's four most powerful countries have a female leader - and Hillary Clinton could make it three on 8th November - but the sad truth is that lack of diversity is still a major issue in many 21st-century workplaces.
At WIRED 2015, Martha Lane Fox said that
'we need 600,000 people to work in the IT and digital sector. Right now there are 800,000 unemployed women in this country.'
It's a daunting statistic and the problem starts well before the workplace. At school, STEM subjects just aren't being sold to girls as a cool choice. Computing is a classic example: 6,200 students sat A-Level Computing in 2016, but just 9.8% of them were female. Technology needs to be 'normalised' as a potential career path for young women to avoid alienating them and creating an even bigger gender talent gap in the future.
I could argue that Ada's path to visionary success rooted in her being given the right choices. From the age of 4, she was tutored in mathematics and science, an unusual course of study for a woman in 19th-century England. By the age of 12, she had conceptualised a flying machine. If it worked for Ada, it can work for many other young girls growing up, who just need to be given the right choices and supported in their decisions. Of course, that goes for any career path they choose but it's time to stop making the out-dated and quite frankly offensive assumption that soft skills are for girls and science is for boys.
The finance and tech industries have long been a male-dominated world, but Azimo has always been about disrupting the status quo - whether that's revolutionising money transfer or championing workplace diversity. On average, just 17% of UK tech industry staff are female. But here at Azimo we're smashing that number, with 38% females in the business and rising, including many senior management figures. Oh, and on the subject of diversity, we also employ 23 different nationalities between our London and Krakow offices. It's still not enough for our liking but we're working on it!
Plus, it's not just a 'nice-to-have', diversity in the workplace really makes a difference. According to the latest analysis from McKinsey, gender-diverse companies are 15% more likely to perform above the industry average, and for ethnically diverse firms that figure rises to 35%. Put the two together and it's no surprise that Azimo has swiftly grown into one of the most successful online money transfer companies in the world.
We have a massive responsibility to recruit and retain the most talented people, regardless of race or gender. By creating opportunities for everyone, Azimo is closing the tech equality gap and making money transfer a better, more diverse place. Hopefully, Ada Lovelace would approve.