by Emma Jane

13 Oct 2015

Creating More Award-Winning Women In Technology

For a good chunk of my public school career, I was an award-winning kid. Academics, sports, and the arts put me up on stage. Being recognised for my achievements gave me confidence to tackle even more difficult things, and it gave me a line on my resume which acknowledged my interests and talents in ways that individual assignments couldn't. Maybe you too have won an award? Maybe you've never won an award because the things you were great at didn't fit into one of the predetermined categories that put people on stage.

Five years ago I created an award at my old high school to recognise and encourage young women in technology. The award is given to a girl who has demonstrated creative use of technology. She doesn't need to have the best overall marks. She doesn't even need to be enrolled in a tech program. From auto mechanics, to carpentry, to physics, to digital publishing, my old high school has a range of classes which might provide the space to show this creativity. It may even happen in a "non-tech" class, or on the sports field. The award itself has no limit to when and how creative technology is demonstrated.

The Ada Lovelace Award represents a whole bunch of things to me. It passes along the opportunity that I was given to be applauded by my peers, and my teachers. It asks teachers to think who has demonstrated creativity next to technology, and perhaps alters the way they think about presenting curriculum in their classroom, re-kindling their own love for a technique, or topic. It tells everyone who attends the awards ceremony that there is value in putting creativity into technology. And, of course, each year it makes another young woman an award-winning technologist.

Today is Ada Lovelace Day. Today, I challenge you to recognise and celebrate girls and young women in technology. One of the easiest ways I know to do this is to setup an award in a school. Here's how you do it:

  1. Think about what you would like your award to recognise. You're welcome to use my award criteria: The Ada Lovelace Award is given to the young woman who has demonstrated creative use of technology. Try not to make the award too specific, or it may be difficult to find a recipient.
  2. Decide on the value of the award--I suggest the value of one billable hour of your time. At the school's recommendation, my award was initially set at $50. This award is about (1) promoting young women in technology (2) giving a student a line on their resume. It doesn't need to be a lot of money, but it should be something you can afford every year. I have since increased the amount to $100/year.
  3. Phone up your alma mater (your old school).
  4. Ask to speak with the guidance department. These folks know everything. Tell them you're an alumni and that you want to sponsor an award. You will be redirected to the right department from here.
  5. When you are redirected to the right person, introduce yourself and explain that you want to sponsor an award. The school should work with you to come up with the exact criteria/language and the name of the award, and let you know if they already have similar awards. Be flexible.
  6. Write a cheque to the appropriate school division. (Mine is made out to the school board.) You should be issued a tax receipt for your donation. Ask the school about a donation receipt if they don't mention it.

The school takes care of selecting the student each year so no additional work is required. If you live in the area, the school might ask you about presenting the award. This isn't something that I have done, and I've never met any of the recipients. Some years I receive an email, or a hand written "thank you" note from the recipient, which is always a pleasant surprise.

For the first five years of the award, the school sent me a form letter a few months before the awards ceremony to remind me to send another cheque. The letter included the amount of the previous year's award and the name of the recipient they had in mind. I have since started sending a lump sum to cover multiple years at a time.

It doesn't take a lot of work, or money, to make a young woman an award-winning technologist--I challenge you to help me create even more.

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