Today the Ada Initiative announced the appointment of Sue Gardner, ED of the Wikimedia Foundation, to its first advisory board. The Ada Initiative launched just a few weeks ago, and has the aim of promoting the visibility and participation of women in open-source culture. The group, founded by Valerie Aurora and Mary Gardiner, will undertake unique research in the field of women in open-source culture, provide consultative services to organizations and businesses, and develop training and education services.

The Initiative‘s namesake, Countess Ada Lovelace (10 December 1815 – 27 November 1852), was considered one of the world’s first computer programmers, and was almost certainly the first woman in computer programming. She collaborated with Charles Babbage, the creator of one of the first mechanical computers, the analytical engine, writing what is generally considered the first code instructions for a computer.

From Wikipedia,

She was the only legitimate child of the poet Lord Byron (with Anne Isabella Milbanke), but had no relationship with her father, who died when she was nine. As a young adult she took an interest in mathematics, and in particular Babbage’s work on the analytical engine. Between 1842 and 1843 she translated an article by Italian mathematician Luigi Menabrea on the engine, which she supplemented with a set of notes of her own. These notes contain what is considered the first computer program—that is, an algorithm encoded for processing by a machine. Though Babbage’s engine was never built, Lovelace’s notes are important in the early history of computers. She also foresaw the capability of computers to go beyond mere calculating or number-crunching while others, including Babbage himself, focused only on these capabilities. [1]

Wikipedia has been in the news recently following a New York Times story highlighting the lack of women participating in the project, based on researched gathered by the United Nations University Study.  Interest in the topic has brought new thinkers to the Wikimedia community, which also recently resulted in the creation of a Wikimedia gender gap mailing list, which is open to the public.

Congratulations, Sue, and good luck to everyone involved in the Ada Initiative!

Jay Walsh, Communications

[1] Ada Lovelace. (2011, February 24). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 18:03, February 24, 2011, from