Margaret Hamilton receives Presidential Medal of Freedom

 

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Last week, President Obama presented his last Presidential Medal of Freedom, awarded to outstanding citizens of America. And this year, a historic figure from STEM got the recognition she deserved.

Margaret Hamilton, played a vital role in the NASA Apollo missions, writing crucial code by hand to make the mission to the moon possible. The computer scientist was the Director of the Software Engineering Division, responsible to error-detection software and in-flight controls.

And although all this work was completed in the 1960’s, it wasn’t until twenty years later that she started to receive recognition. In 1986, she was awarded the Augusta Ada Lovelace Award, and in 2003, NASA gave her the Exceptional Space Act Award.

Now, this outstanding woman in STEM has received another impressive accolade, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, for her work in leading the development of the on-board flight software for the Apollo Moon missions.

It is fantastic to see women in STEM being recognised for their work, especially seeing as women in the industry very rarely receive the recognition they deserve. Less than 3% of Nobel Prizes have been awarded to women in history, and this year, no women received the accolade – so it is great to see that a woman in STEM is being acknowledged.

The photo of Margaret Hamilton stood next to the pile of code for the Apollo Missions is incredibly well-known, and is a landmark in the history of women in STEM; Not only that, but that photo holds incredible power. When little girls see Margaret Hamilton in that famous photo, writing the code for an explorative space mission and making a huge contribution to science, it allows little girls to imagine themselves also doing so.

Watching an intelligent and amazing woman in STEM being presented such an award is an important message to young girls. And hopefully, the photo of President Obama presenting Margaret Hamilton with her award, will also become a landmark in history.

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GovCamp Cymru Bara Brith Event

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The Bara Brith event had what every event needed – discussion about how we can get more girls into STEM and cake.

This week I joined Stewart Powell from Technocamps as guest speaker at a GovCamp Cymru event in Swansea, talking about how we can encourage more girls into technology. The Bara Brith event was a discussion around the issue which, very suitable, was situated around a table full of the traditional welsh fruit cake.

The structure of the evening made it possible for everyone to engage with the issue. As guest speakers, rather than talking at the audience, Stewart and I would discuss topics focusing around girls in technology, and it would then opening the floor to everyone else to raise their own points. This format is not something I have done before, but it was a great way to get everyone talking about how we can all assist in solving the problems girls in technology face.

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GovCamp Cymru set up the Bara Brith events to provide a platform to share useful information and allow people in the industry to share their ideas. In the case of this event, we looked at the barriers that hold back women and girls in technology.

Throughout the discussion, several themes emerged.

– There is a horrendous lack of women in technology and girls are less likely to pursue a career in the industry.

 

–  We need to create female role models for young girls in technology, to engage with girls in schools to allow them to imagine themselves in that career.

– The perception of technology lends itself to being aimed towards boys, and work should be done to ‘re-brand’ the industry to be inclusive for everyone.

– Girl only events help to make girls feel comfortable with tech, allowing them to explore it in a ‘safe’ environment – helping them to feel more confident in mixed gender classes.

– Support for women in technology is vital to stop women leaving the industry later in their career.

In conclusion, we still have a lot of work to do to help get girls into tech and keep them in the industry. But through events like this, people in the industry can help get involved to help close the gender gap in technology sooner.

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TED-Talking your ear off

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Just over three and a half years ago, I was storming home disappointedly. I had been to a university lecture that hoped to shape studying scientists, to make them more conscious of issues such as animal testing and renewable energy. And as a liberal student who was getting involved in the women’s right movement, you can imagine how excited I was when I saw that ‘feminism in science’ was on the list of topics that the module would cover.

That excitement quickly turned to disappointment, when I realised that this part of the lecture series would consist of a 30 second presentation slide in a four-hour lecture. However, that lecture content (or lack of) made me embark on a project that I am incredibly passionate about; because after that lecture, I started my blog.

When I started Mind-ful almost four years ago, I never thought that it would take me on the adventures that it has, or that is would mould and develop into my all-consuming passion. I have been able to help shape public policy surrounding women and girls in STEM, start a YouTube channel, give a lecture at the European Space Agency in Paris, and give a TED Talk.

That’s right, I gave a TED Talk – those are words I never thought I would say.

I took part in the TEDxSwanseaWomen event at the stunning National Waterfront Museum, and was joined on stage by a group of amazing women, who’s talks were separated by “almost live” TED Talks from speakers in San Francisco. The topics of the evening ranged from forming connections, to issues that face women across the world, and I found myself laughing, almost in tears and deeply affected by their inspirational stories.

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TED Talks could be considered the theme tune to my life, as I am constantly listening to them, and it would not be out of character for me to have a TED Talk playing at my funeral.

I got hooked on them when I first watched Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s flawless speech about feminism, swiftly skipping to Debbie Sterling’s ‘Inspiring the next generation of engineers’ and Dr Cathy Foley’s ‘What can women do for science?’.

TED Talks can teach you something new about the world or about yourself. They bring in experts, amazing personal stories and a wealth of experience to open up topics to everyone – what is not to love?

And now, I have done one too! (Surprise, surprise, it is about women in STEM)

I will share the footage of the event when it is available, but until then, I will leave you with the first TED Talk I ever watched:

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