Countess of Lovelace, Ada Lovelace
Watercolour portrait of Ada King, Countess of Lovelace (Ada Lovelace) Science & Society Picture Library

From new tech giants such as Facebook and Twitter to veterans Microsoft, tech firms across the world have revealed their diversity figures.

Worryingly, women currently fill just 17% of tech roles at Microsoft, 15% at Facebook, and 10% at Twitter.

Ada Lovelace Day was set up precisely to counter this. The sixth annual tribute, an international celebration for the achievements of women in science, technology, engineering, and maths (STEM), was held on 14 October 2014, and continued the much needed "women in technology" debate.

Despite the efforts of the tech industry to remove some of the stigmas associated with it, the gender gap remains.

As Suw Charman-Anderson, founder of Ada Lovelace Day recently said: "We need to get the message out to girls, young women and mid-career women to say, 'you can achieve this and look, here are some awesome women who've done that'".

Overcoming challenges in a man's world

Despite the low representation, many women have played a hugely significant role in forming the technology industry as we know it.

Ada Lovelace (1815 - 1852), who lends her name to one of the most important days in tech equality each year, was an English mathematician known for working on Charles Babbage's mechanical general purpose computer, the Analytical Engine.

Lovelace made notes on the device, including what is recognised as the first algorithm to be carried out by a machine. This earned her the distinction of the world's first computer programmer - all the more impressive because she did this before computers had actually been invented.

Analytical Engine by Charles Babbage
Trial model of a part of the Analytical Engine, built by Babbage, as displayed at the Science Museum (London) Bruno Barral (ByB)

Hedy Lamarr is another inspirational female example who revolutionised tech and helped shape today's world with her invention of the "secret communication system", alongside partner George Antheil in 1942.

The technology has since become a constituent part of GPS, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth technology.

Finally, we mustn't forget Erna Schneider Hoover, one of the first women in the US to receive a software patent, and inventor of the computerised telephone switching system - a technology that is still used today in call centres across the world.

The Adas, Hedys and Ernas of the world do exist, but they are the exception, rather than the rule.

According to research by Ocado Technology, 81% of women believe there are a lack of female role models in the technology sector. The industry is still enormously male dominated, and more needs to be done to inspire and develop women's roles in the industry.

Inspiring the future generation of female tech pioneers

One of the biggest challenges facing the tech industry is the lack of women choosing to study computer science at school and university. The Higher Education Statistics Authority found that in recent years, 17% of computer science graduates were women, compared to 83% of men.

This has created a void of qualified women with relevant academic backgrounds to fill the ever increasing number of tech positions, causing a lack of female representation in the industry overall.

The big question is, how do we dispel the stereotypes and narrow the gender gap? Numerous initiatives such as Codecademy and have been launched to give everyone access to resources to learn how to code, should they wish to.

Ada Lovelace Day is an excellent opportunity to celebrate how much women have influenced technology, and to demonstrate to women just how much they could influence it in the future.

Arguably, the most effective initiative will be the introduction of computing to England's curriculum. Since last month, children have been learning computing in classrooms for the first time. This initiative will provide children of both genders with an understanding of computational systems, enabling them to fully grasp the power and limits of computing.

More importantly, teaching both boys and girls to code at school from a young age gives them equal exposure to the subject, levelling the playing field when it comes to choosing degrees and careers later on in life. This was an important reason why Ocado Technology launched Rapid Router, a free computing teaching resource to give every child in the country work-related coding skills.

There is no 'silver bullet' and it is widely accepted that gender equality won't be achieved overnight. Many technology firms have taken steps in the right direction. Ocado Technology research shows 61% of women would consider a career in technology if more women were in the industry.

Ada Lovelace Day is an excellent opportunity to celebrate how much women have influenced technology, and to demonstrate to women just how much they could influence it in the future.