Wednesday Geek Woman Special Edition: Google Sydney and their meeting rooms

Cross-posted in edited form from the Ada Initiative blog.

The Ada Initiative, the non-profit Valerie Aurora and I have founded to increase women’s participation in open technology and culture, is fundraising right now with our Seed 100 campaign. The aim of the campaign is twofold: to raise money for our startup phase including program development, and to demonstrate to larger sponsors the community interest. We’re in our last week and our big push to reach 100 now.

We’ve resisted posting about Seed 100 here to date, since we want GF and the Ada Initiative to stand apart, but we enjoyed this story a lot, so we’re cross-posted it as a Wednesday Geek Woman special edition, honouring both the Sydney Google Women Engineers Group themselves, and the women they’ve named their meeting rooms for!

One of our donors at the Analytical Engineer level is a consortium, the Sydney Google Women Engineers Group. We asked the members of this group to answer some interview questions and tell us a little more about themselves, the Sydney Google office, and why they donated.

Tell us more about the Google Sydney Women Engineers Group.

Photo of Alice

The Sydney Google Women Engineers group is an official network, and all of the women engineers are included. We have lunch together once a month and we have an ongoing budget for events that promote and encourage women in computing, group activities and off-sites. For example, recently we took an acrylic painting class together; for a bunch of engineering types, the opportunity to splash paint onto canvas was certainly novel!

The Google Sydney office has meeting rooms named after historical women in computing. Which women and why?

Photo of Eddy

The names of the meetings rooms are: Antonelli, Lovelace, Hopper, Spärck Jones, Liskov and Perlman. The names were chosen by the women engineers’ group by consensus, after much discussion.

  • Ada Lovelace and Grace Hopper were obvious choices as some of the most well known (and hugely influential) women in the history of computing.
  • Kathleen “Kay” McNulty Mauchly Antonelli was one of the original ENIAC programmers.
  • Photo of Susannah

  • Karen Spärck Jones‘ work on information retrieval, and her invention of the Inverse Document Frequency measure in particular, is especially relevant to Google as a search company.
  • Barbara Liskov‘s well-known work in object oriented programming language theory earned her a Turing Award, John von Neumann medal and numerous other honours.
  • Finally, Radia Perlman‘s work on network design, in particular her Spanning Tree Protocol is also fundamental to our daily work.

Photo of Katie

The room names were voted on by the entire office, so we needed to promote our idea to everyone. It took the support of the whole office, men and women, for the idea to be put into place, and we’re really proud of seeing the names there today. Here is what we wrote to promote the idea:

The women in computer science’s history are too seldom celebrated, despite the fact that they have been an active part of the field since its very inception [...]. By naming our meeting rooms after the women who have helped make our field what it is today, we can make a positive statement about Google’s commitment to promoting gender equality in computer science, while paying tribute to these pioneers and reflecting the Sydney office’s openness to diversity.

In addition to being named after women in computing, each room has a picture and biography of the woman it’s named after.

Is the Ada Lovelace meeting room where your [Seed 100 donor reward] print from the Lovelace and Babbage comic will end up or do you have other plans for it?

Photo of Kendra

Yes, the Lovelace and Babbage poster will take pride of place in the Ada Lovelace meeting room once it arrives, along with the photo and bio of Ada Lovelace that is already there.

See the Ada Initiative blog for more information about the donation the Google Sydney women engineers made.

Does anyone else honour famous women geeks in this manner? Do you have meeting rooms, computers or anything else named in their honour? If you were naming your meeting rooms, which names would you use?