There is a parallel world where technological development is also a task dominated by women. That is the world of the ADA team, the tech platform created by women. Its mission is to help women to understand the digital world so that they make the best choices when navigating through it. The inspiration for the name of this project comes from Ada Lovelace, an English mathematician born in 1815, daughter of the poet Lord Byron and considered the first person to program a computer in history. She contributed to the creation of algorithms, which was considered the first software. Lovelace predicted that computers could go far beyond simple mathematical calculations. Lovelace is their muse and who remembers that much of the technology we use today is thanks to the contributions of an intrepid woman who wore the finest dresses, had poetry in her DNA and was imbued with a passion for knowledge.
“Women got lost somewhere along the way between Ada Lovelace and the iPhone. And today, even though we are intensely digital, we do not see the subject (technology) as ours. We choose for ourselves which cell phone or computer to buy. We love downloading applications. We share our lives with friends and family via Facebook. We manage to navigate through new ways of relating in the connected world. But when someone mentions the word “technology” near us, our reaction is that we are not part of this world. “I am not techy. I do not like it. And I do not understand it,” says the ADA team.
We spoke with Diana Assennato, a team member of ADA and journalist with a Master’s degree in Digital Media from Goldsmiths University of London. She was chosen as the most innovative marketing professional of 2014 by ProXXima Magazine, from the Medio & Mensaje group.
What are the challenges for women who want to take on technology?
Diana Botelho: The challenges for women who want to learn and work on technology issues are the misogynist environment, fully dominated by expert men. I think we have to take into account a gender gap that exists, but that is not enough. At the same time, I think that women who are involved with technology are getting more and more prominent because there is a great search and challenge in the market to meet this demand for women programmers, coders.
I think there is always the risk of women having to prove themselves more than men, to prove their knowledge and skills much more than men.
Why is it important at this point to create a project like ADA?
Diana Botelho: A project like ADA is important and we see it at the moment we analyze our audience. We are now offering a technology-upgrade workshop for women over 50 to help them have a little more autonomy from technology so they do not always depend on their children, their husbands, and so they are not forced to inherit old technology devices from past generations. And at the same time, we also connect with women who lead. We realize there is an editorial gap for women who are not being seen by the media outlets and this is an opportunity for us to demonstrate that we are not speaking the language of women when we talk about technology.
In this sense, I think that communication has the role of transforming a lot. Not only the understanding of what technology is, but also by bringing women closer to make them feel part of that world. And it’s for the future, to transform the industry that creates these tools. Not only do they generate women programmers, but they help them to understand the questions they can ask about technology, what kind of needs are not being met, what they don’t see already belongs to them. When we came up with ADA back in 2013, that demand existed and it remains latent to this day. Very little is being done to make progress in this direction. Because of this, we are willing to bring ADA to more and more women.
How have you advanced in the construction of the business model and what conclusions have you found along the way?
Diana Botelho: The business model has been a big challenge. Although we want to do the best journalism and do everything for free for our audience, it is impossible. We would not survive like this. We survived for a while, but had to go into a “sleep mode” because it was not sustainable. We now realize that producing content about brand technology in a white-label format [producing content for other companies] can be a quick and perhaps efficient source of income for what we need to have now. It would be to produce content for others to be able to produce content for ourselves. Within the ADA, this is a challenge. Natasha, for example, who is a very experienced journalist, is not much in favor of this model, although she understands that we need it right away. On the other hand, Emily has a lot of experience in this hybrid form of marketing journalism. Companies and brands and advertising need more and more of this type of content, but I understand that journalistic rigor is very important and should not be underestimated. So we need to walk a fine line between what constitutes the product and what constitutes the service.
How has process with the New Ventures Lab gone?
Diana Botelho: Our NVL experience is wonderful. I had no idea it could be so transformative. I changed my way of thinking not only about ADA but about ourselves as professionals. Listening to other women talking about their projects and seeing other women going through the same difficulties with such important projects is very inspiring. I keep thinking, “my God, all that advertising money I see being spent could be used for these wonderful places.” It’s been a huge learning experience from the inside out. Within our team, we have talked about where we want to go, what we want to transform, how high we want to go, how much our mission has to grow. It has helped us to think big. I say that and it gets scary. It’s very important that we have big goals. Act locally, think globally. It’s taking ADA to another level of maturity.
I really enjoyed the experience of immersion, of looking at oneself, of looking at the other, of listening to the other, of trusting the other, of seeing oneself as a leader, of occupying the place where one speaks that one has, but does not feel one has. It’s being a truly transformative experience.