This was supposed to be an Ada Lovelace Day post, but jet lag got the better of me last night before I could write it, so it's a Lady Day post instead, which is strangely apt. We don't have to restrict ourselves to a single day to highlight great people anyway.
The woman that I would like to write about is Sarah Bird. Sarah is an engineer by training, and spent much of her time working in the development, thanks in part to MIT's D-Lab. One of her University projects was a cheap land mine clearing device, which looked like a big drum on wheels, because that is essentially what it was. She always talks about it with great passion, as it meant that she got to test it by blowing things up.
In conjunction with Amy Smith (who is apparently also made of awesome) she has been working on "balls" which allow samples to be refrigerated so that they can be tested when there is no power. There work has the potential to save many lives, and they won a Deshpande grant to continue the research.
Last time I spoke to Sarah she was heading out to Pakistan with her new company SaafWater, trying to ensure that Pakistani families drank clean water, and using an innovative strategy to achieve that.
I know Sarah as I did a Summer internship at Aptivate, a UK NGO, at the same time as she was working there. She had a knack for analysis, and for explaining things, and she gave me the language to talk about many things, such as concerns about the OLPC project.
In particular though she taught me that simply considering yourself to be non-discriminatory is not enough. Trying to treat everyone in the same manner doesn't help to remove inequality, it will just perpetuate it. Without concerted effort the solution will just reflect the needs of the majority, and their needs are already well enough accounted for. If you want to have a solution that works for everyone, then everyone needs to be represented in those designing the solution. For that I am very grateful.
In addition to all that she's also great fun, and we spent many a great evening in the pub.
I'm also glad to say that there are also many inspiring women in the communities I am part of. It was great to see so many of the posts yesterday being about women that are currently active in Free Software, it's great to have so many peers that you can look up to, as well as the pioneers.