Ada Lovelace Day 2021 - Olivia Adam's STEM story

Posted on: 12 October 2021 in Blog posts

Olivia Adams Image

To celebrate Ada Lovelace Day this year we caught up with Olivia Adams, a graduate who won the School's Athena SWAN award this year in 2021, to find out about her STEM story. The award was established in 2015/2016 to reward undergraduate students on their contributions in promoting the participation of women in engineering.

Olivia Adam's STEM story

Hi, I’m Livi, from Manchester. I began studying Computer Science at UoL in 2017. I’ve always had a special connection with Liverpool, with half my family being from here and my parents having met in Liverpool, when studying to be building surveyors.

I didn’t really know much about Computer Science from an early age but I first considered it when deciding my A-levels. I’ve always enjoyed Maths and problem solving and found Computer Science was an opportunity to apply these interests. What surprised me about Computer Science was that it also gave me the ability to express my creativity with its extensive range of applications.

I studied Computer Science, Maths, History and English Literature at AS/A-level and I always had a range of academic interests, however, Computer Science stood out to me as a degree option for primarily two reasons. Firstly, I knew it was a degree that would provide me with good job opportunities. Secondly, as I liked programming, I thought it would be a good chance to find a job I would actually enjoy.

Computer Science has become massively important in all spheres of everyday life; this presents opportunities but also dangers. Fundamentally I feel that no industry that is so integral to the way society runs should be so male dominated; it’s therefore important to end women's exclusion from the industry. For example, I’ve always been disturbed by algorithms which are supposed to be neutral but are in fact biased in ways which are discriminatory against women. I love Computer Science and find it fascinating, but I think it has the potential to be harmful.

I’ve found many female role models throughout my studies. My A-level Computer Science teacher, Miss Maunder, really encouraged me when studying and I think because of her help and guidance I was able to continue my studies at university, as well as achieve the Computer Science Award at school. My friend, Amy, as well, who I sat next to in class inspired me massively. I was always blown away by the creative computing projects she was doing in her free time.

At university, I met Lindsay in the Computer Science faculty, who helped me massively throughout my degree, and I probably wouldn’t have been able to finish it without her! Her kindness and strength will always encourage me. All the girls I met through Women in STEM Society inspired me, and still do whenever I get to see what they’re up to now. All of these women have had a great impact on my life, and I’ve been extremely lucky to have met them.

I also set up the Women in STEM Society which I hoped would create an inclusive space in the university that could promote the presence of women in STEM. Within the society we led some outreach sessions at schools around Liverpool, hoping to encourage more girls to go into STEM. We also worked alongside the EEECS department’s Athena SWAN Committee, with their efforts for increased inclusion.

When I won the Athena SWAN award it felt really good and I was extremely proud of myself. I’m very honoured and thankful to have received it.

Thinking about Ada Lovelace, when I found out the first computer programmer was a woman, I felt an enormous sense of pride and motivation. I was also very shocked, if I’m being honest, which is quite telling about how women’s achievements and stories have been untold. Similar to that of Katherine Johnson and the “Hidden Figures” of the NASA space program. I find Ada Lovelace and these women massively inspiring as they achieve these things whilst being questioned all the time.

As mentioned previously, I believe it’s vital that the gender gap in the industry is eliminated. More widely, assumptions about gender in society need to be challenged. Too many people have convinced themselves that there are some things that women are not suited to, but these assumptions are entirely socially constructed. I am massively inspired by all women in STEM, as I find it very courageous to resist and challenge gender expectations and social norms.

Currently I am working at a sushi restaurant, living my best life, while looking for jobs in computer science. I would like to eventually, if not right now, find a computing job related to social change. I’m also interested in opportunities to teach or work abroad.

I’m interested in social and political issues. I like art and film. I also like cartoons a lot; big “Bob’s Burgers” fan.


Picture of Ada Lovelace by Angel Burrows 

Find out more about Ada Lovelace Day here

Keywords: Ada , Lovelace, Computer, Science.