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The first annual list of UK-based female role models in the technology industry has been announced by Inspiring Fifty UK.
Originally based in the Netherlands, Inspiring Fifty has partnered with London-based accelerateHER to replicate the work it does in Netherlands in the UK for the first time.
The aim of publishing its list of 50 inspiring UK women in tech is to create a record of accessible and visible role models for other women and girls, both inside and outside of the science, technology, engineering and maths (Stem) industries.
Laura Stebbing, co-CEO of accelerateHER, said: “The critical thing you all know is you have to see it to be it.”
Many believe young women do not choose roles in Stem because they cannot see anyone like them in the industry to aspire to be, and girls have previously said they would like to see more encouragement from women in the industry.
More than 300 were nominated for the Inspiring Fifty list, which was whittled down to 50 winners by a panel of twelve judges from the industry.
As well as showcasing role models, the list of 50 inspiring women aims to break down some of the negative stereotypes surrounding the types of people who choose tech roles.
The 2018 UK Inspiring Fifty nominees
- Alex Depledge, founder and CEO, Resi.
- Alex Mahon, CEO, Channel 4.
- Alice Bentinck, chief product officer, Entrepreneur First and co-founder, Code First Girls.
- Anne Boden, CEO, Starling Bank.
- Anne-Marie Imafidon, founder and CEO, Stemettes.
- Athene Donald, FRS, professor of experimental physics, Cambridge University.
- Bethany Koby, co-founder and CEO, Technology Will Save Us.
- Caroline Plumb OBE, founder and CEO, Fluidly.
- Cindy Rose, CEO, Microsoft UK.
- Claire Davenport, CEO, Hello Fresh UK.
- Claire Novorol, co-founder and chief medical officer, Ada Health.
- Clare Gilmartin, CEO, Trainline.
- Edwina Dunn, CEO, Starcount.
- Eileen Burbidge, partner, Passion Capital.
- Elaine Warburton, CEO, QuantuMDx.
- Emily Brooke, founder and CEO, Beryl.
- Harriet Green, chairman and CEO, IBM Asia Pacific.
- Hayaatun Sillem, CEO, Royal Academy of Engineering.
- Jane Moran, global CIO, Unilever.
- Joanna Shields, group CEO, BenevolentAI.
- Julie Woods-Moss, president, Woods Moss Holdings.
- Juliet Bauer, chief digital officer, NHS England.
- June Angelides, founder, Mums in Tech.
- Justine Roberts, founder and CEO, Mumsnet & Gransnet.
- Kathryn Parsons, co-founder and co-CEO, Decoded.
- Kriti Sharma, vice president of bots and AI, Sage Group.
- Lisa Jacobs, chief strategy officer, Funding Circle.
- Margot James, minister for digital and the creative Industries, Department for Media, Culture and Sport.
- Martha Lane-Fox, founder and executive chair, Doteveryone.co.uk.
- Mursal Hedayat, founder and director, Chatterbox.
- Natalie Massenet, co-founder and co-managing partner, Imaginary Ventures.
- Nicola Mendelsohn, vice-president of EMEA, Facebook.
- Nicole Eagan, CEO, Darktrace.
- Noor Shaker, co-founder and CEO, GTN.
- Pip Jamieson, founder, The Dots.
- Pippa Malmgren, co-founder, H Robotics.
- Rioch Edwards-Brown, founder, So You Wanna Be in Tech.
- Roberta Lucca, co-founder and board director, Bossa Studios.
- Samantha Payne, co-founder and COO, Open Bionics.
- Sarah Hunter, director, Public Policy, X.
- Sarah Wood, founder and chair of Unruly and non exec director of Superdry.
- Sue Black, computer scientist, technology evangelist and digital skills expert.
- Sharmadean Reid, founder, Beautystack, WAH Nails and FutureGirlCorp.
- Sharon White, CEO, Ofcom.
- Sheila Flavell, chief operating officer and executive board director, FDM.
- Stephanie Phair, chief strategy officer, Farfetch.
- Stephanie Shirley, IT pioneer and philanthropist.
- Tabitha Goldstaub, co-founder, Cognition X.
- Tamara Rajah, founder, Live Better With.
- Wendy Hall, professor of computer science, University of Southampton.
Many of the women on this list have previously appeared in Computer Weekly’s list of the 50 most influential women in UK technology, and have made significant contributions to the technology industry.
Janneke Niessen, co-founder of Inspiring Fifty, said the reason the list contains such a mix of people from throughout the industry is because “what is inspiring is different for everyone”. Having a mix of entrepreneurs, executives and people from large companies means more people are more likely to see themselves represented in the list.
“We really see role models as key for getting more people in tech,” said Niessen, adding that men in the industry need to support women, as well as realise the amazing achievements of the women around them.
She also said female role models in the industry need to be “active” to ensure they are seen and heard, and are helping others to progress in the sector.
The reason encouraging more women into the technology sector is so important is to prevent biases for being built into new technologies. As Matt Brittin, president of Europe, Middle East and Africa (Emea) business and operations for Google, pointed out: “If we want products that work for everyone, they have to be built by everyone.”
Brittin said he was “optimistic” that, because young people are growing up with industry role models such as those on the Inspiring Fifty list, the next generation will be “more inspiring than the pale, stale males” that currently dominate the industry.
Three ‘inspiring’ women talk about females in Stem
Sharmadean Reid, founder of Beautystack, WAH Nails and FutureGirlCorp
Reid opened WAH Nails when she was 24 because she wanted a place where she and her friends could “hang out”, but before long she realised the technology in shops such as hers was not up to scratch, and set out to do something about it.
In 2016 she founded FutureGirlCorp, a one-day business workshop for 100 girls, which she instantly set out to scale. She digitised the content, so “every girl” can download and learn from it, then set about building software for the beauty industry.
“I started to build the software I’s always wanted to build when I was 24,” she added.
The software, Beautystack, is now available on the app store for a month for those working in beauty to download.
Throughout her career, Reid has worked at “empowering women at scale using technology”.
Jess Wade, post-doctoral research associate in the Department of Physics, Imperial College London
The UK is in a “terrible position” when it comes to representation of women in Stem, according to Wade, who pointed out Googling “physicist” will only gain you a page full of old white men. “Unfortunately, I don’t think young people find this very inspiring,” she added
Wade then began creating a Wikipedia page per day featuring women and people of colour in science to bring more attention to the diversity of people involved.
Despite the current state of diversity in Stem, Wade thinks it is a “great time to be a woman in science” as there are so many role models being showcased and so many initiatives aiming to improve the situation.
Hayaatun Sillem, CEO of the Royal Academy of Engineering
Many believe that woman are pre-disposed to careers where they can help people, which may be a reason women do not choose Stem roles.
“It’s really weird that engineering is not seen as a career through which you can make a difference,” said Sillem, adding that she “detests” the idea that people who are part of Stem are not considered to be part of the creative industries.
But she also said things are changing, and claimed there are “so many people out there who are day-in, day-out changing perceptions”, such as the women on the Inspiring Fifty list.
As she has a gender-neutral name, Sillem said people often assume she is a male until they meet her in person, but that by being different from the perceived stereotype, she automatically addresses the biases that lead to those assumptions.
“It helps people to not automatically think of a white, middle-aged man when they think of someone in the lead role of engineering,” she said.