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Most Influential Women in UK Tech 2019: Entrants to the Hall of Fame

Each year, Computer Weekly announces the women who will be added to its Hall of Fame, a list of women recognised for their lifetime achievements to the technology sector

Computer Weekly is pleased to announce the 2019 additions to its Most Influential Women in UK Tech Hall of Fame.

The Hall of Fame is announced each year alongside the list of the Most Influential Women in UK Tech to showcase as many women in the sector as possible, and to recognise the achievements of women who have made a lifelong commitment to the industry.

Each Hall of Fame member has had an extensive career in technology, and has made a contribution to furthering diversity in the industry.

Introduced in 2015, the Hall of Fame gives Computer Weekly’s judges the chance to introduce more entrants to the top 50 list as emerging role models. Previous winners of the Most Influential Women in UK Tech list also earn a place in the Hall of Fame.

This year, we are proud to recognise the achievements of six new members of the Hall of Fame:

Amali de Alwis, MD, Microsoft for Startups UK

Last year’s winner of Computer Weekly’s Most Influential Woman in UK Tech accolade, de Alwis is now the UK managing director of Microsoft for Startups. Before joining Microsoft, she was CEO of coding training programme Code First: Girls, which not only aims to increase diversity in the tech sector, but also teaches more women in the UK to code than the UK’s university system.

“Together, we will shape the tech industry into one that is both successful and inclusive, and one which all of us will feel proud to call our own”
Amali de Alwis

As well as her role at Microsoft, de Alwis is a board member at Ada, the National College for Digital Skills, a member of the diversity and inclusion board at the Institute of Coding, an advisory board member at the Founders Academy, a founding member at Tech Talent Charter, and a CommonwealthFirst business mentor. 

In 2019, she was awarded an MBE for services to diversity and training in the tech industry.

De Alwis said: “I feel incredibly privileged to be working in such a vibrant and exciting industry with so many incredible people. My advice to those considering joining tech would be that the doors are open, and there are thousands of us who are happy to welcome you with open arms and help you find your way. For those already here, do continue to reach out to support and be supported. Like any industry, we have our challenges, but I am confident that, together, we will shape the tech industry into one that is both successful and inclusive, and one which all of us will feel proud to call our own.”

Kate Russell, author, tech reporter, speaker, educator

Russell has been writing about technology since the mid-1990s, and is seen as a subject matter expert when it comes to the technology sector. Before her career in TV presenting and journalism, she sold CD manufacturing to computer game companies.

Russell is a frequent events speaker, and works with organisations that aim to increase the number of young people who pursue a role in the tech sector, such as TeenTech.

“We can make the world a better, more inclusive place when we all take part in shaping it”
Kate Russell

As well as her regular slot on BBC technology programme Click, she has published many books, including Working the cloud, Elite: mostly harmless and A bookkeeper’s guide to practical sorcery.

Russell said: “Pretty much everything in our lives is powered by/designed by/guided by technology, and women need to be part of that process. Not only because equality is fair, but because we can make the world a better, more inclusive place when we all take part in shaping it.

“Successful technology firms understand this fundamental truth and there is a place for each and every one of us in the technology sector if we really want it. Use the networks that initiatives like Computer Weekly’s women in IT work provide and they will lift you up, both mentally and professionally. And remember to pay it forward when you get there.”

Kathryn Parsons, co-founder and co-CEO, Decoded

Parsons founded Decoded in East London “with a credit card and a mission to teach code in a day”. The coding school has taught people in businesses worldwide about the inner workings of technologies such as code, data, artificial intelligence (AI) and cyber security.

Parsons launched the Decoded Data Academy in 2018 and wants Decoded’s efforts to increase digital literacy in businesses and government, and fill the data skills gap.

“Some of the most profound uses of, and innovations in, technology have been made by women”
Kathryn Parsons

As well as being a non-executive board member for the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, she sits on the business advisory boards for the London mayor and 10 Downing Street.

Parsons was awarded an MBE in 2016 for her work in campaigning for code to be introduced into the UK’s curriculum.

Parsons said: “Some of the most profound uses of, and innovations in, technology have been made by women, from Katie Bouman imaging black holes in 2019 to Ada Lovelace creating the first ever computer algorithm in the 1840s. Let no one say that technology or computer science is not a place for a woman. It is a place where women can thrive and pioneer. Most importantly, the technological tools of today, such as machine learning and artificial intelligence, are incredibly powerful.

“We have the opportunity to solve problems in ways that were previously unimaginable. We must make sure the people harnessing these tools come from a diversity of perspective and human experience, so that we are solving a diversity of problems with a strong ethical compass.

“I am very proud of the gender statistics among the learners at Decoded since we started the business. So often, technology is presented in a way that is deliberately off-putting to women. Decoded is a very inclusive brand. Anyone can learn and technology should be for everyone.”

Maggie Berry, executive director for Europe, WEConnect International

As executive director for Europe at WEConnect International, Berry helps the firm to develop its corporate and public sector support, and grow its network of more than 1,500 women-led businesses to connect to the corporate supply chain.

“Being a technologist offers so many different career choices to women. I am keen to see more women succeeding and achieving and being role models now and in the future”
Maggie Berry

Berry previously ran online job board for recruitment and networking womenintechnology.co.uk, and is an advocate for diversity in the technology industry. She was awarded an OBE in 2019 for her services to women in technology and business. She is also a freeman of the Information Technologists’ Company in the City of London.

Berry said: “Being a technologist offers so many different career choices to women as they can work in any sector of industry. It’s a constantly evolving profession, with new opportunities available for people at any stage in their life – those starting out, those returning to work, those aiming for the top, as well as those running their own businesses. I am keen to see more women succeeding and achieving and being role models, now and in the future.”

Max Benson and Karen Gill, co-founders, Everywoman

Benson and Gill launched Everywoman in 1999 to act as an online community for women across the UK and provide a network, support and resources for women wanting to start their own businesses.

The network eventually grew to support not only female entrepreneurs, but also women in sectors such as retail, travel, transport and logistics, and insurance and risk.

“To any girl or young woman wanting to change the world, to bring about positive societal impact, remember that it is technology that will give you the speed and global outreach to achieve that vision”
Max Benson and Karen Gill

In 2010, it expanded further to cater to women in the technology sector, and Benson and Gill launched the Everywoman in Technology Awards to showcase the sector’s role models and shine a light on the different types of roles and careers in the sector.

As part of Everywoman, the pair launched the charity Modern Muse, a platform led by girls to inspire young women into careers they may not have considered by giving them access to role models and information about roles in various sectors.

Benson and Gill were awarded MBEs in 2009 for services to women’s enterprise.

The pair said: “To any girl or young woman wanting to change the world, to bring about positive societal impact, remember that it is technology that will give you the speed and global outreach to achieve that vision. Your ideas and passion, plus the power of technology, equals a better future.

“But without a woman’s perspective, without your influence and input, those brilliant ideas will never come to fruition – the technology industry needs you. So make your career one in technology. It will open up the world for you.”

The existing members of the Hall of Fame are:

Chi Onwurah

Onwurah is the MP for Newcastle upon Tyne Central and shadow minister for industrial strategy, science and innovation.

She has held many government roles focused on technology, including shadow minister for culture and the digital economy, shadow Cabinet Office minister leading on cyber security, social entrepreneurship, civil contingency, open government and transparency, and shadow minister for innovation, science and digital infrastructure.

Before her roles in government, Onwurah worked in several connectivity and telecoms-based businesses, including Ofcom, Teligent and Cable & Wireless.

Onwurah said: “My advice to any women in tech is that it is a fantastic career, the opportunity to change the world for the better and be well paid for doing so, and that tech needs you.”

Hannah Dee

Dee is an information security and databases lecturer at Aberystwyth University, where she researches in computer vision, and has had a long career in science and technology.

She founded the BCSWomen Lovelace Colloquium in 2008 as a conference for female undergraduates. Now deputy chair of the colloquium, Dee recently helped run the first Women in Tech Cymru summer conference.

She has won awards in teaching, and received a Suffrage Science award in 2018.

As well as a senior fellow of the Higher Education Academy, Dee sits on the committee of BCSWomen and is deputy chair of BCS Mid Wales.

Dee said: “Remember that you don’t have to do everything. Sometimes people (women in particular) find it hard to say no to tasks, and you can find yourself doing a lot of meetings, committees and voluntary roles. If this happens, think about what got you excited about tech in the first place and try to get back to doing more of that.”

Sarah Wood

Wood founded global advertising marketplace Unruly, where she was CEO until 2015, when it was acquired by News Corp.

She sits on several boards, including Tech Nation, and is an ambassador for The Prince’s Trust Women Supporting Women Programme.

Wood recently wrote a book, Stepping up: how to accelerate your leadership potential, which she describes as a career handbook for the millennial generation.

In 2016, she was awarded an OBE for services to technology and innovation. 

Sherry Coutu

The 2017 winner of Computer Weekly’s Most Influential Woman in UK Tech title, Coutu is a serial entrepreneur, having founded or co-founded companies such as Founders4Schools, Workfinder, the Scaleup Institute and Silicon Valley Comes to the UK.

She is now chair of these companies, is an angel investor, and sits on the boards of several companies, charities and universities.

Coutu is a non-executive member of Pearson, DCMS, the Royal Society, Raspberry Pi Trading and the London Stock Exchange.

In 2013, she was awarded an OBE for services to entrepreneurship.

Coutu said: “I’m so inspired by the activities of women in Computer Weekly’s Hall of Fame. The Hall of Fame is filled with examples of women who have invested in understanding technology so that it became a tool available to them to help solve problems in our society that we are affected by and that we care deeply about. It is only through an understanding of technologies that we can solve the most vexing issues of today and therefore make the world the place we wish our children and grandchildren to inherit from us.  

“Sometimes women will be the only ones to seek a solution for a general problem because they are the ones that suffer the most from it. If we care about our society and our own impact, understanding technology will allow us to do so much more than simply articulate the problem or to put together a campaign to seek help from others to solve it. Understanding technologies will help us assemble the teams and finance to solve it.”

Gillian Arnold

Arnold is managing director of IT recruitment firm Tectre, which is aimed specifically at supporting women in technology roles.

Previously chair of BCSWomen, Arnold has been in the tech sector for more than 30 years.

Now a non-executive director of the BCS, Arnold has spent time as chair of the European Women in IT taskforce aimed at developing best practices and Europe-wide activities to increase the number of women in the tech industry.

As well as having chaired a forum for IT trade body Intellect (now TechUK), Arnold is a board member at Wise, which supports women in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM).

Arnold said: “I believe now is the time for all senior women in tech – that is, anyone who has “senior”, “team lead”, “manager”, “executive” or “director” in their title – to start to help other women up the steps in technology roles. This is our opportunity to bring others on so that they too can help women make progress. This activity should increase the support we feel we have at work and must surely increase the numbers of women who truly enjoy their technical careers.”

Maggie Philbin

The 2016 winner of Computer Weekly’s Most Influential Woman in UK Tech, Philbin is founder of TeenTech and has spent more than 30 years reporting on STEM subjects for television and radio.

She co-founded TeenTech with the aim of helping young people be inspired by, and seek a future career in, technology by solving real-world problems with digital and technology.

A huge advocate of diversity in the tech sector, Philbin has received eight honorary degrees and an OBE to recognise her services in this area – although she insists those honours belong to her “amazing and dedicated” team.

Philbin said: “Never let anyone, including that little voice in your own head, say that you can’t do it. Ask for what you want rather than imagining people are bound to second-guess your ambitions or your needs. Be kind to both yourself and others. Change the things that need changing.”

Jacqueline De Rojas

The 2015 winner of Computer Weekly’s Most Influential Woman UK Tech, De Rojas insists that you “can have it all”. She is not only president of two companies and non-executive director of several more, but is also married with three children and two dogs.

De Rojas is president of both TechUK and DigiLeaders, co-chair of the Institute of Coding, and non-executive director of Rightmove, Costain Group and AO World.

She acts as a business adviser and mentor, and is an advocate for diversity and inclusion through positions at Accelerate-Her and BigYouthGroup.

She was awarded a CBE in 2018 for services to international trade in technology.

De Rojas said: “Women hold up half the sky and there is an unacceptable lack of diversity and inclusion in tech at a time when the skills gap is at its highest. If algorithms now decide whether you get that job interview or that place at university or even that loan, we must care about who is designing our digital future. By joining the industry at this critical time, women and minorities can literally change the face of our industry and design a future that includes everybody.”

Joanna Shields

The 2013 winner of Computer Weekly’s Most Influential Woman in UK Tech, Shields is now CEO of AI company BenevolentAI, which aims to train computers to change how medicine is developed.

She was previously parliamentary under-secretary of state at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), and until early 2018 was the UK minister for internet safety and security.

From December 2016, Shields acted as the prime minister’s special representative on internet crime and harms, driving a more international approach to internet safety and security.

Formerly CEO of accelerator programme Tech City, Shields founded not-for-profit WeProtect.org in 2013 to fight online child abuse and exploitation.

Formerly European chief of Facebook, Shields has had several roles as an adviser on digital. She believes the UK must address digital transformation properly if it is to stay a leader in digital development.

Jane Moran

Jane Moran, global CIO at Unilever, was the first winner of Computer Weekly’s Most Influential Woman in UK IT when it was launched in 2012.

At the time, Moran was CIO at Thomson Reuters, where she took part in the Thomson Reuters Women’s Network, Women in Technology International and the National Centre for Women in Technology.

Alongside her duties as CIO of Unilever, Moran is a non-executive director for JP Morgan Securities and Institutional Cash Distributors, actively participating in the IT community, and is an advocate for leadership skills and ensuring more women consider a technology career.

In 2014, Moran was placed first on the annual Computer Weekly UKTech50 list, a showcase of the top movers and shakers in the UK IT industry.  

Martha Lane Fox

Co-founder of Lastminute.com, serial entrepreneur Martha Lane Fox continues to promote the cause of women and diversity in the IT industry.

She also works for digital skills parity and believes more should be done to ensure the 12 million adults who cannot use the internet can achieve even the most basic tasks involved in a digital future.

Lane Fox intends her Doteveryone project – which she launched during her speech at the 2015 Dimbleby Lecture – to act as a platform to fuel the discussion around startups, governments, gender and skills.

A firm believer that the internet should be used as an enabler for change, Lane Fox has used her position as chancellor for the Open University, a member of the board of advisers for the Government Digital Service (GDS), and crossbench peer in the House of Lords, to speak out about the need for diversity and digital enablement.

Lane Fox is now a director at Twitter, having joined the firm’s board in 2016, and was appointed a distinguished fellow by the BCS, the Chartered Institute for IT, alongside Wendy Hall.

Stephanie ‘Steve’ Shirley

In 1962, Shirley developed a “software house” for female freelance programmers, which eventually employed more than 8,000 people and paved the way for flexible working.

When she launched the firm, she began signing her name as “Steve” to overcome male preconceptions about women.

Shirley appears in both the Bletchley Park and California computing museums, was the first female president of the BCS, a master of the Worshipful Company of Information Technologists, and co-founded the Oxford Internet Institute in 2001.  

Shirley said: “Well before today’s era of greater gender equality, I started one of the first hi-tech companies as a software house for women, run by women, for women. There are still opportunities to become the first woman this or that. ‘Firsts’ are necessary. They need not be ‘only’. Everyone today needs to master technology and be able to create as well as consume. My dream is for future technology to bring social inclusion and more equality.”

Sue Black

In 2016, Black launched her book Saving Bletchley Park, which details her campaign to stop the historic Bletchley Park from falling into disrepair.

In 2015, she was awarded an OBE for her services to technology, and is an outspoken advocate for ensuring more women and girls take an interest in technology.

Black currently acts as the founder and chief evangelist of the TechMums initiative, which aims to encourage more children into technology by ensuring mothers gain confidence and skills in using IT.

She also acts as a mentor for startups at Google Campus for Mums.

Acting as an adviser for the GDS and as honorary professor in computer science for University College London, Black uses her knowledge of technology and digital to help organisations where needed.

She is outspoken about the need for more people, especially women, to show an interest in technology and is a frequent writer and public speaker on this subject.

Wendy Hall

Hall holds several positions at the University of Southampton, including professor of computer science and pro vice-chancellor (international engagement), and is an executive director of the university’s Web Science Institute.

Hall was named a Dame CBE in 2009, and is a fellow of the Royal Society.

She has held several prominent positions in the STEM sector, including president of the ACM, and senior vice-president of the Royal Academy of Engineering.

As well as being a member of the UK prime minister’s Council for Science and Technology, Hall was co-chair of the UK government’s 2017 AI Review, and was recently announced by the government as the first skills champion for AI in the UK.

Hall said: “The digital world has become an integral part of all our lives, so it is vital that we have a more diverse workforce in the technology sector. For the best career move you will ever make – think digital.”

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