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Most Influential Women in UK Tech 2020: Entrants to the Hall of Fame

Each year, Computer Weekly and its judges choose women recognised for their lifetime contribution to the technology sector to be added to its Hall of Fame

Computer Weekly is delighted to announce the 2020 additions to its Most Influential Women in UK Tech Hall of Fame.

Each year, when Computer Weekly announces its list of the 50 Most Influential Women in UK Tech, it also chooses women who’ve had a lasting career in technology and have made a lifetime contribution to the sector to add to its Hall of Fame.

The aim of each of these lists is to make great women in the sector visible as industry role models.

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 five new members of the Hall of Fame.

Debbie Forster, CEO, Tech Talent Charter

The 2019 winner of Computer Weekly’s list of the Most Influential Women in UK Tech, Debbie Forster, CEO of government-backed initiative Tech Talent Charter (TTC), is a long-standing advocate of diversity and inclusion in the tech sector.

The Tech Talent Charter, which is aimed at “connecting the dots” between diversity and inclusion initiatives in the tech sector to increase the number of underrepresented groups working in tech, recently called for a shift in focus away from getting more women into the sector, and towards improving diversity in the industry more widely.

Alongside her work at TTC, Forster is also a diversity board member for the Institute of Coding, an advisory board member for Barcelona Digital Talent, a mentor for We in Social Tech, a board trustee for the British Council, a member of the Digital Economy Council, and director at consultancy Novel Design.

Starting her career as an English teacher and then school headteacher, prior to TTC, Forster was co-CEO for student-focused initiative Apps for Good, as well as heading up education for e-skills UK. In 2017, Forster received an MBE for digital innovation, and was named WISE woman of the year in 2016.

Eileen Burbidge, partner, Passion Capital

Frequently appearing on Computer Weekly’s list of the Most Influential Women in UK Tech over the past five years, Eileen Burbidge is a partner at London-based venture capital (VC) firm Passion Capital, where she offers experience gained from various tech roles throughout her career, as well as by serving as a non-executive director for many small and growing businesses, such as Monzo.

Her career in technology has spanned 15 years and includes roles at companies such as Yahoo!, Skype, PalmSource, Openwave, Sun Microsystems and Apple.

Alongside her role at Passion Capital, Burbidge is the special envoy for fintech for HM Treasury, a non-executive director at Dixons Carphone, and a co-founder/startup angel and advisor for White Bear Yard.

Until recently, she was the chair of Tech Nation, and was previously a member of the Prime Minister’s business advisory group.

Margaret Ross, emeritus professor of software quality, Southampton Solent University

Originally on track to become a secretary, Margaret Ross, a professor at Southampton Solent University, went on to gain degrees in mathematics, which eventually led her to programming and computing.

Though she’s semi-retired, alongside her work at Southampton Solent she is involved in the BCS in roles including as a member of council, chair of the Hampshire branch, and vice-chair of quality and e-learning specialist groups, and is a part of BCSWomen.

In 2009, Ross was awarded an MBE for services to education.

Nicola Mendelsohn, vice-president EMEA, Facebook

Nicola Mendelsohn has been vice-president of Europe, Middle East and Africa operations at Facebook since 2013, where she focuses on growth areas in the region.

As well as her role at Facebook, Mendelsohn is a chairperson for the Follicular Lymphoma Foundation, non-executive director of consumer goods firm Diageo and co-president of charity Norwood.

Previously, she acted as industry chair of the Creative Industries Council and a director of the Women’s Prize for Fiction.

She has had a long career in technology, as well as advertising and marketing in roles such as executive chairman and partner at the Karmarama advertising agency.

In 2015, she was awarded a CBE for services to the creative industry.

Sheila Flavell, chief operating officer, FDM Group

A member of the tech sector for 30 years, Sheila Flavell was appointed chief operating officer of IT services firm FDM Group in 2008, and is an executive board director of the firm where she spearheads FDM’s Global Women in Tech campaign and FDM’s Getting Back to Business programme, aimed at providing opportunities for returners to work.

She is a non-executive director of TechUK, a chairperson for the Institute of Coding Industry Advisory Board, and is frequently called to advise government committees on various issues, especially around the digital skills gap.

She won Leader of the Year at the Everywoman in Technology Awards in 2012, and in 2019 was awarded a CBE for services to gender equality in IT and the employment of graduates and returners.

The existing members of the Hall of Fame are:

Amali de Alwis

Winner of Computer Weekly’s Most Influential Woman in UK Tech accolade in 2018, 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 in 2018 was teaching more women in the UK to code than the UK’s university system.

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, and a founding member at Tech Talent Charter.

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

Kate Russell

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.

Until recently, she was a presenter on BBC technology programme Click, which she stepped down from to create a Twitch channel dedicated to rescued ferrets.

She has published many books, including Working the cloudElite: mostly harmless and A bookkeeper’s guide to practical sorcery.

Kathryn Parsons

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.

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.

Maggie Berry

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.

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 and a diversity advisory committee member for Founders4Schools.

Max Benson and Karen Gill

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.

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 otherwise 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.

Chi Onwurah

Onwurah is the MP for Newcastle upon Tyne Central and shadow minister for digital, science and technology.

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.

Hannah Dee

Dee is an information security and databases lecturer at Aberystwyth University, where she researches computer vision. She 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, last year Dee helped run the first Women in Tech Cymru summer conference.

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

Dee sits on the committee of BCSWomenm, is secretary of BCS Mid Wales, and is a founding member of online magazine Scientists are humans.

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, Raspberry Pi Trading and the London Stock Exchange.

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

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 used to act as a board member at Wise, which supports women in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM).

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 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.

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 FDM Group.

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.

Joanna Shields

The 2013 winner of Computer Weekly’s Most Influential Woman in UK Tech, Shields is now CEO of artificial intelligence 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 remain 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 in business.

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.               

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 and an advisor for the UK’s Government Digital Service (GDS).

Wendy Hall

Hall holds several positions at the University of Southampton, including professor of computer science and associate vice-president (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.

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