Computer Weekly’s 2020 women in tech Rising Stars

The nature of digital technology means the IT industry is an ever-changing landscape, so who will be at the wheel of the technology sector in years to come?

This article can also be found in the Premium Editorial Download: Computer Weekly: The Most Influential Women in UK Technology 2020

While recognising the technology industry’s 50 Most Influential Women in UK Tech each year, Computer Weekly is also on the lookout for the next cohort of women who will be driving the sector forward in the near future.

Each year, we ask our judges to suggest the women they think are already making a significant contribution to the UK’s technology sector and who they could see appearing on the top 50 list in years to come.

Many who have appeared on past lists of Rising Stars have gone on to rank in Computer Weekly’s list of the 50 Most Influential Women in UK Tech, including 2020 winner Anne-Marie Imafidon, CEO of Stemettes, who was named a Rising Star in 2014.

The Rising Star category was first introduced as part of the Most Influential Women in UK Tech campaign in 2014 as a way to add to the pool of women honoured for their achievements in the technology industry.

This year’s Risings Stars are:

Deborah Okenla, founder and CEO, Your Startup, Your Story (YSYS)

Okenla founded Your Startup, Your Story (YSYS), where she is currently CEO, in 2017 to act as a community for startup founders and to help make talent in the startup ecosystem more diverse.

She is an advisory panel member for IT services firm AND Digital, and an advisory board member for not-for-profit Coders of Colour.

Prior to her current role, Okenla led engagement and groups for Google For Startups, and was previously membership manager at co-working space Huckletree.

Charlene Hunter, founder, Coding Black Females

Hunter founded Coding Black Females in 2017 to help black female software developers meet each other and network. Alongside her work at Coding Black Females, Hunter is a software developer herself.

Currently lead software engineer at Made Tech, Hunter has also held roles as senior software developer, lead Java developer, app developer and technical consultant at various firms.

Noor Shaker, founder and CEO, Glamorous.AI

Shaker is a serial entrepreneur, founding biotech company GTN in 2017 where she was CEO for two years, founding healthcare artificial intelligence (AI) consultancy Phenogeneca in 2019, and becoming founder and CEO of biotech services company Glamorous.AI in 2020.

Prior to becoming a startup founder, Shaker was a machine learning specialist for Unsilo and was an assistant professor at Aalborg University in Denmark where she researched the use of machine learning applied to the way people play games.

Heather Black, CEO and founder, Supermums

Black had several different consultancy roles spanning different sectors before she became the managing director and Salesforce consultant for Economic Change CIC.

In 2016, she founded and became CEO of Supermums, a social enterprise that helps mothers to gain skills in Salesforce to help them re-enter the workplace.

Yi Luo, global head of expansion of Earnd, a Greensill company

Luo is currently the global head of strategy and expansion at Earnd, the business-to-customer division of financing firm Greensill.

She has been an angel investor for various companies and is a business mentor at L Marks.

Luo was the founding chief strategy officer of FreeUp.io, which was acquired by Greensill in 2019, where she went on to become head of strategy.

Hall of Fame

Each year, a number of women are also selected to join Computer Weekly’s women in tech Hall of Fame, reserved for women who have made a lifetime contribution to the technology sector.

The current members of the Hall of Fame are:

  • Debbie Forster
  • Eileen Burbidge
  • Margaret Ross
  • Nicola Mendelsohn
  • Sheila Flavell
  • Amali de Alwis
  • Kate Russell
  • Kathryn Parsons
  • Maggie Berry
  • Max Benson and Karen Gill
  • Chi Onwurah
  • Hannah Dee
  • Sarah Wood
  • Sherry Coutu
  • Gillian Arnold
  • Maggie Philbin
  • Jacqueline De Rojas
  • Joanna Shields
  • Jane Moran
  • Martha Lane Fox
  • Stephanie ‘Steve’ Shirley
  • Sue Black
  • Wendy Hall

By shining a light on these women, Computer Weekly hopes it can increase the number of visible and accessible role models in the technology sector to encourage others from under-represented groups in the UK to pursue a career in technology and better understand what benefits a tech career has to offer.

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