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Most Influential Women in UK Tech 2021: Entrants to the Hall of Fame

Each year Computer Weekly recognises several great women from the IT industry and their lifetime achievements in its Most Influential Women in UK Tech Hall of Fame

This article can also be found in the Premium Editorial Download: Computer Weekly: The Most Influential Women in UK Technology 2021

Computer Weekly is pleased to announce the 2021 additions to its Most Influential Women in UK Tech Hall of Fame.

Each year, Computer Weekly, alongside its group of expert judges, selects women from the Most Influential Women in UK Tech longlist who have made a lifetime contribution to the technology industry to be recognised in its Hall of Fame.

As the list grew in popularity, the Hall of Fame was introduced in 2015 to recognise the achievements of women who have had a significant impact on the tech sector, while also allowing as many women as possible to be showcased in the top 50 list of the Most Influential Women in UK Tech.

As this year marks the 10th year Computer Weekly is running its list of the 50 Most Influential Women in UK Tech, we are proud to recognise 10 new additions to the Hall of Fame in 2021:

Anne-Marie Imafidon, CEO, Stemettes

Imafidon was originally named one of Computer Weekly’s Rising Stars in 2014, going on to win the title of Most Influential Woman in UK Tech in 2020.

Imafidon is the CEO of Stemettes, which she founded to encourage young women to consider careers in science technology, engineering and maths (STEM).  

Outside of her work with Stemettes, she is a commissioner for the Hamilton Commission, an initiative set up by race driver Lewis Hamilton to address the lack of black people both in UK motorsport and in the STEM sectors.

Imafidon is also a fellow of the RSA, a council member of Research England, a visiting professor at the University of Sunderland, and a Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Digital Skills Partnership Board member.

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Before Stemettes, Imafidon held roles at Goldman Sachs, Hewlett-Packard, Deutsche Bank and Lehman Brothers. She now hosts a podcast for the Evening Standard called Women Tech Charge, and is a trustee for the Institute for the Future of Work.

Carrie Anne Philbin, director of education, Raspberry PI Foundation

Another alumna of Computer Weekly’s 2016 women in tech Rising Stars, Philbin has several responsibilities within the Raspberry Pi Foundation, including leading strategy, continuing professional development programmes and learning resources.

As well as her work at Raspberry Pi, she is a fellow of the Python Software Foundation, and her various experiences in board member and chair roles – including her time as a board member for Computing at School and her stint as chair of CAS #include – have all been aimed at making computer science more accessible for everyone.

She is also a YouTuber, writer and secondary-level computing and ICT teacher.

Cindy Rose, president of Western Europe, Microsoft

Rose was recently appointed the president of Western Europe for Microsoft, having served as the CEO of Microsoft UK since 2016, where she was responsible for the firm’s product, service and support offering across the region.

Previously, Rose worked in senior roles across the technology and digital sectors at firms such as Vodafone, Virgin Media and Disney’s Interactive Media Group.

In early 2019, she was awarded an OBE for services to UK technology, and is currently a non-executive director for communications firm WPP.

Elizabeth Denham, information commissioner, Information Commissioner’s Office

In her role as UK information commissioner, which she has held for five years, Denham leads the office dealing with the Data Protection Act 2018 – the UK’s implementation of the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Her term as information commissioner ends on 31 October 2021.

Before becoming information commissioner, Denham was the information and privacy commissioner for British Columbia, Canada, responsible for compliance with public and private sector privacy legislation and access to information law.

In 2018, she was awarded a CBE for services to information protection.

Helen Milner, founder and CEO, the Good Things Foundation

Milner is founder and CEO of not-for-profit the Good Things Foundation (formerly the Tinder Foundation), having founded the charity in 2011 to help the digitally excluded become comfortable using digital and online technologies.

Most of her work is focused on building tech inclusion for digitally excluded people. She is a board member of both FutureDotNow and the DCMS Digital Skills Partnership Board, and is on the Adult Advisory Group for the UK’s Money and Pension Service.

Milner was previously a specialist government adviser of digital engagement for the Public Accounts Committee, was named the Digital Leader of the Year in 2017, and was awarded an OBE in 2015 for services to digital inclusion.

Jo Twist, CEO, UKIE

Twist is CEO of UKIE, the games industry trade body that aims to make the UK the leader in games and interactive entertainment.

As well as being a London Tech Ambassador, Twist is vice-president of games charity Special Effect, the minister of stories at organisation Ministry of Stories (which helps young people connect with writing and storytelling), and is the chair of the games committee at Bafta.

Twist was previously commissioning editor for education at Channel 4, and was multi-platform commissioner of entertainment and Switch for the BBC in the early 2000s.

In 2016, she received an OBE for her contribution to the creative industries.

Rebecca George, previous managing partner for government and public services, Deloitte

George is currently on the look out for non-executive directorship roles in the private and public sector focused around education, climate change or health where she can use her 20 years of tech and public sector experience.

Until spring 2021, she was the managing partner for government and public services at Deloitte, leading the firm’s public sector practices across Europe.

Prior to this role, she was lead public sector partner at Deloitte, where she was responsible for projects such as helping the public sector improve efficiency and develop best practice.

George is a non-executive chair for the Department for Education’s T-Level reform programme, and recently stepped down as president of the BCS and as a board member of the City Mental Health Alliance.

She was awarded an OBE in 2006 for her work on sustainable communities.

Sarah Burnett, founding partner and non-executive director, Emergence Partners

Burnett is a founding partner and non-executive director at management consultant firm Emergence Partners, where she is head of technology immersion and insights.

Prior to this, she was an executive vice-president and distinguished analyst at Everest Group, where she used her skills to lead the group on global service delivery automation research and European practice across its global services research areas.

Before joining Everest Group, Burnett was vice-president of research at Nelson Hall, covering areas such as infrastructure, IT outsourcing, cloud and government business process outsourcing. Until recently, Burnett was chair of BCSWomen, and in 2017 launched the BCSWomen AI Accelerator.

She is a contributing analyst, writer and author for online ethical tech publication Techopian.

Sue Daley, director of tech and innovation, TechUK

Daley leads TechUK’s work on cloud, data, analytics and AI and has been recognised in the UK Big Data 100 as a key influencer in driving forward the big data agenda.

She is co-chair of the National Data Strategy Forum, which aims to put the UK at the forefront in data, and has acted as a judge for several awards such as the Loebner Prize in AI, UKtech50 and the Annual UK Cloud Awards.

Before joining TechUK in January 2015, she was responsible for Symantec’s government relations in the UK and Ireland.

In 2016, Daley swam the English Channel.

Trudy Norris-Grey, chairperson, Wise

Norris-Grey’s career has been focused on technology and digital transformation across firms such as BT, Sun Microsystems, Oracle and Eastman Kodak, where she held senior executive posts.

She now splits her time between the US and the UK and is chair of Wise (Women in Science, Engineering and Technology), as well as chair of the UCAS board of trustees.

Until 2019, Norris-Grey was global managing director of local regional government, smart cities and connected infrastructure for Microsoft in Seattle, US, followed by a role as deputy CEO of enterprise and global partnerships at AXA.

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, until recently de Alwis was the CEO of the Founders Forum.

Prior to that, she was the UK managing director of Microsoft for Startups, and was previously the 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.

De Alwis is an advisory board member of YSYS, sits on the board of trustees for the Raspberry Pi Foundation, is a board member at Ada, the National College for Digital Skills, and is a member of the diversity and inclusion board at the Institute of Coding.

She is also 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.

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.

Debbie Forster

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 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

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 was a co-founder/startup angel and adviser for White Bear Yard.

Until last year she was the chair of Tech Nation, and was previously a member of the prime minister’s business advisory group.

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, she is now a non-executive director of the BCS, and has been in the tech sector for more than 30 years.

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 STEM.

Hannah Dee

Dee is an information security and databases lecturer at Aberystwyth University, where she researches computer vision, and is also a founding member of online STEM magazine Scientists Are Humans.

She founded the BCSWomen Lovelace Colloquium in 2008 as a conference for female undergraduates. Now deputy chair of the colloquium, in 2019 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 BCSWomen, and until 2020 was secretary of BCS Mid-Wales and has had a long career in science and technology.

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 and has three children and two dogs.

De Rojas is president of both TechUK and Digital Leaders, co-chair of the governance board for the Institute of Coding, and non-executive director of Rightmove, IFS, Costain Group and FDM Group.

She acts as a business adviser and mentor, is chair of the financial analytics platform Metapraxis, and was awarded a CBE in 2018 for services to international trade in technology.

Jane Moran

Jane Moran 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.

Now she is the non-executive director of JP Morgan Europe, having stepped down as Global CIO of Unilever, a position she held for almost seven years.

Moran is also a non-executive director for JP Morgan Securities and was previously a non-executive director for Institutional Cash Distributors,

She actively participates 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.

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 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 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.

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 in 2011 “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.

Until early 2021, she was a non-executive board member for the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, and until 2020 sat 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

Berry is the director of Heart of the City, which works with small businesses to help them develop business programmes aimed at promoting diversity and supporting local communities, among other things.

Prior to this she was executive director for Europe at WEConnect International, where she helped 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, 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 committee member of the Walsworth Community Centre  and a diversity advisory committee member for Founders4Schools.

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.

Margaret Ross

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.

Although semi-retired, alongside her work at Southampton Solent, Ross 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.

Martha Lane Fox

Co-founder of, 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.

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 also launched the Tech Hub, which aims to give women in the tech sector access to resources and connections which will help them further develop leadership skills and advance their careers. 

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

Nicola Mendelsohn

Nicola Mendelsohn has been vice-president of Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) 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.

Sarah Wood

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

She is the non-executive director of Signal AI, senior independent director of Tech Nation, and is a business mentor for The Hatchery at University College London.

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. 

Sheila Flavell

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 deputy president 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.

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 still involved with many of these companies, is an angel investor, and sits on the boards of several companies, charities and universities.

Coutu is an independent non-executive member of Pearson and the London Stock Exchange, and is director of Raspberry Pi Trading and trustee of the Raspberry Pi Foundation.

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

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 adviser 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 having been 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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