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Computer Weekly announces the 2021 Most Influential Women in UK Tech

Computer Weekly has revealed who is on the 2021 list of the 50 Most Influential Women in UK Tech, including this year’s winner Poppy Gustafsson

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Computer Weekly has announced the 2021 list of the Most Influential Women in UK Technology, including this year’s winner, Poppy Gustafsson, CEO of Darktrace.

This year marks the 10th anniversary of the list, which started out as a list of 25 in 2012 to make female role models in the sector more visible and accessible.

Since then it has greatly expanded, growing in 2015 to include 50 women, as well as introducing annual lists of Rising Stars and a Hall of Fame to ensure as many women in the sector as possible are given recognition for their contribution to the tech sector and the advancement of diversity and inclusion in the IT industry.

In 2017, Computer Weekly began publishing the longlist of nominees, which initially showcased just over 160 women – the 2021 longlist featured more than 500 women.

To mark the 10th anniversary, 10 names have been added to both the 2021 list of Rising Stars in the women in tech sector and the Hall of Fame dedicated to honouring women who have made a lasting impact on the technology sector.

The 2021 winner of the title of Most Influential Woman in UK Technology is Poppy Gustafsson, CEO of cyber security and artificial intelligence (AI) firm Darktrace, which aims to use AI to prevent firms from suffering cyber attacks.

A passionate mathematician, Gustafsson initially joined Darktrace as chief financial officer (CFO) in 2013, before becoming CEO in 2016. She is a believer that a mixture of skillsets, both technical and otherwise, are needed to make a technology company a success.

1. Poppy Gustafsson, CEO, Darktrace

Gustafsson studied mathematics at Sheffield University, moving on to become an assistant manager at Deloitte, then a fund accountant at Amadeus Capital Partners.

She joined Darktrace as chief financial officer (CFO) in 2013, then spent some time as the chief operating officer (COO) before becoming CEO in 2016.

Gustafsson has been featured in lists such as the Management Today 30 under 35 and was a winner in the Veuve Clicquot Business Woman Awards in 2019.

2. Flavilla Fongang, managing director, 3 Colours Rule; founder, TLA Black Women in Tech

Fongang is the managing director of creative agency 3 Colours Rule, as well as a branding, neuromarketing and social selling course instructor for the agency.

In 2019, she founded the Tech London Advocates Black Women in Tech group, which aims to support and accelerate diversity and inclusion in the tech sector.

Fongang is a brand advisor at the BBC, a brand specialist for Consilience Ventures and an entrepreneurship expert with the Entrepreneurship Centre at the Saïd Business School at the University of Oxford.

She recently launched a book, The voices in the shadow, which aims to give young people access to the role models they might need to encourage them to pursue a tech career.

3. Naomi Timperley, co-founder, Tech North Advocates

Timperley is a freelance consultant and co-founder of Tech North Advocates, a private sector-led collection of tech experts who champion the technology sector in the north of England.

Named a Computer Weekly women in tech Rising Star in 2017, she is also an honorary industry fellow at the University of Salford Business School, chair of the Salford Business School Industry Advisory Board and, until recently, was a board member of FutureEverything. In the past she co-founded Enterprise Lab.

4. Andrea Palmer, business change and digital transformation manager; BCS fellow; chair, BCS Women

Palmer has led a long career in business change and digital transformation, having held various roles at energy firm BP over a 15-year span.

She is currently the chair of BCS Women, sits on the BCS society board and volunteers as a programme manager for iSAW International.

In previous years she has served as one of Computer Weekly’s expert judges for the Most Influential Women in UK Tech list, dedicating a lot of time both in and outside of her work to furthering the conversation around getting more women into the tech sector.

5. Suki Fuller, founder, Miribure

Fuller founded Miribure in 2015. The company uses data gathering and analytics to promote strategic decision-making in firms.

A founding ambassador of the FiftyFiftyPledge, Fuller is also an advisory board member of Tech London Advocates (TLA) and Tech Global Advocates, and the TLA Women in Tech co-lead.

Fuller co-founded, and until 2019 was CEO of, incubator and accelerator Salaam Ventures, which focuses on assisting ethical startups.

6. Priya Guha, venture partner, Merian Ventures

In 2019, Guha joined Merian Ventures as a venture partner, having previously been ecosystem general manager for the London campus of Silicon Valley-born co-working space RocketSpace.

Guha also acts as an adviser for Tech London Advocates and The Youth Group, as well as being a council member for InnovateUK and a member for the international committee at the Royal Academy of Engineering.

7. Hayaatun Sillem, CEO, Royal Academy of Engineering

Sillem was appointed CEO of the Royal Academy of Engineering in 2018 after 12 years of working at the organisation in various different roles, including deputy CEO and director of strategy, director of programmes and fellowship, and head of international activities.

As well as her work for the academy, Sillem is the commissioner and chair for the expert stakeholders panel at Made Smarter UK, chair of judges for the St Andrews Prize for the Environment, a trustee of EngineeringUK and CEO of the Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering.

8. Sarah Turner, CEO and co-founder, Angel Academe

Turner founded Angel Academe, a pro-women and pro-diversity angel investment group focused on technology. She is currently CEO of the group and until 2019 was an external board member and chair of the investment committee for venture capital fund the Low Carbon Innovation Fund.

Turner is also a board member of the UK Business Angels Association, the trade association for early-stage investment, and in 2007 co-founded consultancy Turner Hopkins, which helps businesses create digital strategy.

9. Charlene Hunter, CEO and founder, Coding Black Females

Hunter founded Coding Black Females in 2017 as a network for black female software developers, and is a software developer herself.

As well as acting as an advisory board industry representative in the University of Essex Online’s computing department, Hunter is the technical director at both SAM Software Solutions and Black Codher Bootcamp.

Previously, Hunter was lead software engineer at Made Tech and held roles such as senior software developer, lead Java developer, app developer and technical consultant at various firms.

She was named a Computer Weekly Rising Star in 2020.

10. Sarah Luxford, partner (digital, data and technology), GatenbySanderson; co-founder, TLA Women in Tech

Luxford is co-lead of Tech London Advocates’ women in tech group and was co-founder of Croydon Tech City. She is now a partner (digital, data and technology) at advisory firm GatenbySanderson.

Before her current role, she was director at recruitment company Global Resourcing, and as director at Nexec Leaders from 2015 to 2017, Luxford worked with founders, investors and business leaders to find the talent they needed.

She was named one of Computer Weekly’s 2015 Rising Stars.

11. Sharon Moore, CTO for public sector, IBM UK

Moore is chief technology officer (CTO) for public sector at IBM UK, having previously focused on designing technical solutions for IBM’s clients in the travel and transportation industry, incorporating engagement, internet of things (IoT) and analytics technologies, in her role as industry technical leader for travel and transportation.

Moore is also deputy chair of BCS Women and is the BCS Women Scotland lead.

12. Joanna Davinson, executive director, Central Digital and Data Office, Cabinet Office

As executive director of the Cabinet Office’s Central Digital and Data Office, Davinson is responsible for leading the government’s use of digital, data and technology.

For three years prior to her current role, she was the chief digital, data and technology officer at the Home Office, where she was responsible for delivering the department’s digital, data and technology solutions, including high-profile projects such as UK border systems.

She also spent time working on public sector ICT projects at PricewaterhouseCoopers and IBM.

13. Tabitha Goldstaub, co-founder, CognitionX; chair of government’s AI Council

Goldstaub co-founded CognitionX in 2015, and is also chair of the government’s AI Council, which aims to offer advice and guidance to the government in the ongoing use and development of AI.

She also acts as marketing counsel for Founders4Schools, adviser for The Prince’s Trust and is the co-founder of Future Girl Corp, an organisation that runs free events for future female CEOs. She also serves as a judge for Teens in AI and is a board member for TechUK.

14. June Angelides, investor, Samos Investments

Angelides founded, and until 2017 was CEO of, Mums in Tech when on maternity leave from Silicon Valley Bank, where she held roles as an associate for accelerator growth and an associate for entrepreneur banking.

She is an investor at Samos Investments, a board advisor for Cajigo App and is a founding ambassador of the FiftyFiftyPledge.

She is an honorary fellow at the Institute of Engineering and Technology, an Oxford Foundry mentor at Oxford University, an ambassador at Huckletree and a board observer for both Global App Testing and Everpress.

Angelides was previously chosen as a Computer Weekly Rising Star.

15. Jacqui Taylor, CEO, Flying Binary

Taylor is an expert advisor for the European Commission and U4SSC, and is a technology advisor for TenureX.

She founded and is CEO of web services company FlyingBinary, and also acts as an entrepreneur mentor for Tech Nation. 

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

Named a Computer Weekly Rising Star in 2020, Okenla is founder and CEO of Your Startup, Your Story (YSYS), a community for startup founders aimed at making 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.

Okenla is also an advisory board member for The No.10 Innovation Fellowship Programme, is part of the Atomico Angel Programme 2021 and a council member for the Digital Economy Council for DCMS.

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

17. Anna Brailsford, CEO, Code First Girls

Brailsford joined Code First Girls as CEO in 2019, and is a serial entrepreneur and co-founder.

She’s also a board member for the Institute of Coding where she focuses specifically on diversity and inclusion, and is a self-employed commercial and strategy consultant.

In the past, Brailsford co-founded and was CEO of performance management firm Frisbee, which was part of venture capital fund Founders Factory.

18. Liz Williams, CEO, FutureDotNow; chair, GoodThingsFoundation

Williams is the CEO of inclusion campaign FutureDotNow, which aims to tackle the inequality often caused by digital adoption.

She is the social mobility commissioner at the Social Mobility Commission, a member of the board of trustees for Transport for London and chair of the Good Things Foundation.

Prior to her current work, she spent more than 20 years at BT in a number of different roles, including programme director for sustainable business, director of tech literacy and education programmes, and director of digital society.

19. Nicola Blackwood, chair, Genomics England

Blackwood is chair of the board of Genomics England, deputy chair of Public Policy Projects and board trustee for the Alan Turing Institute.

Prior to this she worked in the public sector, originally as the first female MP for Oxford and more recently as minister for innovation for the Department of Health and Social Care.

She has been a chair of the Human Tissue Authority, a board member for Oxford University Innovation, an advisory board member for Eagle Genomics and sat on the board of directors for the Campaign for Science and Engineering.

20. Kriti Sharma, vice-president product, GfK; founder, AI for Good UK

Sharma is the vice-president of product at GfK and founded tech company AI for Good in 2018 to provide ethical AI-driven tech.

She is an advisor for the United Nations and a board member for the Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation.

Previously, Sharma was vice-president for AI at Sage, during which time she founded Messaging Bots London. Before joining Sage, she was vice-president, head of product, real-time big data analytics, at Barclays.

21. Tara Donnelly, chief digital officer, NHSX

Currently chief digital officer at NHSX, Donnelly was one of the founding team to establish the unit responsible for digital transformation of healthcare in the UK.

She is also a member of the board of trustees for the Nuffield Trust, president of The Health CEO’s Club, and a senior volunteer and vice-president for Macmillan Cancer Support.

22. Bev White, CEO, Harvey Nash Group

As CEO of Harvey Nash Group, White heads up the global firm which provides IT recruitment, technology solutions and leaderships services out of 36 offices across the world.

White has a long background in the tech sector, having previously held roles as CIO and director of IT, as well as completing a degree in computer science.

23. Melissa Di Donato, CEO, SUSE

Di Donato is CEO of SUSE and founder of Inner Wings, which aims to give young girls more confidence and work towards worldwide gender equality.

Prior to her current roles, she was chief revenue officer, then COO, digital core for SAP, and was previously at as area vice-president of Wave Analytics Cloud.

Before her time at Salesforce, Di Donato was the area vice-president of ISV and channel programmes for EMEA and Asia-Pacific, during which she chaired a European ISV Advisory Innovation Board.

She is a board member and advisor to various technology companies in the UK and in Silicon Valley. She is a philanthropist, focusing on science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) initiatives and mentoring women in business. She has recently been named as leader of the Tech Working Group of the 30% Club.

24. Carly Kind, director, Ada Lovelace Institute

As director of the Ada Lovelace Institute, Kind is responsible for leading the institute’s strategy to increase the public’s understanding on the impact artificial intelligence has on society.

Her background is in human rights law – she currently acts as a consultant for Unicef UK and has previously been a consultant for several other firms, including Ranking Digital Rights and the European Centre for Not-For-Profit Law.

She’s the acting chair on the board of trustees for charity Glitch, which aims to make the internet a safer space for everyone.

25. Indra Joshi, director of AI, NHSX

Joshi joined NHSX in summer 2019 as the head of digital health and AI, before becoming director of AI five months later, overseeing the development of the NHS AI Lab.

As a subject matter expert for the World Health Organization (WHO), Joshi is part of a technical advisory group which helps the WHO with advice around digital health.

She is also a founding ambassador for volunteer community One HealthTech and the vice-chair for equality, diversity and inclusion (health executive) at the BCS.

26. Elena Sinel, founder, Acorn Aspirations and Teens in AI

Sinel founded Teens in AI and Acorn Aspirations to help young people understand how to use artificial intelligence, virtual, augmented and mixed reality to solve real-world problems.

She has won awards for her work, including CogX 2017 Award in Using AI for Social Good Projects, and is currently an education taskforce committee member for the All Parliamentary Group in Artificial Intelligence.

Before working on Acorn Associates and Teens in AI, Sinel was a consultant for several firms, including the British Council, non-governmental organisations, Chittagong Hill Tracts and the Ethiopian Cultural Heritage Project.

27. Beckie Taylor, CEO and co-founder, TechReturners

Taylor co-founded TechReturners, where she is currently CEO, to give skilled individuals who have had a career break the opportunity to connect with firms and help them back into mid-to-senior level tech roles.

She is also co-founder and CEO of The Confidence Community, which aims to provide resources, training information and events to give people more career confidence. Taylor is also co-founder of community WIT North and co-founder of DisruptHR Manchester.

28. Sonia Patel, CIO, NHSX

Patel has a history in both tech and healthcare, currently heading technology at NHSX where she is responsible for developing models and guidance for technology and digital transformation.

Her previous roles include joint CIO for London North West Healthcare NHS Trust and The Hillingdon Hospitals Foundation Trust, CIO of NHS Westminster, and head of solutions delivery for NHS Commissioning Support for London.

29. Anne Boden, CEO, Starling Bank

Boden founded digital challenger bank Starling in 2014 to build an organisation focused on customer experience. She is currently its CEO and a member of its board of directors.

Prior to Starling, Boden was COO at Allied Irish Bank and head of EMEA global transaction services for RBS.

Her book, The money revolution, was released in 2019 and aims to help people manage their money in a digitally driven world.

30. Janet Coyle, managing director business, London & Partners

Coyle has been at London & Partners since 2015, holding several roles before becoming managing director of business growth in early 2021.  

She is also non-executive director for Rocketseed, and acts as co-chair for the Tech London Advocates Scale Up Group.

In the past, Coyle was the managing director of Silicon Valley Comes to the UK and an advisor for charity Founders4Schools.

31. Abadesi Osunsade, founder and CEO, Hustle Crew; vice-president global community and belonging, Brandwatch

In 2016, Osunsade founded Hustle Crew, a platform offering career development resources for groups who are under-represented in the technology sector. She is currently also CEO.

Summer of 2020 saw her start a new role as the vice-president of global community and belonging at consumer insight firm Brandwatch, where she is focused on developing and sticking to inclusion practices for the firm.

Part time, Osunsade is a scout for venture capital (VC) firm Ada Ventures and an advisory board member for startup founder community Your Startup, Your Story.

She is well known in the tech industry, appearing on the Financial Times Top 100 Influential Leaders in Tech, Tech Nation Top 50 Influential Voices in Tech and the Dots 100 Trailblazers.

32. Rioch Edwards-Brown, founder, So You Wanna Be In Tech?

Edwards-Brown, entrepreneur and founder of So You Wanna Be on TV?, is an advocate for diversity and has extensive media experience.

She began So You Wanna Be on TV? as a community outreach programme after her son was shot and stabbed at school, and uses the platform to tackle the lack of diversity and social mobility in TV by providing free employability skills through partnerships between TV, brands, corporates and the community. Based on her already successful model, she launched So You Wanna Be In Tech? in 2016.

33. Jeni Tennison, vice-president and chief strategy advisor, Open Data Institute

Tennison was recently appointed as vice-president and chief strategy advisor for the Open Data Institute (ODI).

Prior to her current role she was CEO of the ODI, and was awarded an OBE for services to technology and open data in 2014. Previously, Tennison was technical architect and lead developer for and acts as executive director for Open Addresses UK.

Until 2015, Tennison was a member of the Open Data User Group, an independent ministerial advisory group for the Cabinet Office.

34. Zahra Bahrololoumi, CEO, Salesforce UK&I

Bahrololoumi spent 22 years in various roles at Accenture including resources industry technology consulting lead, technology global inclusion and diversity (I&D) lead and technology lead UK&I.

She is currently the CEO for UK&I at Salesforce, and is also an advocate for diversity and inclusion having held roles in I&D throughout her career.

35. Kerensa Jennings, senior advisor, digital impact, BT Group

Jennings advises BT on strategy, leading the BT Skills for Tomorrow programme and acting as a spokesperson at media events.

She was previously the director at the Royal Household and chief executive responsible for strategy and delivery of iDEA CIC.

Before that, she spent 15 years with the BBC working on a variety of roles, including two-and-a-half years as programme executive for the BBC Academy, helping develop a leadership programme for senior creative leaders throughout the BBC. Jennings has also held roles at major broadcast organisations ITN and Sky, and is an author.

36. Tristi Tanaka, technology change programme leader; BCS Women committee member; fellow, ForHumanity

Tanaka is currently part of the programme team for All4Health&Care, a community launched during the pandemic to connect digital healthcare providers with the public sector.

She is also the head of the CMO Office for Black Country and West Birmingham CCGs, a fellow, independent audit for AI systems for ForHumanity, and a BCS Women membership secretary.

37. Sheridan Ash, technology and investments director, women in technology leader UK, PwC; founder and co-CEO, Tech She Can

Ash holds several roles at PwC as director of technology investments and its UK women in technology leader.

As well as her roles at PwC, Ash is the founder and co-CEO of Tech She Can, an independent charity aimed at educating young people about career opportunities in technology.

In 2020, Ash received an MBE for services to young girls and women through technology.

38. Anne Marie Neatham, commercial director for the office of the CTO, Ocado Technology

Neatham believes that to get young girls into technology careers, encouragement needs to start early in the education system.

She currently leads Ocado Technology’s teams focused on robotics and automation in her role as commercial director for the office of the CTO at Ocado Technology. She has been with Ocado since 2001, originally as a software engineer, then head of Ocado Technology in Poland in 2012, where she set up the firm’s Polish arm. She became chief operating officer of Ocado Technology in 2014, and has previously been a software engineer in software and retail firms around the world.

39. Marta Krupinska, head of Google for Startups UK

Marta Krupinska has run Google’s UK startup support organisation since December 2018.

Previously, she co-founded fintech startup Azimo in 2012 to make sending money easy and accessible for everyone.

She has also been entrepreneur in residence for govtech accelerator Public and co-founded, an “ethical fintech” firm that was acquired by fintech investor Greensill in October 2019.

40. Abbie Morris, CEO and co-founder, Compare Ethics

Morris is the founder and CEO of Compare Ethics, a platform which uses data to help customers find more sustainable fashion brands. Until the beginning of 2020, the company was a resident of Google for Startups.

Morris is an advocate of both technology and sustainability, despite not originally coming from a tech background. While working at ethical policy and communications consultancy AEQ Global, Morris earned a masters in conflict, security and development. 

41. Sheree Atcheson, global director of diversity and inclusion, Valtech

A past Computer Weekly Rising Star, Atcheson is the global director of diversity and inclusion at Valtech.

Previously, she has been global director of diversity, equity and inclusion at Peakon and head of diversity and inclusion at Monzo.

Prior to her role at Monzo she was the UK expansion director of Women Who Code, responsible for advancing the Women Who Code networks across the UK, after founding the organisation in 2014. She is now an advisory board member.

Over the years, Atcheson has held several tech roles, including as technical business consultant for technology, strategy and architecture at Deloitte, software engineer for Kainos and product analyst for SR Labs.

42. Kike Oniwinde, founder, BYP Network

Oniwinde founded BYP Network in 2016 to help black professionals network and more easily have access to jobs.

She is board trustee for volunteer organisation Getting On Board and has received several awards and accolades, including Forbes 30 under 30 and Financial Times Top 100 BAME Leaders in Technology.

43. Alice Bentinck, co-founder, Entrepreneur First

Bentinck was named a Computer Weekly Rising Star in 2014, and has co-founded several organisations, including Entrepreneur First, a firm that supports European technology startups, and not-for-profit coding training programme Code First Girls.

She is on the Computer Science Department Industrial Liaison Board for Imperial College London, is a board trustee for Generation and is a member of the UK’s AI Council.

44. Zara Nanu, CEO and co-founder, Gapsquare; Global Future Council on Equity and Social Justice, World Economic Forum

Nanu is the CEO and co-founder of Gapsquare, an organisation aimed at providing analytics surrounding people and pay to work towards diversity, inclusion and equity in organisations.

She is also part of the Global Future Council on Equity and Social Justice at the World Economic Forum.

45. Kate Rosenshine, director, Global Cloud Solution Architecture, unicorns and scaleups, Microsoft

Rosenshine has held several roles in her years at Microsoft, including head of data and AI cloud solution architecture, financial services, and head of Azure cloud solution architecture – media, telco and professional services, before becoming responsible for leading the firm’s global cloud architecture team working with unicorns and startups.

As well as her role at Microsoft, she is an advisor for not-for-profit, and has previously worked in customer success roles for firms such as Stack Overflow and data analytics firm Windward.

46. Sarah Armstrong-Smith, chief security advisor, EMEA, Microsoft

Armstrong-Smith is chief security advisor for Microsoft in EMEA, working with customers on projects involving security strategies, cloud adoption and digital transformation.

She is a board advisor for Vaultree and Avnos, as well as a company director for Secure Horizons.

Previously, Armstrong-Smith has been non-executive director for Decipher Security, group head of business resilience and crisis management at the London Stock Exchange, and until 2019 was the head of continuity and resilience, enterprise and cyber security at Fujitsu.

47. Check Warner, co-founder, Diversity VC; partner, Ada Ventures

Warner is actively involved in the venture capital space, acting as a partner at Ada Ventures and as co-founder at Diversity VC, which both aim to improve diversity in the venture capital industry.

She has previously held roles at venture capital fund Seraphim Capital, which invests in startups in the space industry, and seed fund Downing Ventures, which focuses on early-stage companies.

48. Cynthia Davis, CEO and founder, BAME Recruitment Ltd; chair, the board of directors, Pop Up Projects

Davis is the co-founder of diversity career platform Diversifying and founder and CEO of recruitment organisation BAME Recruitment and Consulting.

She is chair of the board of directors for Pop Up Projects and a board trustee for charity Over the Wall, both aimed at changing young people’s lives for the better.

Davis has previously held roles in talent acquisition in the STEM sector, at telecoms firm BT and as part of a short-term project at an aerospace, aviation, F1 and motorsport organisation.

49. Catherine Breslin, advisor, Deeptech Labs; founder, Kingfisher Labs

Breslin is an advisor at venture capital fund and accelerator Deeptech Labs, as well as AI consulting firm Kingfisher Labs, which helps firms embed machine learning, AI and voice technology into their businesses.

She was previously a director and solutions architect at Cobalt Speech and Language, and until 2018 worked in Amazon’s Alexa AI team helping to develop machine learning technologies to make more conversational interfaces.

50. Emma Taylor, head of digital safety, RazorSecure

As head of digital safety at cyber firm RazorSecure, Taylor is responsible for implementing and leading the integration of safety and cyber in the railway vehicles industry.

She is a multi-award winner, having won awards such as the WeAreTechWomen #TechWomen100, the Daily Telegraph Top 50 Women in Engineering and the Cranfield School of Management 100 Women to Watch 2020.

Prior to her current role, Taylor was part of the Safety and Reliability Council and has also held roles at RSSB. 

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