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Queen’s Birthday Honours list recognises more women in IT

The 2016 Queen’s Birthday Honours list recognised a number of IT and digital entrepreneurs, and been hailed as the most diverse ever

Two people in the running for Computer Weekly’s Most Influential Women in IT 2016 award, the brains behind the Raspberry Pi computer, and the co-founders of machine learning business Swiftkey were among the recipients of awards in the 2016 Queen’s Birthday Honours list.

Women in IT nominees Alex Depledge and Alice Bentinck received MBEs for services to the sharing economy and to business, respectively.

Depledge founded home cleaning marketplace Hassle.com – which was acquired for more than £20m in 2015 – and was a board member for lobbying body The Sharing Economy until recently.

She also acts as a venture partner for startup capital house Ignite 100, and is chair of non-profit The Coalition for a Digital Economy (Coadec). Her co-founder Tom Nimmo is also recognised.

Bentinck co-founded tech startup support outfit Entrepreneur First, as part of which she also set up Code First: Girls, an organisation that provides part-time coding courses at universities.

She sits on the advisory board of Founders4Schools and Imperial College’s computer science department industrial liaison board. Co-founder Matt Clifford was also awarded an MBE.

Also appearing in the 2016 Birthday Honours list is Emma Mulqueeny, who placed 38th on the 2015 list and 18th in 2014. Founder of Rewired State and Young Rewired State, which run hackathons and advise organisations on digital strategies, Mulqueeny was a government advisor for many years.

Mulqueeny has written extensively on the topic of the ‘97ers’, those born after 1997 who are now approaching the age of 20, and tend to be inclined to look to self-employment and entrepreneurship as opposed to seeking long-term, corporate jobs. She received an OBE for services to technology and education.

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Other women who picked for honours in recognition of their services to technology and business included video advertising and branding expert Sarah Wood, who sold video ad tech firm Unruly for £62.4m in 2015 and is honoured alongside co-founder Scott Button; Wendy Tan White, co-founder of online shop builder Moonfruit, which was sold to Yell in 2012, who now sits on a number of boards including Tech City UK; Debbie Wosskow, CEO of Love Home Swap; and video game designer Deborah Bestwick, owner of Team17, the company behind the Worms franchise.

Also on the list were Emma Sinclair, co-founder of enterprise cloud software business EnterpriseJungle; Caroline Plumb, co-founder of consultancy FreshMinds; and former Channel 4 commissioning editor Jo Twist, CEO of UK Interactive Entertainment (UKIE), the trade association that represents the UK’s video games sector.

The recognition of so many women built on a trend noted in the 2016 New Year’s Honours list, which saw a 7% increase in the number of women honoured compared with the 2015 list.

The government also claimed the 2016 Birthday Honours list was the most diverse since the founding of the Order of the British Empire in 1917, with 8.2% of honourees coming from a black, Asian or minority ethnic (Bame) background. According to the 2011 Census, those who identify as coming from a non-white background total 12.9% of the population.

Raspberry Pi and more

Eben Upton, the co-founder of Raspberry Pi, received a CBE for services to business and education. Upton developed the hardware and software architecture behind the hugely successful single-board computer.

Besides being widely used as a teaching aid, the single-board computer has been used in a prototype telehealth service by the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC), and is being held up as a compelling element of an enterprise virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI).

Meanwhile, Swiftkey founders Ben Medlock and Jon Reynolds received MBEs for services to technology.

A developer of predictive mobile keyboard software, Swiftkey is currently used on around 300 million Android and iOS devices. Medlock and Reynolds were bought up for around £175m by Microsoft – attracted by Swifkey’s machine learning capabilities – earlier in 2016.

Medlock has taken a keen interest in government attempts to simplify the rules around obtaining UK Visas for people from outside the European Union (EU) coming to work in the UK IT sector.

In 2015, he spoke in support of an attempt to change things up. “Cutting down on the processing time of visa applications, prioritising certain sets of skills and adding a new provision for UK scale-ups are improvements that will make a huge difference,” he said.

A number of other tech entrepreneurs featured on the list. They included the co-founders of flight comparison website Skyscanner, Bonamy Grimes and Barry Smith; the founder of government-backed Start Up Loans, Tim Sawyer; the CEO of property-listing website Zoopla, Alex Chesterman; and the CEO of online-only supermarket Ocado, Tim Steiner.

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