In 2015, Computer Weekly compiled a list of their top 50 women in the UK tech industry. Their list focussed on the role of women in technology, reminding readers that there are successful women in UK tech.
If you Google ‘women in tech glass ceiling’ you’ll see why Computer Weekly’s article is so important. Jobs in technology, although frequently held by women, aren’t publicised to the same extent as their male counterparts.
I can list male influencers and leaders in the tech industry off the top of my head. Bill Gates, Satya Nadella, and, of course, Steve Jobs are prominent figures within the technology community. But where are the female voices and leaders, where are the aspirational stories of women in IT?
The gender gap is one of the biggest challenges facing the technology industry. The Huffington post shared these statistics in an article titled, ‘7 Ways Women in Tech Can Break the Glass Ceiling’:
- Only 14% of chief information officers are women, a number which has remained static for a decade.
- Only 3% of tech companies are started by women.
- Only 2.7% of venture funding went to tech companies with female CEOs.
It seems that the majority of jobs in technology go to men, and women are frequently shut out of not only the conversation, but funding too. But there are some success stories, there are some female leaders who have braved the male dominated tech industry, and made a name for themselves.
Here’s a list of 10 strong women in UK tech who stand as inspirational figures, challenging the male driven tech narrative.
Before joining the government, Joanna Shields spent 25 years developing companies within the tech sector. She worked with Electronics for Imaging, RealNetworks, Google, AOL and Facebook. Her current job title is UK Minister for Internet Safety and Security, working for the Conservative government. Throughout her career she has earned the respect of her industry and peers.
Wired 100 placed her as No. 1 in 2011, and the Media Guardian 100 featured her at No. 6 in 2012. She was named the most powerful women in the UK by BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour in 2013, and the same year received the British Interactive Media Association’s Lifetime Achievement Award.
2. Nicola Mendelsohn
Lady Nicola Mendelsohn has enjoyed a successful career in advertising. Named the Vice President for Europe, the Middle East, and Africa for Facebook in 2013, she has since been described by The Daily Telegraph as ‘the most powerful woman in the British tech industry.’
Active in the advertising industry since 1992, a few of her career achievements include being appointed Deputy Chairman at Grey London, in 2004, working as European Business Development Director for Grey Communications Group from 2004 – 2008 and being a partner and executive chairman at Karmarama, an advertising agency based in London, starting 2008. In 2015, she was made Commander of the Order of the British Empire for her work in the creative industries.
A firm believer in a healthy work life balance, Mendelsohn has worked a four day week since her first child was born.
3. Carla Buzasi
Currently working as Global Chief Content Office at WGSN, Carla Buzasi has collaborated with some well respected brands. A skilled writer and editor, her content was featured on Conde Nast, IPC Media, Redwood, John Brown, AOL Huffington Post Media Group and WGSN.
In both 2012 and 2013, Buzasi was named Editor of the Year at the the Online Media Awards. She featured in 2013’s Top Female Innovators in Digital Journalism, and her work earned her a place in Management Today’s 35 Under 35 list in 2016.
She has also worked as a media commentator, appearing on a number of shows including Sky News, Lorraine, Daybreak, The Andrew Marr Show and Newsnight.
4. Gillian Arnold
Described as an ‘IT womens activist’, Gillian Arnold has been praised for her achievements in the technology industry. Her career began in 1984 as a director at an IT company, and she worked with IBM for 22 years, before founding her own business.
Arnold was a finalist in the Everywoman in Technology Awards, winning the Inspiration of the Year Award. Currently she sits on the board for Women In Science and Engineering (WISE), and in 2014 was named in the BCS Women in IT Campaign.
She has won awards from her inspirational work encouraging women in STEMfields. In 2015, Computer Weekly named her the 9th Most Influential Women in UK IT.
5. Susan Cooklin
CIO at Network Rail, Susan Cooklin has achieved highly throughout her career.
For the last 20 years, Susan has worked in financial services, leading business, technology, and operational teams in multinational corporations. Thanks to her work at Network Rail, the company was recently dubbed IT Ambassador at the Real IT Awards.
After Cooklin raised concerns that there was a shortfall of women in IT, Network Rail ran a competition to encourage more girls to choose the tech sector as a career path. The company gave the responsibility to six women, who coined the ‘Could IT Be You?’ campaign, highlighting what working in IT is like.
6. Sarah Wilkinson
Currently the Home Office CTO, Sarah Wilkinson joined the UK government from Credit Suisse, where she was Head of Corporate Systems Technology.
At the Home Office, Wilkinson is responsible for technology across the board, and she aims to better integrate government departments. Her work involves developing technologies for Immigration, Policy, Security and Counter-Terrorism.
Sarah’s eyes are firmly on the future, and she said in an interview with CIO that she’s implementing “…a lot of new digital capabilities…mapping, customer journeys, UX and interfaces.”
7. Debbie Forster
Debbie Forster is Co-CEO of Apps for Good, a charitable body that works in the education and technology sector. They work with youngsters, teaching them how to build apps that change the world.
Before Apps for Good, Forster worked at CDI Europe. She was their leading expert on education, public sector, and policy. Using her 20 years of educational experience, 13 of which were in leadership roles, she has honed her skills as a teacher culminating with her successes at Apps for Good.
She worked at e-Skills, too, developing educational policy and strategic engagement initiatives. Debbie has worked with employers, educators, and policymakers in the technology industry throughout her career.
8. Kate Russell
Kate Russell is a freelance television reporter working on the BBC technology show Click. The show is broadcast to UK audiences with BBC News, and internationally on BBC World News.
As a child she appeared on Nickelodeon’s show Fish and Chips, and from there she moved onto present Chips With Everything on The Computer Channel.
These days Kate writes columns for Webuser, National Geographic Traveller, and Original Volunteers. She published her first book titled Working the Cloud and is currently finishing up a novel called Elite: Mostly Harmless.
In keeping with her technology background, her novel was crowdfunded on Kickstarter, achieving over 400% of its funding goal.
9. Dido Harding
Dido Harding, also known as Baroness Harding of Winscombe, is the CEO of TalkTalk.
She has worked at a number of prestigious companies including the management consultancy group McKinsey & Company. From there she took a job as marketing director at Thomas Cook Group, before becoming the commercial director at Woolworths.
Dido Harding worked at Tesco as international support director, resigning that position when she joined the board of directors at Sainsbury’s, taking the title of convenience director.
10. Anna Barsby
Anna Barsby works as the CIO at Halfords. She has a background in IT, and her career has focussed on change leadership and business transformation.
With a keen eye for strategic business growth, Barsby now works in a senior management team at Halfords. Her remit there involves introducing new technologies into the company’s infrastructure, and enabling Halford’s to enjoy a successful future.Anna worked at TUI Travel, Sainsbury’s, and PA Consulting, before arriving at Halfords.
Final Words: Leading Women In UK Tech
So there you have it – 10 of the leading women in UK tech.
They’re all trailblazers, ensuring that the future is more diverse, and less male centric. Hopefully the technology sector will become better integrated so that we can focus on new and emerging technologies, rather than the gender of our IT professionals.