What does it mean to be successful, to be an influencer? Is it down to net worth, social standing or a name badge reading CEO?
I would argue that it is none of things, it is instead the impact that we have on other people – our ability to affect someone else via our actions and character, which in turn affects their character, behaviour or development. In short, it is being a role model – someone who is inspirational.
Female role models, or influential women, is a topic hard to pin down – on one hand, never before have we seen so many women succeed in business, with the technology sector in particular having high-profile women lead from the top. There are a number of high-profile women tech leaders – Meg Whitman, HPE CEO and HP Inc Chairwoman, Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, and Ginni Rometty, President and CEO of IBM, which is to be celebrated – but there is another side to this story.
Gender equality is a fantasy in the business technology world – men outnumber women and it is apparently going to take around 100 odd years to reach gender parity. Not only that, there are even signs that the gender stereotypes when it comes to technology have got worse not better – 47% of young girls believe that boys are better matched to STEM subjects, with 60% of those girls thinking STEM is too hard to learn. This, of course, is not helped by the 51% of teachers and 43% of parents who also think STEM is better suited to boys.
This way of thinking is only adding to the ever-widening digital skills gap the UK, and the world, is facing. This is a major factor as to why successful women are embracing the role model moniker, exerting their influence to make both industry and government sit up and take note of the lack of diversity in the industry.
Baroness Joanna Shields goes even further, stating that it is the responsibility of women in tech to give back, saying: “it is the responsibility of women across the globe that have achieved success in the digital and IT sector to give something back. Together we can capture the imagination of young women and give them the confidence to believe they can create the great tech innovations that will define our future.”
However, it is not just girls that need to be inspired when it comes to STEM and careers in technology, as both boys and girls need to be given that spark of inspiration – both will be needed to plug the digital skills gap. As Accenture’s Emma McGuigan stressed to CBR: “We need to ignite the interest of a wider demographic to ensure the UK is equipped to compete in the digital economy and we all have a role to play – business, government, educators and parents.”
The women listed below should certainly be celebrated. Firstly they should be celebrated for breaking the glass ceiling, overcoming numerous barriers to reach the top of their profession. Secondly they should be celebrated as business leaders in their own right – no matter their gender they have reached the top of their profession. Not everyone makes it the top CEO spot, regardless of them being a man or a woman. Thirdly, they should be celebrated for being a voice – a voice of a role model, a voice to encourage and inspire.
10 of the most successful and influential women in UK technology – not ranked
Baroness Joanna Shields – Minister for Internet Safety & Security
Baroness Shields is widely known as the UK’s First Lady of Technology, with her 25-year career in the industry certainly supporting such a moniker.
An early pioneer of digital technology, Baroness Shields started out in Silicon Valley in 1989 – but actually started working with digital technology before this move, taking a product marketing role at National Digital Corporation in 1986. Positions at Google, where she grew revenue to over $1bn, Bebo, where she grew the network to over 50m users, and Facebook, where exponential growth saw upwards of 1bn users, saw her cement her position as one of the most successful women in tech.
In 2012, she was recruited by PM David Cameron to lead the Tech City initiative and become the UK’s Ambassador for Digital Industries. Her time at Tech City saw her, among other initiatives, create the Future Fifty programme, with her work certainly seeming to have made an impact – London is now regarded as the tech capital of Europe with the sector contributing over 10% to GDP.
Appointed as the Prime Minister’s Adviser on the Digital Economy in Summer of 2014, Baroness Shields served in that role until the May 2015 General Election when David Cameron appointed Baroness Shields a Minister in the newly elected majority government. She now serves as Under Secretary of State, Minister for Internet Safety & Security. She is now tasked with making the internet a safer place for children and promoting safe, open access to the internet for everyone.
Baroness Shields is also a prominent speaker and campaigner of the need for more women in tech, having told the audience at the 2016 Women in IT Awards:
“The great actor Kevin Spacey has said “If you’re lucky enough to do well, it’s your responsibility to send the elevator back down”. I could not agree more. I feel an immense personal responsibility to inspire the next generation to embrace technology and entrepreneurial culture and all the incredible experiences it has to offer.”
Baroness Shields stressed the importance of role models – a topic echoed by many of the women on this list. She said: “We need top women championing the cause, taking on the mantle of role model, mentor and friend and sharing positive and encouraging narratives about their journeys. Think of the Girls in Tech mentorship scheme for example. I am proud to be their ambassador or Europe’s Inspiring 50 women in tech programme? And there are many many more.
“I believe strongly that it is the responsibility of women across the globe that have achieved success in the digital and IT sector to give something back. Together we can capture the imagination of young women and give them the confidence to believe they can create the great tech innovations that will define our future.”
The next influencer shares in the dual government/industry role, being the successor to Baroness Shield’s role at Tech City UK
Eileen Burbidge – Partner, Passion Capital & Tech City UK Chair
Boasting an MBE and a ‘special envoy’ status from the British Treasury, Eileen Burbidge’s CV reads like the who’s who of technology with the likes of Apple, Skype, and Sun Microsystems. With Prime Minister David Cameron hailing her ‘knowledge and experience of the digital landscape’, Burbidge was appointed as Chair of Tech City UK in 2015, replacing Baroness Joanna Shields. Tech City UK use targeted programmes such as Future Fifty alongside thought leadership, roundtables, surveys and reports to help accelerate the growth of London and the UK’s digital economy. Commenting on her appointment, Burbidge said:
“From my role at Passion Capital, I’ve witnessed first-hand the impact that Gerard and his team can make for digital businesses at all stages. I’m hugely excited to be joining and look forward to ushering in the next phase of the Tech City UK success story to deliver even greater impact and uplift for the digital economy in Britain.”
Since taking the role as chair, Burbidge has established Tech City UK’s Entrepreneur Advisory Panel, which includes some of the UK’s most successful digital entrepreneurs, to provide strategic counsel for the organisation. Members of the advisory panel include Alex Chesterman, CEO Zoopla and Taavet Hinrikus, CEO Transferwise.
Her role at Tech City UK complements her day-to-day role as founder and partner of Passion Capital, an early stage venture capital firm. Both roles seek to develop and grow start-ups, with Passion Capital counting companies such as adzuna among the companies invested in.
It has been well publicised that Burbidge does not regard herself as a ‘women in tech’, preferring, to be identified as an ‘advisor’, ‘angel investor in tech’, ‘product person’ or ‘business development lead.’ In a post in 2010 she stated that she was ‘so sick of this “woman thing” and stated:
“I don’t have an issue with having more women in tech, and I generally agree that it would improve some products, companies, businesses and achievements. So I don’t think there shouldn’t be more women in tech, I’m just not sure there’s an actual problem with our current progress — given where the industry has come from and the fact that tech as an industry is better than most when it comes to gender neutrality and having a merit-based ecosystem.”
As an investor, Burbidge judges outcomes and actions – neither of which is impacted by gender. Her stance on women in tech could be seen as the ultimate in equality and diversity – male or female, it doesn’t matter.
Here we move from one women who started in Silicon Valley, to another who wants to make the UK the Silicon Valley of Europe.
Jacqueline de Rojas – TechUK President
In her inaugural speech as the new techUK President, de Rojas set out her ambition going forward, saying:
“My ambition? A world leading connected and inclusive economy; a source and hub for global digital talent and innovation; a national ecosystem of thriving regional clusters. In short a world leading digital nation of significance. The UK as Europe’s Silicon Valley is within our grasp.”
She is achieving this on two fronts – one, as President of techUK, an organisation that represents over 900 companies that are ‘defining today the world that we will live in tomorrow.’ Jacqueline has held the role of deputy president and board champion for women on the board of techUK, with the drive to champion women in tech stemming from an experience in one of her first management roles – apparently, the company that she worked for ‘didn’t put women on the leadership team.’
This is very much still an issue now, with Jacqueline telling CBR in a recent interview; “Female representation on FTSE 100 boards has increased from 12.5% in 2011 to 23.5% in 2015 so while things are changing, sexism is holding back over 50% of the population from reaching the very top.”
Jacqueline told CBR that the lack of women in IT was actually a cross gender issue, but to get more women in tech we need to target the girls at a young age. Echoing the sentiments of other women in this list, Jacqueline said:
“The UK has one of the worst records in science performance for girls in the world according to the OECD – and European Commission research also suggests that the skills gap is larger in the UK than anywhere else in the EU, with the gender imbalance remaining a pervasive issue throughout the education system and within the IT workforce.
“The best way to counter this is to get girls engaged at a younger age. Things like Code Club should be supported and participation encouraged as they ultimately improve the numbers selecting STEM subjects at school.”
The digital skills gap is of major concern to business leaders, with the next woman in tech leading an organisation which partners with industry to get young people passionate about STEM
Anne-Marie Imafidon – Head Stemette
Anne-Marie Imafidion started in technology early – she was the youngest person ever to achieve a qualification in Information Technology and at 13 won a scholarship to study maths at Johns Hopkins University. After becoming the youngest ever graduate with a masters degree, she started a career at Deutsche Bank, but it’s her work as a champion for women in STEM that has placed her as one of the most influential women in UK tech.
Founding the organisation Stemettes after hearing an inspirational keynote by Nora Denzel at the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women, combined with the fact that she was only one of three girls in her Maths and Computer science class at university, Imafidon has made it her mission to get more women into STEM.
The Stemettes have a clear vision – to inspire the next generation of women into STEM by using successful women already in STEM careers as cheerleaders in a series of panel events, hackathons, exhibitions and mentoring schemes. With the Stemettes building momentum and gathering big name industry support from the likes of Salesforce, Imafidion told CBR that she wants to ‘build our coverage across the UK and have established bases across UK cities; have our OtotheB app regularly used by girls and young women across the UK & Europe; get started on some initiatives with our male Stemette supporters.’
The UK is facing an increasing skills gap, with a lack of diversity staring companies straight in the face. So many women in tech are reiterating the importance of getting girls interested in STEM at an early age, and its women like Imafidion and organisations like Stemettes who will spark that love of all things science, technology, engineering, and maths. Sharing her vision for the future, Imafidion would like to see “the culture & environment at tech events and workplaces become more inclusive; I’d like to see men of all ranks properly working as change agents to increase the retention of talent and investment in diverse talent.”
Known as a ‘Godmother Stemette’, the next woman in tech was one of the first industry partners to promote Stemettes, sharing in the drive to tap into the talent pool early.
Emma McGuigan – MD Accenture UK&I Technology
Joining Accenture in 1994 after completing a masters degree in Electronics from the University of Edinburgh, McGuigan has risen up the ranks to her current position as Managing Director of Accenture’s UK&I Technology business. Like other women business leaders on this list, digital disruption and the digital skills gap is driving her work at Accenture this year.
She told CBR: “I have two key priorities for this year. Firstly, to continue to source the very best tech talent for our UK business and help them and us to become even better at supporting our clients in this period of intense digital disruption. We need to attract and retain an increasingly diverse team of people with very differentiated expectations and experiences but anchored in deep skills and curiosity in changing the world a little every day through the opportunity technology provides.
“Secondly, to help clients realise a cloud-first approach to their business. In a digitally driven world, cloud solutions enable a rapid response to ever-changing customer needs through accelerated speed to market, increased automation, improved collaboration and breathes new life into existing estates.”
McGuigan is one of the most fitting examples of what it means to be a ‘champion’, with her work on diversity and inclusion including driving the Accent on Women and Accent on Family programmes for TGP, teaming up with the Stemettes to sponsor the Girls in IT Schools program, working with eSkills on the Information Economy Council, and acting as the treasurer for the Orchid Project – a charity campaigning to end female genital cutting.
Talking to CBR, McGuigan articulated as to why diversity and STEM is so important, saying: “One of my biggest drivers is to empower young people to embrace technology and the opportunity it creates to drive new ways to live and work. Too much of our education system is about making young people “exam passing machines” rather than preparing them with the skills needed for working life and showing them how they can learn and grow when things don’t go to plan.
“To support this, businesses need to collaborate even more with the education sector to inspire more young people with the impact they can have with a career in technology, the diversity of skills that are required and the application of these skills in every sector from fashion to manufacturing; theatre to finance. We need to ignite the interest of a wider demographic to ensure the UK is equipped to compete in the digital economy and we all have a role to play – business, government, educators and parents.”
Those who influence tend to lead by example, which is why the next influential woman has engineered a 300% rise in interns at her company.
Ursula Morgenstern – Global Head of Consulting and Systems Integration, Atos
Joining Atos in 2002 following the acquisition of KPMG Consulting, Morgenstern was appointed UK and Ireland CEO in January 2012, after previously acting as UK and Ireland COO. In 2015 she was appointed Global Head of Consulting and Systems Integration, a role which sees Morgenstern battling digital disruption and finding ways in which to capitalise on the hot commodity that is data. Morgenstern told CBR:
“The technology market has undergone a huge shift in recent years. All businesses, regardless of sector, are experiencing a period of digital disruption. It is our priority to enable clients to stay ahead of the game by helping them use digital transformation to improve areas of their business including operational efficiency and customer experience.
“To help achieve this goal we must help our clients unlock the power of their data. Data is the new black gold that is fuelling the digital revolution and it’s important that companies understand how this can support their business strategies, especially as the amount of data available will increase dramatically over the next few years with greater connectivity and the Internet of Things.
Her work in women in tech has not gone unnoticed – this year she won the Woman of the Year award at the Women in IT Awards, which celebrated her efforts in trying to encourage more women to enter careers in technology. It was a well deserved accolade – under her leadership the number of interns taken on by Atos has increased by over 300%, highlighting her commitment to developing young people. Embracing her position as a women in tech role model, Morgenstern told CBR:
“The change I would like to see now is to drive more young people to choose to study STEM subjects in school and university. Many young people, especially women, are self-selecting out of these areas. I believe with the rise of technology sitting right at the heart of all industries including fashion, retail and media more and more young people will choose an education and career in tech and it is our role as leaders to nurture, encourage and support that.”
Another leader at a massive multi-national up next, who has found the time outside of her work at one of the biggest technology companies in the world to chair a WISE organisation.
Trudy Norris-Grey – Microsoft GM, Central and Eastern Europe & Chair of WISE
Starting her career in Racal Vodafone in 1983 as an audit accountant, Norris-Grey has held positions at Kodak, Oracle, Sun Microsystems and BT Wholesale. In 2012 she joined Microsoft as its General Manager responsible for the public sector business of Central and Eastern Europe.
In addition to her role at Microsoft, Norris-grey is Chair of WISE, an organisation which seeks to inspire girls and women to study and build careers using science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM). With an aim of getting 1 million more women in the UK STEM workforce, WISE advises organisations on how to create environments where those women can do their best work and thrive.
Commenting on the importance of a diverse workforce, Norris-Grey said: “STEM skills help our country, our companies, our communities, our families, including the women, to prosper. Women are a huge untapped talent pool and my ambition is to ensure that girls and young women have the information and support to play a full and equal part in contributing to their and our country’s prosperity and success”.
In addition to advising the UK government and chairing the CBI Committee on Innovation, Science & Technology, Norris-Grey champions the fact that although men and women are different, business can only benefit from a diverse workforce. She said: “Are women any different from men? For sure, I’ve met a lot of women in my career who are good at collaboration and multi-tasking, essential skills for success, but then I’ve met a lot of men who are good at them too!
“I think it’s dangerous to indulge in stereotypes because it can end up creating unconscious bias and then you’re just back to square one. We are passed that now, most careers today demand a wide range of skill, from technical awareness to being able to work in teams with a wide range of cultures and abilities. The technology sector is not about backroom geeks or hard-hats; ultimately it is about how we best serve the customer, meeting their broad and diverse needs including raising living standards and well-being.”
Organisations support, develop and guide – key factors in many areas and none more so than when it comes to the gender gap in technology. Which is why the next women in tech founded not one group, but two.
Dr Sue Black – GDS
Appointed an OBE in the 2016 New Year Honours for services to technology, Black recently published the fastest crowdfunded book of all time – Saving Bletchley Park. A prominent campaigner for Bletchley Park, Black helps raise awareness and funding for the UK World War II centre which cracked the Enigma code.
In addition to her work in Saving Bletchley Park, in 2001 she founded BCSWomen, a specialist group of the British Computer Society and launched in reply to the startling lack of women in tech. The group provides networking opportunities for all BCS professional women working in IT around the world, as well as mentoring and encouraging girls and women to enter or return to IT as a career. As well as BCSWomen, Black also founded #techmums, a social enterprise which empowers mums and their families through technology.
A tireless campaigner for women in computing alongside a 20 year career in technology and academia, Black is also a noted academic manager and research centre director with more than 40 publications and a PhD in software engineering. She is currently an advisor for the GDS, working on a new advisory board to shape UK Government Digital Services which will support, advise and challenge the UK government to deliver better services for users.
Having embarked on her career in technology at the age of 25 when she was a single parent living on a council estate, her motto is simple, yet bold: “If I can do it, so can you.”
The next entry in this influential women countdown shares the software engineering skillset, having started out as a techie before rising to CEO.
Regina Moran – CEO Fujitsu UK&I
There is an entrepreneurial element to Regina Moran, CEO of Fujitsu UK&I. Starting her career as an electronics engineer, she co-founded the services and consulting business at Amdahl, before co-founding DMR Consulting Ireland in 1997. A move to DMR Consulting, and a consequent name change and merger, landed Moran at Fujitsu. Her role is focused on the Japanese multi-national’s growth, and with Moran it is all about getting people to realise the importance and value of digital. Speaking to CBR, she said:
“As the CEO of Fujitsu in the UK & Ireland, my priority for this year will be continuing to grow Fujitsu, by helping our customers to realise the value of digital transformation. At Fujitsu, we pursue human-centric innovation, which is digitalisation that allows people to focus on the parts of their job that add value. That might be giving social workers more contact time with families or enabling service businesses to focus on client relationships by automating back-end processes. But I also want to help companies ensure that they digitalise with purpose, making strategic decisions rather than pursuing technology for technology’s sake.”
Although heading a multinational is no easy task, Moran also acts as President of Engineers Ireland and has previously chaired ICT Ireland. She is also a prominent champion of women in tech and STEM, sitting on the advisory board for the government-industry led Smart Futures Advisory Board. Moran combines her passion for getting young people interested in STEM in her work as CEO of Fujitsu, championing change and inclusion in technology.
Speaking to CBR, Moran said: “As the leader of a major corporate, the change that I would love to see in UK tech is greater coordination on the key issues that we are facing – digital skills and diversity. We are facing a chronic STEM skills shortage in the UK, which is set to worsen as digital grows in all sectors. The tech industry is also continuing to fail on diversity, which means that businesses will struggle to reflect and serve the needs of their diverse consumer base. Stakeholders throughout technology need to work together on initiatives to address both of these issues, and avoid focusing only on addressing their own recruitment needs.”
The final influential women profiled here started in the world of tech not as a techie, but as a VC – but after finding the tech bug, is on the front line trying to stay ahead of digital disruption
Jane Moran – Unilever CIO
Beginning her career as a venture capitalist, she discovered her love of IT after networking her company’s office. After this and following four years as global CIO at Thomson Reuters, Jane Moran was appointed CIO at Unilever.
Digital disruption – everyone is talking about it and a myriad of reports, surveys and whitepapers are telling businesses how to prepare, deploy and success. Moran is one CIO embracing digital, trying to stay ahead of competition by adopting new and radical technologies.
Stating that ‘technology will underpin everything that we are doing to sustainably grow our business,’ Moran has looked at the success of companies such as Uber and Airbnb and has taken to revamping the 86 year-old Unilever to succeed in the digital era.
Speaking in a Unilever interview, she said: “My takeaway is that in 10-15 years’ time we are going to be more of a digital company and digital consumer goods products companies are going to win. Everyone at Unilever will be a technologist. Just like we take English courses at school, we will need to take coding and computer science as it will underpin everything that we do every day.”
She is also a major supporter of encouraging more women in IT, acknowledging the business case behind better diversity in business. A supporter of agile working as a means to keeping women in the workforce, Moran’s top 4 tips for women building a career in IT include finding a mentor; finding a voice; claiming credit; and taking a place at the table.
Echoing sentiments that women should have more confidence in their work, she said of claiming credit: “Spend 10% of your time telling people what you have done. A lot of women say ‘my team’. Every once in a while it’s OK to switch those pronouns and take some credit for yourself. Turn up the volume on interactions so that your good ideas get heard, you move the business forward and you move yourself forward in your career.”