Each year, on 8 March, women are celebrated as part of the annual International Women’s Day (IWD).
In what has become both a way to shine a spotlight on the achievements of women, across all sectors, and highlight the wider context around gender equality, the day has grown from a series of local gatherings in 1911 to today’s global event.
It’s also the day comedian Richard Herring dedicates to answering the calls of disgruntled men on Twitter asking when International Men’s Day is (19 November, if you’re wondering), but that’s an aside!
This year’s IWD 2020 theme is #EachforEqual and is calling for each of us to challenge our own stereotypes and biases when discussing gender. Biases that are rife in many industries, but particularly in tech; a sector that has been historically run and dominated by men.
With this in mind, we want to highlight 10 of the most inspiring women working in the technology industry today who not only fly their own flag, but fly the flag for equality generally – whether that’s gender equality, racial, age and more.
Ophelia Brown – Founder of Blossom Capital
Ophelia is the founder of Blossom Capital, an early-stage VC fund set up to bring a fresh approach to investing in tech startups and companies by placing a focus on the founders themselves. Her first fund broke records as the fastest-ever first time fundraise from a female VC in Europe, from which she was part of Checkout.com’s own record-breaking Series A investment. She has since followed this with a second, $185millon fund just a year later.
In 2016, Brown founded ALT (Ambitious Ladies in Tech), a mentor network to help women in technology startups achieve their career goals. ALT currently has more than 60 mentees and 120 mentors in its network (from the likes of Google, Facebook, Airbnb) and hosts masterclasses, workshops and events to provide additional skills development, coaching and networking opportunities.
Dr Sue Black OBE – Professor of Computer Science at Durham University
Dr Black OBE is a figure well known in many circles from her work campaigning to save Bletchley Park, but she is also an avid campaigner for women’s rights, social equality and is considered one of the most inspirational and influential women in IT.
Beyond her role as a professor in computer science and at Durham University, Dr Black OBE is founder of BCSWomen, an online network for women in tech, and #techmums, a social enterprise that offers mothers free courses to build up their technology skills.
She was awarded an OBE in 2016 for services to technology and is an advisor to the Government Digital Service and a Board Trustee for the Comic Relief charity.
Anne-Marie Imafidon – CEO and co-founder of STEMettes
Since launching the award-winning Stemettes organisation in 2013, Anne-Marie Imafidon has dedicated her life to inspiring and building up the pipeline of young women going into STEM.
Anne-Marie’s (and Stemettes’) mission is to encourage girls aged between five and 22 years old to pursue careers in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths by showing them how to “approach scientific challenges with confidence.” Since its inception, some 40,000 young people have attended the free events, workshops and Stemette experiences across the UK and Ireland.
At the age of just 27, Anne-Marie’s work with Stemettes and social enterprise earned her an MBE in the 2017 New Year’s Honours List for services to Young Women and STEM Sectors.
Amali de Alwis – Managing Director, Microsoft Startups UK
There are few women who have done as much for helping the younger generation get into tech in recent years than Amali de Alwis. Formerly CEO of Code First: Girls – an initiative that has delivered more than £5million’s worth of free tech education to girls and women – de Alwis is now Managing Director at Microsoft for Startups in the UK.
In 2019, she was awarded an MBE in the New Year’s Honours list for Services to diversity and training in the Tech Industry and holds board positions at Ada, the National College for Digital Skills; the Diversity Board at the Institute of Coding; and the Founders Academy.
She’s also a founding member of the Tech Talent Charter, set up to increase diversity across the tech sector, a Fellow at the Royal Society of Arts, a judge in the Lord Mayor’s social impact-focused Dragon Awards and an advocate of Tech London.
Pip Jamieson – CEO and founder of The Dots
The Dots network was formed to help people connect with creative professionals as a “No-Collar” challenger to LinkedIn’s “White-Collar” community. As an advocate for diversity in its many forms – from gender diversity to socioeconomic, neurodiversity and more – founder Pip Jamieson doesn’t just campaign for more balanced and mixed communities, she practices what she preaches.
At The Dots, its community of members is 68% female, 31% BAME and 16% LGBTQ. Jamieson herself is “delightfully dyslexic” and couldn’t read until she was 11 years old. She built The Dots to help people find professionals not based on where they studied, what degree they have or their race/age/gender, but on solely on their ability to do the job.
Elizabeth Varley – CEO and co-founder, TechHub
What initially began as a tech entrepreneur community to help East London-based startups, and to boost investment in the UK tech sector, TechHub has expanded to the likes of Bangalore, Bucharest, Berlin and Riga, all under the guidance and passion of its CEO and co-founder Elizabeth Varley.
In addition to being a global community for startups, Elizabeth’s team works with corporates to help them with innovation culture and offers free business growth support to underrepresented founders in tech.
Beyond her work with TechHub, Elizabeth previously set up Online Content UK and acted as a founding steering committee member of the DigitalEve women in technology organisation in the UK.
Bethany Koby – CEO and co-founder, Tech Will Save Us
Bethany Koby co-founded Tech Will Save Us in 2012 as a business dedicated to building accessible kits and digital tools to help children “make, play, code and invent using technology”. Inspired by her son, the company is focused on helping to spark the creative imagination of the next generation by putting kids, and their parents, at the heart of everything it does.
Since she founded the company with Daniel Hirschman, it has grown from their kitchen table to a team of 28 designers, educators, engineers and problems solvers who have built six different make it yourself kits and hundreds of digital tools available in 97 countries.
Anne Boden MBE – CEO, Starling Bank
From what began as one of a handful of challenger banks in 2014, Starling Bank has grown to become the best British bank and best current account provider at the British Bank Awards for the past two years running.
Starling was formed as a digital-only bank, set up to be as focused on customer experience as possible by former RBS and Allied Irish Bank’s Anne Boden. Anne has successfully carved out a path in two traditionally male-heavy industries – finance and tech – while also being largely surrounded by rivals headed up by CEOs in their early 20s. Anne was 52 when the company launched and was awarded an MBE for services to financial technology in 2018, at the age of 58.
She recently wrote a book called The Money Revolution to help inspire people to take control of their finances in the increasingly digital landscape and is a member of the Tech Nation’s FinTech Delivery Panel.
Samantha Payne – Co-founder and COO of Open Bionics
Formed by Samantha Payne in 2014 to revolutionise healthcare through the use of 3D scanning and 3D printing, Open Bionics offers an affordable, fashionable and high-tech alternative to standard prosthetics. Payne, whose background is in journalism and digital marketing, made the designs open-source to help inspire others to develop prosthetics, and to make health tech more inclusive and democratic.
The company, and Samantha, have won multiple awards for engineering and innovation including the James Dyson Award for Innovative Engineering, two Tech4Good awards, Best Product Innovation at CES, Intuit’s Britain’s Best Startup Idea and more. Google and Amazon have both listed her as one of the most influential women in robotics and the company holds the official licenses for Disney, Marvel and Lucasfilm inspired bionic hands.
Elizabeth Denham CBE – UK Information Commissioner
Having previously held the position of Information and Privacy Commissioner for British Columbia and Canada, Elizabeth Denham CBE was appointed UK Information Commissioner in 2016, tasked with holding the tech companies who access and use our data to account.
Her work played a pivotal role in the launch of General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which came into force in May 2018 and is responsible for keeping you and your data safe and respected. This same year, she was awarded a CBE for services to information protection.
In her relatively short tenure, she’s launched high-profile investigations into the data practices of Google, Facebook and WhatsApp and is a strong voice for public access rights.