The technology sector’s reputation for gender diversity has always been poor. According to research from IT educational group e-skills UK, women make up just 17% of Britain’s tech workforce.
Despite this, women have played a key role in the rapid evolution of IT in recent years. While the lack of coverage might lead you to believe otherwise, there are plenty of role models for aspiring female tech minds. Here, we look at five of the most influential in the UK.
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Dame Wendy Hall
One of the most decorated and respected figures in UK IT, Wendy Hall has been at the forefront of Web and computer science research for more than three decades. Now Professor of Computer Science at the University of Southampton, her ground-breaking work has been recognised at the highest levels; she was appointed CBE in 2000 and given the title of Dame nine years later.
Along with Internet inventor Tim Berners-Lee, she founded the Web Science Institute and remains a director today.
Baroness Joanna Shields
Born in the US, Baroness Joanna Shields has lived in London for more than 15 years and serves as UK Minister for Internet Safety and Security. Before becoming a minister, Baroness Shields was Prime Minister David Cameron’s Digital Advisor and the CEO and Chair of Tech City UK, where she was responsible for leading the UK’s digital economy strategy. She has also held major roles at both Google (Managing Director Syndication, Business Development) and Facebook (VP & Managing Director, EMEA).
Alongside her day jobs, Baroness Shields is a life peer in the House of Lords and uses her position to “promote organisations, skills, and causes which improve our lives using technology.”
After starting her career as a librarian at the BBC, Jennifer Rigby went on to work as the head of IT strategy at the National Archives. What followed was a varied journey through some of the UK government’s biggest tech roles, including stints as the Head of Information for the Home Office and CIO of the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC). Today, she serves as the Head of IT Channels and Innovation at the UK’s second-largest mobile service provider, O2.
The emphasis of Rigby’s work has been on “green IT,” and in her role at the DECC she led a project that saw the government’s carbon emissions reduced by 21%. She later went on to become the Chair of Westminster’s Green Delivery Unit.
Despite having held roles at Google, the Guardian, and the British Interactive Media Association, Emma Mulqueeny is best known as the founder of Rewired State, and perhaps even more importantly, Young Rewired State. The latter is a non-profit organisation dedicated to the nurturing of young British technology talent and runs events that cater to developers and designers under 18.
Mulqueeny’s influence on the future of the UK’s technology sector is further strengthened by her parliamentary position as a member of the Speaker's Commission on Digital Democracy.
Perhaps no woman in IT has embodied technology’s power to drive enterprise evolution quite like Catherine Doran. In a career spanning more than three decades, she has overseen major IT transformation projects at a number of blue chip organisations. In the early 2000s, she spent three years as the CIO of Capital One’s Europe division before going on to fill the same position at BT Retail and Network Rail.
Today, she heads the technology team at Royal Mail and has spent the past four years leading a major overhaul of the company’s IT function -- a project that has, by all accounts, been hugely successful.
A Bright Future For Women In Technology
As technology’s role in the enterprise increases in importance, the IT sector’s gender disparity is gradually fading. Fortunately, the people profiled here are just five of so many pioneers working to inspire the next generation of female tech minds.
Meet other leaders during the Women in Tech panel at Interop London on Wednesday, June 17.
Interop, the flagship event of London Technology Week, takes place at ExCeL London June 16 to 18 2015. Find out more here.