Today, we’re celebrating International Women’s Day, with this year’s theme being Press for Progress. It couldn’t be more relevant at a time where issues like gender inequality and stereotypes in the workplace continue to make headlines across the UK and globally. But from time to time we need to stop and appreciate the progress we’ve made as well as the issues yet to resolve and renew motivation to help drive gender equality.
Women are beginning to make their mark on the tech industry in a big way. But it’s going to take continuous effort to keep things moving forward and to do this, we must continue to inspire the next generation of female digital leaders.
Each year, Computer Weekly compiles a list of the Most Influential Women in UK IT to celebrate and commend the incredible achievements of the industry’s most talented and driven females, so without further ado, here are the current top 5 influential women:
Sherry Coutu is one of Britain’s most successful angel investors, working and investing with entrepreneurs to use digital to develop marketplaces as well as working with students and teachers in education technology.
She advises and serves on the boards of companies, charities and institutions such as the London Stock Exchange, Cambridge University, Raspberry Pi and Zoopla.
As an angel investor, she has made direct angel investments in more than 50 companies and holds investments in three venture capital firms. She founded and chairs the not-for-profit Founders4schools.org.uk, and co-founded Silicon Valley Comes to the UK.
In 2017, Sarah Wilkinson was appointed the new CEO of NHS Digital. Prior to this, Wilkinson was the Chief Technology Officer at the Home Office, where she led many of the most critical IT systems supporting UK borders and policing.
Sarah was previously Managing Director and Head of Corporate Systems Technology at Credit Suisse for over two years, having previously worked at HSBC, UBS and Deutsche Bank in various senior IT roles. She also sits on Telefonica’s startup accelerator Wayra as a board adviser and is a non-executive director at the Police ICT Company.
Named as one of Computer Weekly’s Most Influential Women in UK IT Rising Stars in 2016, Carrie Anne Philbin leads strategy, CPD programmes and learning resources at the Raspberry Pi Foundation.
Carrie has worked to advance technology education in schools, acting as a board member for the Python Software Foundation and Computing At School (CAS) and chair of CAS #include to make computer science education accessible to all.
She is also a YouTuber, writer and secondary computing and ICT teacher and creates a number of online resources for teenagers to help them get started with Raspberry Pi technology. She has a YouTube series dedicated to making role models within the IT industry more visible to teenage girls.
Claire Cockerton is a serial entrepreneur and an industry leader in financial services. Cockerton is co-founder and ambassador of Innovate Finance, a City of London and Canary Wharf Group backed group promoting fintech startups.
She is founder and chairwoman of Entiq, a firm delivering innovation strategy and product development programmes for large corporates.
Claire also set the strategy and co-led the implementation of Level39, Europe’s largest technology accelerator dedicated to fintech, retail and smart cities technologies. She is an active member for Women in Tech, Tech London Advocates, Women Shift Digital, and is a member of the Mayor of London Tech Ambassador Group.
Most recently, Cockerton launched the 68,000ft2 Plex innovation hub at Here East in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.
Chinyelu Onwurah is shadow minister for Industrial strategy, Science and Innovation. She led Labour’s pre-2015 election review of digital government policy. She was first elected at the 2010 general election as MP for Newcastle Upon Tyne Central.
A chartered engineer and former head of telecoms technology at UK telecoms regulator Ofcom, she is co-chair of the Parliamentary ICT forum (Pictfor) and former board member of the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology (POST). She is an advocate for digital skills and digital enablement.
The incredible women in this list merely provides a snapshot into some of the amazing work carried out by women in the industry every day. If you’d like to read the full list, click here
To encourage the next generation of digital leaders, organisations across the UK have a responsibility to encourage and support both young girls and women in pursuing a career in the industry. Collectively, it is our responsibility to banish the gender stereotypes, create equal opportunities for women and show just how inspiring, invigorating and rewarding a career in technology could be. But often irreparable damage has already been done before women start making career choices so addressing the route of the problem starts during early education.
The education sector now has a responsibility to help children view technology as a tool to solve problems rather than technology as an end. We need to ensure that students are taught computer science more broadly within secondary schools and can access more interesting tasks rather than a course of basic, and mundane IT skills. The UK curriculum now mandates computer programming, but schools are struggling to provide quality instruction. As more girls gain exposure to the world of coding and understand its huge potential for application in the wider world, more girls will consider a career in tech. It is also important to demonstrate how technology can be applied in real life, from fashion and architecture, to medicine and entertainment. By learning the role that technology plays in different sectors, students can better understand how a career in technology opens up many doors.
To find out how our ANS Apprenticeship scheme is encouraging more women to pursue a career in technology, read our interview with Technical Analyst Apprentice, Kirsty Fitzpatrick.