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The most influential women in tech

Alphr females: A celebration of the women driving the tech world forward

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The technology industry has long been known, lampooned and lamented as a man’s world. With 0.4% of female pupils choosing to study computer science for A-Level last year, the tech world is at risk of morphing (or should that be crystallising) into a hotbed of white, male computer science graduates with an inexplicable proclivity for hoodies (see: Zuckerberg).

Armed with years of high-intensity coding classes and mechanics modules, these Imperial College graduates are sharp-elbowed, ambitious – and overwhelmingly male. And while there’s nothing inherently wrong with the male gender (although there are corners of Twitter that would vehemently disagree), tech’s gender imbalance needs to change.

Praise be, then, to the women challenging the stereotype. CEOs, entrepreneurs, coding extraordinaires – these women are a beacon of hope for young women and girls, to whom the world of tech, like that of football or home breweries, can be made to feel out of bounds for the female sex.

So here’s to the women in tech. To butcher a much-loved quote: may we know them, may we be them, may we raise them. Or at the very least honour their achievements.

Most influential women in tech

Most influential women in tech: Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook COO

An obvious choice, but a necessary one. Sandberg is a tech tian of epic proportions: a household name, she became Chief Operating Officer at Facebook after meeting the Zuck at a party back in 2007 – a role he didn’t even know he was recruiting for at the time.

Sandberg started off at, you guessed it, Harvard, where she graduated in 1991 with a degree in economics. After completing an MBA at Harvard Business School, Sandberg had a succession of tech-related jobs in the late 1990s.

Since joining the world’s largest social media platform in 2007, she has gone from strength to strength, founding Leanin.org and being elected to Facebook’s board of directors in June 2012 – the first woman to serve. The subsequent year saw Sandberg publish her book, Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead.

Sandberg was widely celebrated for her episode of Desert Island Discs, in which she spoke candidly about grief (“I never knew anyone could cry so much”), paying homage to the healing power of female friendships. An icon if we’ve ever seen one.

Most influential women in tech: Ginni Rometty, IBM CEO

Ginni Rometty not only holds the role of IBM CEO, she’s also the firm’s Chairman and President. The Chicago-born powerhouse was appointed to the role in January 2012, overseeing an increased focus on analytics, cloud computing and cognitive computing systems ever since.

Rometty is the ninth CEO in IBM’s history – the first woman to hold the role. Accusations of tokenism were batted away by her predecessor Sam Palmisano, who stated that Rometty’s ascendancy had “zero to do with progressive social policies”. Rometty’s rise was based on sheer merit.

That’s not to say she doesn’t champion women’s advancement in the tech industry; Rometty plays a prominent role in a host of in-house IBM organisations, such as its Women in Technology Council and Women’s Leadership council.

READ NEXT: The best free coding courses and bootcamps for women in London

There are accolades aplenty, too; last year, TIME named Rometty the sixth most influential person in tech, beating the likes of Elon Musk (20th), Jeff Bezos (19th) and Mark Zuckerberg (18th). She scooped up tenth prize in Forbes’ Power Women 2018 pick – a roundup of world leaders including Angela Merkel, Christine Lagarde and Jacinda Ardern. 

"Power is taking action in a moment that could make you feel powerless. Never let anyone define you. Only you define who you are," she said

Most influential women in tech: Fumbi Chima

Fumbi Chima is CIO to the greats. The Hull-educated powerhouse has held the role of Chief Information Officer at several global companies, beginning her trajectory as CIO for Walmart's Asia division.

She then moved on to become CIO of Burberry in 2015, where she oversaw the fashion powerhouse's technology division for two years, before progressing to to 21st Century Fox-owned Fox Newtorks Group.

Chima wields a formidable background in finance, having held the role of Regional CIO for Global Finance at American Express, in addition to a Senior Vice Presidency at JP Morgan Chase.

With a BA in Politics and Philosophy from the University of Hull, Chima proves you don't need a Stanford computer science degree to make it big in the world of tech – arts and humanities students, take note.

Most influential women in tech: Justine Roberts, Mumsnet Founder and CEO

Image: Howard Lake, used under Creative Commons

Granted, Mumsnet isn’t for everyone. With its reputation for pearl-clutching piety, the platform has given rise to some great parodic spinoffs (see: Mumsnet Madness on Twitter, “Digging through Mumsnet so you don’t have to”).

But there’s no denying that it’s the UK’s most prominent parenting website – Wandsworth dwelling mothers’ answer to The Student Room. It’s also the brainchild of Justine Roberts, Londoner, mum of four, and Oxford graduate (PPE, natch) who co-founded the website with Carrie Longton in 2000.

Roberts has scooped up numerous awards for her contribution to parenting forums; she has repeatedly been named in MediaGuardian’s Power 100 list, in addition to making BBC Woman’s Hour’s “Power List of 2013”, coming in at number seven with co-founder Longton.

Most influential women in tech: Hadley Beeman, NHS Chief Technology Advisor 

Beeman is the Chief Technology Advisor to the UK’s Secretary of State. Dubbing herself a “data and security geek”, Beeman co-founded 300 Seconds, a series of lightning talks, “by women, for everyone” in her spare time.

The bulk of her time, however, is dedicated to reforming tech from within the NHS – an institution infamously in need of an overhaul. Beeman wants results fast, pledging on LinkedIn “to work on transforming the NHS so that every part of it can use the best tech – now and going forward”.

READ NEXT: New NHS tech guidelines should speed up its services

Based at the Department of Health and Social Care, Beeman works closely with NHS Digital and NHS England to bolster in-house tech at the NHS. We look forward to seeing how her overhaul will pan out – and what it means for the future of UK public healthcare. Watch this space.

Most influential women in tech: Eileen Burbidge, fintech powerhouse

Burbidge is a fintech tour de force. After completing a computer science degree at the University of Illinois, she moved around Silicon Valley’s finest, including Apple and Yahoo. Burbidge moved to London in 2004 to work as a Product Director at Skype, and went on to become the Treasury’s Special Envoy for Financial Technology.

Burbidge is a founding partner of tech VC firm Passion Capital, and describes herself as a “recovering work- and tech- oholic”. Since 2015 she has served on the Prime Minister’s Business Advisory Group.

Image: TechCrunch

She was recently profiled in the The Times, where she detailed the sexism of the tech industry – and how she’s rallying against it. “Obviously, I have experienced sexism,” she said, “but I feel being a woman hasn’t held me back. The best gratification is when you prove people wrong.”

And prove them wrong she has; Passion Capital’s employees are over 50% female – unusual in the male-dominated intersection of tech and finance. Zeal for reform is something she brings to all areas of life. Disgruntled to learn her daughters couldn't play football at school, Burbidge wrote to the school board requesting they put girls’ football on the curriculum. “To their credit,” she said, “it worked”.

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