International women’s day: The trendsetters of UK tech in 2021
Today, on International Women’s Day, everyone you come across will boast about women’s contribution, empowerment, and achievements. While we don’t deny these, we need to say that women are still fighting for gender parity in the workplace. Businesses aren’t able to bring in gender balance even after working on it for decades. Despite the huge strides across industries, the tech sector is still lagging, with women making just 20% of the IT workforce, as per BCS.
While there has been progress over the past few years, we are still not where we need to be. The tech industry needs to focus more on building a diverse workforce. Also, investments in companies with women founders will help strengthen diversity.
This International Women’s Day (IWD), let’s acclaim those women entrepreneurs who have been trendsetters in the UK so far. Also, we take a look at what they feel about the feat achieved by female entrepreneurs and executives in technology.
Rebecca Rickwood, founder of Gement
London-based Gement is revolutionising the construction industry by manufacturing geopolymer cement, which is stronger, safer, greener than traditional cement. Also, the company raises awareness about the endless career paths and opportunities across the industry that have been traditionally overlooked.
Rebecca Rickwood, the founder of Gement and a member of WeWork’s Diverse Founders Programme in partnership with Foundervine said, “It’s my mission to create positive change within the construction industry, and I believe innovation is a key part of this shift. I am developing a more sustainable and stronger type of cement, geopolymer, which produces up to 85% less CO2 emissions than ‘regular’ cement by using creative, cost-effective and forward-thinking strategies; encouraging those who choose cheaper, less eco–friendly cement, to opt for a more sustainable version. As a female founder in construction, I’m determined to break the mould and override some of the stigmas associated with this traditionally male-dominated industry, helping shape a more diverse and inclusive culture for years to come.”
Laura Stebbing, co-CEO of accelerateHER
accelerateHER is an internet organisation based in London that focuses on addressing the under-representation of women in the technology industry. It was founded by Laura Stebbing and Poppy Gaye in 2016. One aspect of accelerateHER is the timely events it holds throughout the year to champion women in the industry. The free and invite-only events bring together top investors and CEOs in the industry to introduce them to talented women.
Laura Stebbing, co-CEO of accelerateHER said, “IWD is a moment in the year to highlight the state of the world for women. This year, it’s never felt more important, as Covid-19 threatens to reverse the important gains that have been made for women’s equality. For too long it’s been down to women to change the system, but men are more likely to be in positions of power to drive change. Men can do this by sponsoring a junior woman, bringing her to key meetings, advocating, providing opportunities to do things that will help her get ahead.”
Joy Foster, founder and MD of Tech Pixies
TechPixies helps women upskill with social media, WordPress and MailChimp. The company has left a positive impact on the lives of hundreds of women. Their programme is holistic and teaches up to date social media, WordPress and MailChimp skills and incorporates life coaching.
Founded in 2015 by Joy Foster, Tech Pixies has won several awards, including Women in Business Startup of the Year 2018 and Enterprise Nation Female Startup of the Year 2017. Joy and her company were recently profiled in Forbes for raising £150K and in Stella for breaking down barriers for women wanting to re-ignite their careers and in April 2019, TechPixies was named ‘one to watch’ in the EdTech space.
Joy Foster, Founder of TechPixies said, “We never started TechPixies in order to win awards, we simply wanted to help 12 women return to work following a career break five years ago. I’m thrilled that by raising investment and moving our course online, we’ve been able to scale the business and transform lives of hundreds of women across the UK – breaking down tech barriers and helping women from all walks of life return to work, change careers or start a business so that they can do fulfilling, stimulating work they love while at the same time contributing financially to their families and the British economy.”
Jacqueline De Rojas, President of techUK
Jacqueline De Rojas CBE is the President of techUK and Chair of the Board of Digital Leaders. She serves as Non-Executive Director on the boards of Rightmove, Costain Group and FDM, and was formerly on the board of AO World. She was awarded a CBE for services to technology in international trade on the Queen’s New Year Honour’s list in 2018, was one of the 50 most inspiring female business leaders in Europe in 2017, Debretts 500 People of Influence – Digital in 2016 and the most influential woman in IT in 2015.
Dr Joanna Hart, Harwell Campus Space Cluster Development Manager
Harwell is home to organisations, institutions and businesses shaping the world of today and tomorrow. It is a campus where world-class people work in world-class facilities to solve global challenges; where people prepare for life in space; where electrons generate beams ten billion times brighter than the Sun, and academia and industry collide to bring innovation to market. Harwell is a powerhouse with proven credentials for scientific breakthroughs and technological innovation.
Dr Joanna Hart joined the Campus and Cluster Development team at Science and Technology Facilities Council, part of UK Research and Innovation, in November 2017. Joanna helps Harwell’s 105 space organisations to grow, and brings new companies to set up operations there. Previously, Joanna worked at the Satellite Applications Catapult for four years in the CEO Office. Joanna also has nine years of experience in equity research at investment banks UBS and Credit Suisse. She holds an MA in Physics and DPhil in Particle Physics from the University of Oxford. She is passionate about seeing it grow and encouraging more R&D companies to establish operations here. Joanna now oversees 1100 employees in the Space Cluster.
Thuy Le, Senior Product Manager, Speechmatics
Based in Cambridge, Speechmatics was founded by Tony Robinson in 2009. It provides automatic speech recognition technologies. Speech recognition is one of the hardest challenges to solve due to the complexity of human speech, resulting in large memory footprints. Using neural networks with the latest developments from academia and industry, Speechmatics has developed cloud-based and real-time speech-recognition technology – in many languages.The technology can be used anywhere, by anyone, in any language.
Thuy Le joined Speechmatics in November, 2019, bringing with her two decades worth of experience in technology and developing innovative ideas, as well as a BS in Mechanical Engineering from MIT, and an MS in Product Design from Stanford. She has worked for an array of multinational technology companies across a diverse range of industries, including self-driving vehicles, B2B analytics software, and consumer electronics.
Jane Loginova, co-founder and co-CEO of Radar Payments
Radar Payments is designed for use by payment service providers (PSPs), banks, acquirers, issuers, and payment fintechs. It offers end-to-end omnichannel processing, thereby letting the acceptance of most of the innovative and widely adopted payment methods. The Radar Payments platform delivers scalability, performance, resilience, and unparalleled security. Its white-label platform lets users fast track launches, extend choice of new modes of payments and more without investing in building their own payment infrastructure.
Jane Loginova, co-founder and co-CEO of Radar Payments said, “Fintech companies are pushing boundaries to better include women within the financial system through the use of alternative data. However, in order to achieve a global scale up of female access to financial services that goes beyond just offering a saving account, fintechs need collaborative support from other players.”
Dr. Ruth Wandhöfer, Global fintech influencer and partner at Gauss Ventures
London-based Gauss Ventures that operates since 2017 is an early-stage venture capital firm. The company specialises in hands-on domain specific investments in fintech and smart industry companies. It provides ongoing support to each and every company it works with. Its portfolio fintech companies include popular names such as Revolut, Curve, Verse and more.
Dr. Ruth Wandhöfer said, “Depending on the circumstances, women, for example, need to be able to escape male bullying and control. Often women do not even have access to a mobile phone and the account of the family (if there is one) tends to be in the name of the man. If instead, women would be able to obtain accounts or wallets that are only accessible to them – hence the use of biometrics – this would enable them to become more independent. Over time I see a key role for behavioural biometrics such that any payment or transfer transaction initiated where analytics pick up out of range stress levels, can be blocked or queried. This will be helpful in circumstances where a woman is put on the spot by someone else, forcing them to pay out money electronically.”
Lottie Wells, Head of Community Development of Wirex
London-based Wirex is a digital payment platform that aims to make crypto and traditional currencies equal and accessible to everyone. It makes fintech simple. Its mobile app and Wirex card allows its users to buy, store, exchange, and spend a wide variety of conventional and digital currencies quickly and securely, with no hidden fees and zero fuss. It was founded in 2014 by Pavel Matveev.
Lottie Wells, Head of Community Development and the Women in Crypto Power list for Wirex said, “The benefits of crypto have made us advocates for the mass adoption of the digital economy. In particular, crypto-based transactions are great for providing low cost, safe and fast cross-border transactions, rivalling the high fees of banks. Studies by the World Bank show that conventional cross-border remittances tend to be slow, expensive and require 3rd parties to facilitate payments, as well as inconvenient and archaic in a world that enjoys enormous connectivity and near-instantaneous communication.”
Jillian Kowalchuk, Founder & CEO of Safe & The City
Safe & The City is London-based public safety company that are experts in smart technologies powering holistic safety and perceptional intelligence in both digital and physical spaces. Founded in 2017 by Jilian Kowalchuk, it lets you get real-time notifications from officials to know what’s ahead and plan your next move. You can reach Emergency Services and know the nearest Safe Sites, like the friendly local shop or closest hospital and a lot more.
Deirdre Mc Gettrick, CEO & Co-Founder of ufurnish
Deirdre Mc Gettrick is the Founder and CEO of the UK’s leading search and comparison website for home furniture and furnishings, ufurnish.com. The website brings together over hundreds of leading retailers and over one million of their products in one place. The company raised £2.3M in funding and is on a mission to change the way we all shop for our homes. Deirdre is making ufurnish.com THE destination website for everyone tosearch, discover, compare and shop furniture for their homes.
Deirdre Mc Gettrick, CEO & Co-Founder of ufurnish said, “I feel passionate about empowering more women to start their own businesses. Women are 50% of the economy and we have the best insights into serving that market. I regularly share my story with other women in the hope that they will feel empowered to follow their dreams. I like to think, if I can do it, so can all the other amazing women out there.”
Eshita Kabra, Founder & CEO of By Rotation
By Rotation is a London-based social fashion rental platform. Eshita Kabra founded By Rotation as a side hustle in April 2019. She is focused on creating a conscious and inclusive community that democratises fashion and does not harm the planet.
Eshita said, “Having worked in a male-dominated industry prior to By Rotation, I’ve always been acutely aware of how my different perspective can add value. It has been a priority for me since day 1 to ensure our platform is accessible to people from all walks of life, therefore empowering them to be part of the otherwise elusive (and exclusive) sustainable fashion movement. Inclusion and community is everything, and it starts at the consumer level.”