Computer Weekly announces the 2021 Most Influential Women in UK Tech

Computer Weekly has announced the 2021 list of the Most Influential Women in UK Technology, including this year’s winner, Poppy Gustafsson, CEO of Darktrace.

This year marks the 10th anniversary of the list, which started out as a list of 25 in 2012 to make female role models in the sector more visible and accessible.

Since then it has greatly expanded, growing in 2015 to include 50 women, as well as introducing annual lists of Rising Stars and a Hall of Fame to ensure as many women in the sector as possible are given recognition for their contribution to the tech sector and the advancement of diversity and inclusion in the IT industry.

In 2017, Computer Weekly began publishing the longlist of nominees, which initially showcased just over 160 women – the 2021 longlist featured more than 500 women.

To mark the 10th anniversary, 10 names have been added to both the 2021 list of Rising Stars in the women in tech sector and the Hall of Fame dedicated to honouring women who have made a lasting impact on the technology sector.

The 2021 winner of the title of Most Influential Woman in UK Technology is Poppy Gustafsson, CEO of cyber security and artificial intelligence (AI) firm Darktrace, which aims to use AI to prevent firms from suffering cyber attacks.

A passionate mathematician, Gustafsson initially joined Darktrace as chief financial officer (CFO) in 2013, before becoming CEO in 2016. She is a believer that a mixture of skillsets, both technical and otherwise, are needed to make a technology company a success.

1. Poppy Gustafsson, CEO, Darktrace

Gustafsson studied mathematics at Sheffield University, moving on to become an assistant manager at Deloitte, then a fund accountant at Amadeus Capital Partners.

She joined Darktrace as chief financial officer (CFO) in 2013, then spent some time as the chief operating officer (COO) before becoming CEO in 2016.

Gustafsson has been featured in lists such as the Management Today 30 under 35 and was a winner in the Veuve Clicquot Business Woman Awards in 2019.

2. Flavilla Fongang, managing director, 3 Colours Rule; founder, TLA Black Women in Tech

Fongang is the managing director of creative agency 3 Colours Rule, as well as a branding, neuromarketing and social selling course instructor for the agency.

In 2019, she founded the Tech London Advocates Black Women in Tech group, which aims to support and accelerate diversity and inclusion in the tech sector.

Fongang is a brand advisor at the BBC, a brand specialist for Consilience Ventures and an entrepreneurship expert with the Entrepreneurship Centre at the Saïd Business School at the University of Oxford.

She recently launched a book, The voices in the shadow, which aims to give young people access to the role models they might need to encourage them to pursue a tech career.

3. Naomi Timperley, co-founder, Tech North Advocates

Timperley is a freelance consultant and co-founder of Tech North Advocates, a private sector-led collection of tech experts who champion the technology sector in the north of England.

Named a Computer Weekly women in tech Rising Star in 2017, she is also an honorary industry fellow at the University of Salford Business School, chair of the Salford Business School Industry Advisory Board and, until recently, was a board member of FutureEverything. In the past she co-founded Enterprise Lab.

4. Andrea Palmer, business change and digital transformation manager; BCS fellow; chair, BCS Women

Palmer has led a long career in business change and digital transformation, having held various roles at energy firm BP over a 15-year span.

She is currently the chair of BCS Women, sits on the BCS society board and volunteers as a programme manager for iSAW International.

In previous years she has served as one of Computer Weekly’s expert judges for the Most Influential Women in UK Tech list, dedicating a lot of time both in and outside of her work to furthering the conversation around getting more women into the tech sector.

5. Suki Fuller, founder, Miribure

Fuller founded Miribure in 2015. The company uses data gathering and analytics to promote strategic decision-making in firms.

A founding ambassador of the FiftyFiftyPledge, Fuller is also an advisory board member of Tech London Advocates (TLA) and Tech Global Advocates, and the TLA Women in Tech co-lead.

Fuller co-founded, and until 2019 was CEO of, incubator and accelerator Salaam Ventures, which focuses on assisting ethical startups.

6. Priya Guha, venture partner, Merian Ventures

In 2019, Guha joined Merian Ventures as a venture partner, having previously been ecosystem general manager for the London campus of Silicon Valley-born co-working space RocketSpace.

Guha also acts as an adviser for Tech London Advocates and The Youth Group, as well as being a council member for InnovateUK and a member for the international committee at the Royal Academy of Engineering.

7. Hayaatun Sillem, CEO, Royal Academy of Engineering

Sillem was appointed CEO of the Royal Academy of Engineering in 2018 after 12 years of working at the organisation in various different roles, including deputy CEO and director of strategy, director of programmes and fellowship, and head of international activities.

As well as her work for the academy, Sillem is the commissioner and chair for the expert stakeholders panel at Made Smarter UK, chair of judges for the St Andrews Prize for the Environment, a trustee of EngineeringUK and CEO of the Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering.

8. Sarah Turner, CEO and co-founder, Angel Academe

Turner founded Angel Academe, a pro-women and pro-diversity angel investment group focused on technology. She is currently CEO of the group and until 2019 was an external board member and chair of the investment committee for venture capital fund the Low Carbon Innovation Fund.

Turner is also a board member of the UK Business Angels Association, the trade association for early-stage investment, and in 2007 co-founded consultancy Turner Hopkins, which helps businesses create digital strategy.

9. Charlene Hunter, CEO and founder, Coding Black Females

Hunter founded Coding Black Females in 2017 as a network for black female software developers, and is a software developer herself.

As well as acting as an advisory board industry representative in the University of Essex Online’s computing department, Hunter is the technical director at both SAM Software Solutions and Black Codher Bootcamp.

Previously, Hunter was lead software engineer at Made Tech and held roles such as senior software developer, lead Java developer, app developer and technical consultant at various firms.

She was named a Computer Weekly Rising Star in 2020.

10. Sarah Luxford, partner (digital, data and technology), GatenbySanderson; co-founder, TLA Women in Tech

Luxford is co-lead of Tech London Advocates’ women in tech group and was co-founder of Croydon Tech City. She is now a partner (digital, data and technology) at advisory firm GatenbySanderson.

Before her current role, she was director at recruitment company Global Resourcing, and as director at Nexec Leaders from 2015 to 2017, Luxford worked with founders, investors and business leaders to find the talent they needed.

She was named one of Computer Weekly’s 2015 Rising Stars.

11. Sharon Moore, CTO for public sector, IBM UK

Moore is chief technology officer (CTO) for public sector at IBM UK, having previously focused on designing technical solutions for IBM’s clients in the travel and transportation industry, incorporating engagement, internet of things (IoT) and analytics technologies, in her role as industry technical leader for travel and transportation.

Moore is also deputy chair of BCS Women and is the BCS Women Scotland lead.

12. Joanna Davinson, executive director, Central Digital and Data Office, Cabinet Office

As executive director of the Cabinet Office’s Central Digital and Data Office, Davinson is responsible for leading the government’s use of digital, data and technology.

For three years prior to her current role, she was the chief digital, data and technology officer at the Home Office, where she was responsible for delivering the department’s digital, data and technology solutions, including high-profile projects such as UK border systems.

She also spent time working on public sector ICT projects at PricewaterhouseCoopers and IBM.

13. Tabitha Goldstaub, co-founder, CognitionX; chair of government’s AI Council

Goldstaub co-founded CognitionX in 2015, and is also chair of the government’s AI Council, which aims to offer advice and guidance to the government in the ongoing use and development of AI.

She also acts as marketing counsel for Founders4Schools, adviser for The Prince’s Trust and is the co-founder of Future Girl Corp, an organisation that runs free events for future female CEOs. She also serves as a judge for Teens in AI and is a board member for TechUK.

14. June Angelides, investor, Samos Investments

Angelides founded, and until 2017 was CEO of, Mums in Tech when on maternity leave from Silicon Valley Bank, where she held roles as an associate for accelerator growth and an associate for entrepreneur banking.

She is an investor at Samos Investments, a board advisor for Cajigo App and is a founding ambassador of the FiftyFiftyPledge.

She is an honorary fellow at the Institute of Engineering and Technology, an Oxford Foundry mentor at Oxford University, an ambassador at Huckletree and a board observer for both Global App Testing and Everpress.

Angelides was previously chosen as a Computer Weekly Rising Star.

15. Jacqui Taylor, CEO, Flying Binary

Taylor is an expert advisor for the European Commission and U4SSC, and is a technology advisor for TenureX.

She founded and is CEO of web services company FlyingBinary, and also acts as an entrepreneur mentor for Tech Nation. 

16. Deborah Okenla, founder and CEO, Your Startup, Your Story (YSYS)

Named a Computer Weekly Rising Star in 2020, Okenla is founder and CEO of Your Startup, Your Story (YSYS), a community for startup founders aimed at making the startup ecosystem more diverse.

She is an advisory panel member for IT services firm AND Digital, and an advisory board member for not-for-profit Coders of Colour.

Okenla is also an advisory board member for The No.10 Innovation Fellowship Programme, is part of the Atomico Angel Programme 2021 and a council member for the Digital Economy Council for DCMS.

Prior to her current role, Okenla led engagement and groups for Google for Startups and was previously membership manager at co-working space Huckletree.

17. Anna Brailsford, CEO, Code First Girls

Brailsford joined Code First Girls as CEO in 2019, and is a serial entrepreneur and co-founder.

She’s also a board member for the Institute of Coding where she focuses specifically on diversity and inclusion, and is a self-employed commercial and strategy consultant.

In the past, Brailsford co-founded and was CEO of performance management firm Frisbee, which was part of venture capital fund Founders Factory.

18. Liz Williams, CEO, FutureDotNow; chair, GoodThingsFoundation

Williams is the CEO of inclusion campaign FutureDotNow, which aims to tackle the inequality often caused by digital adoption.

She is the social mobility commissioner at the Social Mobility Commission, a member of the board of trustees for Transport for London and chair of the Good Things Foundation.

Prior to her current work, she spent more than 20 years at BT in a number of different roles, including programme director for sustainable business, director of tech literacy and education programmes, and director of digital society.

19. Nicola Blackwood, chair, Genomics England

Blackwood is chair of the board of Genomics England, chair of Public Policy Projects and board trustee for the Alan Turing Institute.

Prior to this she worked in the public sector, originally as the first female MP for Oxford and more recently as minister for innovation for the Department of Health and Social Care.

She has been a chair of the Human Tissue Authority, a board member for Oxford University Innovation, an advisory board member for Eagle Genomics and sat on the board of directors for the Campaign for Science and Engineering.

20. Kriti Sharma, vice-president product, GfK; founder, AI for Good UK

Sharma is the vice-president of product at GfK and founded tech company AI for Good in 2018 to provide ethical AI-driven tech.

She is an advisor for the United Nations and a board member for the Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation.

Previously, Sharma was vice-president for AI at Sage, during which time she founded Messaging Bots London. Before joining Sage, she was vice-president, head of product, real-time…

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