Most inspiring women powering tech

Diversity in the tech industry is a problem. A recent Tech Nation report that looked into diversity in UK tech companies revealed that 77 percent of tech director roles are filled by men. Stats from Tech Nation also suggested only 19 percent of the tech workforce are women.

In light of these statistics, this International Women’s Day at HdE GROUP, we wanted to shine a light on some of the incredible women in the south-west tech space who are driving empowerment across the industry with their work.

As a marketing agency working at the heart of Europe’s fastest-growing digital technology clusters, we spend a lot of time around some of the largest and most ambitious technology businesses in the world.  From this, we’ve become very familiar with many talented women from founders and leaders to data scientists and digital designers.

While, of course, it would be impossible to include every female on this list who has made an impact in the south-west tech scene (because, well… there’s a lot), we’ve included those who we believe truly do deserve some recognition.

Professor Marcelle McManus

Kicking off our list of inspiring women in the tech scene is Professor Marcelle Mcmanus, a Professor of Energy and Environmental Engineering at Bath University. 

The lecturer is a world-leading authority on bioenergy, carbon capture, and renewable energy production, with her work earning her the award of “Most Inspirational Woman in STEM in the West” in 2019.

When asked for her advice for women thinking of pursuing a STEM career, Prof McManus said:

Stick with it because it’s a really amazing job to be in. There are so many global challenges at the moment with climate change, with energy security, resource management, water scarcity, and we need so many different types of people who can solve these problems and work on these challenges. When you get to a point where working on something and you realise you’ve worked out how you can do it, it’s an amazing feeling. So stick with it!

Dr Zara Nanu 

Next up is Bristol-based gender analyst and social entrepreneur and chief executive of Gapsquare, Zara Nanu. Gapsquare is a leading provider of fair pay, pay gap and pay transparency analysis software. The software revolutionises how companies measure and end unfair pay,  creating a world where work is fair and inclusive, where pay meets value, and where diverse talent thrives. Now we think that most certainly deserves recognition.

In a recent interview with HdE GROUP, Nanu explained where the inspiration came from to start Gapsquare:

“I co-founded the company after hearing the World Economic Forum predict that it would take 217 years before the Gender Pay Gap could be closed. At the same time, the WEF said that by 2030, we’ll be in self-driving cars, healthcare would be automated and remote, and we’d be on our way to Mars. Yet, we would still be 200 years away from closing the Gender Pay Gap. I realised that there was potential to harness the power of tech, data and artificial intelligence to accelerate social change and achieve fair pay for everyone.”

Dr Becky Sage

Another woman who certainly deserves the spotlight is Dr Becky Sage, CEO of Interactive Scientific, a company that have won numerous awards for innovation with Sage generating over £1.3 million to seed the developments. Sage has been showered with an impressive number of accolades over the years as a result of her incredible work, including Women in Innovation InFocus awards 2016, WISE 2016 finalist, 42 Under 42 in the South West and Sunday Times Maserati 100 innovator 2019.

When asked in a blog by Women’s Tech Hub Bristol how she would encourage women and girls to consider science, innovation or technical roles, sage highlighted the strong role mentors can play:

“Getting a mentor made a huge difference to me and I wish I had done that earlier. I’d recommend looking out for the people you respect, and who you’d like to model even if you can’t work with them directly.”

Rav Bumbra

Next up is Rav Bumbra is an entrepreneur, diversity consultant and advisor to organisations. Bumbra’s work has been recognised nationally, including being showcased as one of the Most Influential Women in UK.

Bumbra plays a critical role in the drive to improve diversity within the tech community.  The company she founded in 2015, Structur3dpeople, helps organisations to recruit a more diverse workforce for technology, digital and leadership role.

Bumbra’s passion surrounding helping women enter the tech industry doesn’t stop there. 

In 2016 she delivered a mentoring initiative to help women achieve their goals to enter into tech careers and move into leadership. Following the success of this initiative, Rav launched Cajigo, a dual app that provides mentoring and support to girls and women to accelerate their growth into tech, digital, engineering and leadership careers, wherever they are based in the world.

Dimitra Simeonidou

Professor Simeonidou, Director of Smart Internet Lab and the co-Director of Bristol Digital Futures Institute, is an expert in Telecommunications Networks and advancing the fields of Optical, Data Centre and 5G networks. Her pioneering research has been instrumental to enable the UK to lead on 5G deployments involving sectors such as culture/creative, public safety, transport, tourism. She has co-founded one of the UK’s leading start-ups specialising in software platforms for smart infrastructures, Zeetta Networks, and is Director of the Smart Internet Lab, working in one of the most prominent research labs in Europe

Dimitra has been the Technical Architect and the CTO of the smart city project Bristol Is Open and is currently leading the region in 5G urban pilots. ​On top of this, she’s the author and co-author of over 600 publications, numerous patents and several major contributions to standards.​

In 2019, she was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering in recognition of her outstanding and continuing contributions to the profession and is the first women in Bristol to be elected as a fellow.

The list really could go on in regards to Professor Simeonidou’s incredible impact on the industry! But we’ll leave it at that for now…

Samantha Payne MBE

Another empowered female inspiring today’s generation is Samantha Payne, who’s incredible work awarded her an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list 2020. And it’s not hard to see why when you just take a look at the incredible global impact of the business she co-founds, Bristol-based Open Bionics.

Samantha set up the company in 2014 with co-founder Joel Gibbard with the goal of developing affordable, assistive devices that enhance the human body. Since then, the company has made waves globally, forming partnerships with the likes of Disney and 20th Century Fox and winning numerous awards.

A true leader, Samantha is paving the future for girls in tech, inspiring a new generation of girls to conquer challenges and is an active voice in campaigning for a fairer representation in the industry.

Verity McIntosh

Someone else who absolutely deserves a mention is Verity McIntosh, Senior Lecturer in Virtual and Extended Realities at UWE Bristol and founding member of Bristol VR Lab, a shared workspace to research and develop Virtual, Augmented and Mixed Reality technology, applications and projects in the South West.

Verity is someone whose impact on the regions tech scene cannot be understated. Her work in the community has seen her win “Best Mentor/ Advisor” at the SPARKies 2019 awards, which recognises the individual or organisation, that has truly gone over and above to advise and support a tech company or individual to achieve success in the South West digital and tech sector.

Other impressive accolades include being voted ‘one of the 50 People to Follow in the VR Industry’ by Virtual Umbrella, ‘one of the 100 Most Inspirational Women of the West’ by Reach plc, and being named as one of TT50 Top 50 most influential and impactful individuals working in the South West’s tech scene.

Marina Traversari

Marina Traversari is the Global Head of TEAC at the Telecom Infrastructure Projects (TIP) Ecosystem Acceleration Centers globally. This initiative by Facebook & major industry leaders identifies and incubate cutting edge telecom startups, accelerating product development through industry collaboration and investor support, with a current focus on 5G and ORAN. Previous to this she headed up Oracle’s Global Startup Ecosystem for the UK & Ireland.

Marina is inspired and passionate about the tech scene in the Southwest region of the UK, including the collaboration and innovation that’s coming out of the region, particularly around Big Data, Blockchain, Cloud Adoption, Machine Learning & AI and IoT / Smart Cities. She is excited about helping to develop and promote technologies that make our lives easier and more enriching or uses tech to bring arts more accessible.

With a proven track record in managing relationships and partnerships, breaking down social barriers and championing equality and diversity, combined with a passion for using technology for improving people’s lives, Marina is looking forward to helping Bristol and the UK grow startup technology and help impact the wider global technology ecosystem through Oracle’s startup program.

Marina is also the winner of The SPARKies 2020: life time achievement award; this award celebrates the person who has had a clear impact and demonstrable long-term contribution to strengthening the tech cluster in the South West.

Dr Anne-Marie Imafidon MBE

“Anne-Marie Imafidon is a woman on a mission” reads a Forbes article about our next mention.

At just the age of 11, Dr Anne-Marie Imafidon passed her computing A-Level. By 20, she was one of the youngest to ever receive a Master’s Degree in Mathematics and Computer Science from the University of Oxford.

A respected thought-leader in the tech space and trustee at the Institute for the Future of Work, Anne-Marie was awarded an MBE in 2017 for her work as a renowned champion and inspiration for women looking to find a role in the world of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). Through her non-profit organisation, Stemettes, she has been working incredibly hard to make tech accessible, interesting and even desirable for females.

She delivers keynotes at leading companies and conferences all over the world, was voted the ‘Most influential woman in tech in the UK’ in 2020, and hosts the hugely popular Women Tech Charge Podcast for the Evening Standard. These are just a couple of entries and a shortened down version of Imafidon’s very long list of extraordinary achievements. Her incredible impact on campaigning for a more diverse STEM community cannot be overlooked.

When asked what advice she would give to hiring managers in the industry in a recent British Computer Society interview, Imafidon recommended this:

Just for once, pick someone that doesn’t look like you. And believe them when they open their mouth. That’s such a revolutionary idea, to just believe that the woman knows what she’s talking about.

This year’s International Women’s Day theme is #ChooseToChallenge; referring to the premise that we can all choose to challenge and call out gender bias and inequality. We can all choose to seek out and celebrate women’s achievements. 

Collectively, we can all help create an inclusive world. While there’s quite clearly a lot of work to be done on diversity in the tech scene, we’re so proud of the hundreds of women in the south-west and beyond who are shattering glass ceilings and empowering the community through their work!

Recovery Roadmap

According to PWC UK, just 5 per cent of leadership positions in the technology sector are held by women. A diverse workforce makes better businesses; so how do we work to support female talent and enable women to lead across all sectors? And how can technology help bridge the diversity gap globally?

In the roundtable below, the group discuss the underrepresentation of women in technology and how we can overcome current barriers to take productive steps forward.
You can watch the full article here