The Women in IT UK Awards 2021, presented by DiversityQ in association with sister title Information Age, hybrid-virtual celebrations, last night shone a light on advocates and role models for female inclusion in the UK tech sector.
From entrepreneurs, start-ups to large corporate and industry champions, this year’s Women in IT UK Awards, with AWS as its partnering sponsor, continued to identify new role models with a hope to inspire students and graduates to consider a career in technology; the categories included CTO, DEI Initiative, Next Generation Leader, Innovator, and Woman of the Year, and more.
The Women in IT UK Awards (a Bonhill Group event), which received 344 submissions with an eventual shortlist of 170 inspirational individuals and organisations, were hosted by British television broadcaster and presenter June Sarpong OBE. The event’s partnering sponsor was AWS, and awards sponsors Alix Partners, Frank Recruitment, Google Cloud, JP Morgan, Salesforce, BP, HSBC, Red Hat, Rolls Royce, Suse, Sailpoint and Vanguard.
Sarpong then welcomed DiversityQ’s Editor, Cheryl Cole to the stage, who commended the Women in IT community for their resilience over the past year despite the challenges brought on by COVID-19.
During the ceremony, Cole and the category sponsors read out the judges’ comments on each of the winners.
Women in IT UK Awards winners
Before the ceremony began, she said the judges were “blown away by the initiatives and demonstrations of leadership, mentorship and allyship”, including the “genuine investments in diversity, equity and inclusion.”
1. Data Leader of the Year
Cole said: “This year’s Data Leader of the Year is a truly inspiring example of having to change her normal practice towards using data to make an admirable social impact. She has used the rich pools of data held by the organisation to make a real impact on the COVID-19 response, which will continue to inform as we learn to live with the virus. She stands out for her outstanding delivery in unprecedented scenarios – within the UK and the organisation. Her work has been of enormous importance, yet she has continued to lead and grow whilst delivering under huge pressure. She has demonstrated real “battlefield tested” results that saved lives, and she has set a standard for data impact for the future.”
The winner was Kathryn Salt, NHS Digital.
2. Education and Training Initiative of the Year
“In comparison to other education and training programmes, this year’s winning programme is a tremendous effort in tackling a major issue in the technology space that sees a significantly low presence of females in the workforce. They are creatively igniting the younger generation’s interest in technical education streams, generating skills that will be desired across industries and have created a D&I hiring initiative that can be tapped into in the future. By focusing on a range of different ages (primary and secondary school students), the programme aims to tackle misconceptions before they are formed in younger students and remove them from the older generation. The programme has also considered important external influences and provides support and information for parents to help bust technology myths to avoid a lack of understanding which may prevent students from continuing with technology-related subjects. This programme is acting at the core of the industry’s DEI challenges.”
The winner was Its Her Future: Juniors Programme, Preeti Singh, KPMG UK.
3. Returner of the Year
“This year’s Returner of the Year exemplifies insurmountable courage, perseverance and self-belief. She has fiercely battled through numerous challenges that male-dominated sectors threw upon her path to return to the STEM faculty – and she has used those experiences to educate and motivate other under-represented groups. She has re-established her position in her field of expertise and did not take a backseat. Aside from her professional work, she is dedicated to solving the issue of the STEM skills shortage through multiple outreach activities. She has had an extraordinary career and handled incredible setbacks and challenges, only to now be recognised and endorsed by renowned institutions. Our winner has an amazing comeback story to share.”
The winner was Chitra Srinivasan, RealTime Control Software Engineer, UK Atomic Energy Authority.
4. Security Leader of the Year
“This nominee uses her experience and platforms to expand awareness and diversity in the cybersecurity arena and is rightfully recognised by the tech world for her efforts. She is an entrepreneur who has succeeded in a male-dominated field, and she has championed women’s progress in cybersecurity through her scholarships, mentoring and writing. She is a leader in this field due to her hands-on and advisory work and because she is a visible role model for others to follow. She has demonstrated diverse, innovative approaches across various sectors and organisations that all seek to challenge the status quo of her industry, with measurable impact at scale. This year’s winner cultivates an environment of self-improvement, learning and knowledge sharing wherever she goes.”
The winner was Jane Frankland, Managing Director, KnewStart.
5. Entrepreneur of the Year
“Our judges describe this year’s winner as a visionary focused on driving value for customers through technology with innovative data tools which organisations can use to leverage the power of their data assets. She is a hardworking start-up entrepreneur who views data with a diversity lens and associates with the fundamental need to have a diverse workforce that she actively observes within the company. This company utilises a diverse workplace resourcing strategy that follows its own recommended analytical processes for developing new talent. This nominee has demonstrated excellent growth in revenue, staff numbers and has commendably made diversity, values and a growth mindset important parts of the company’s strategy for success.”
The winner was Anna Sutton, CEO and Co-Founder, The Data Shed.
6. Next Generation Leader of the Year
“In a category that received over 55 nominations, this nominee stood out. This individual is a remarkable champion for women and BAME talent. She is an inspirational leader and an agent of change on a mission to improve gender parity and diversity, equity, and inclusion in all its forms. The judges admire her exceptional drive and think it important that others see and learn from her passion and dedication. She has delivered business benefits in response to the COVID crisis, and she learned from personal challenges to create change for so many others and enable others to shine too. She demonstrated great innovation, creativity, and leadership when working and supporting clients forced to close and at risk of putting millions of livelihoods across the globe under threat. She supports countless tech for good initiatives and has set herself the honourable task of shining a light on prejudice and preconception in all forms. A true inspiration, and we can’t wait to see what she does next.”
The winner was Kim Lawrie, Head of Creative Technology, ENGINE Creative.
7. Digital Transformation Leader of the Year
“The results speak for themselves, and the nomination speaks to the respect this nominee has held in the organisation. She has demonstrated extraordinary skill in using technology to support the organisation through challenges. She has confidently and inspirationally led the organisation to successfully deliver a number of large-scale national IT programmes supporting the pandemic. Under this nominee’s leadership, the company has provided a range of data with unprecedented speed and efficiency to key research studies that identified life-saving outcomes. She has created an environment for talented and dedicated staff to shine, nurturing the creative thinking, innovation and appetite for risk that has been needed to make these programmes succeed and has provided clear strategic direction combined with practical support and deep technical expertise.”
The winner was Sarah Wilkinson, Chief Executive, NHS Digital.
8. Innovator of the Year
“This year’s Innovator of the Year is a great example of a clever idea and pivoting quickly to a new situation. Nothing is harder than driving a start-up forward, more so in the midst of a pandemic, and this organisation is a start-up with plenty of possibilities and a higher purpose. Our judges were impressed with the new platform, and its use of advanced data analytics was innovative. The fact that the business model was flipped to realign to COVID and employees working from home and those vulnerable during the pandemic was excellent. This nominee made the process and transactions seamless while maintaining that all stakeholders were safe and abiding by government rules and restrictions. Well done on your amazing work!”
The winner was Elizabeth Swanton, COO, Feedr Ltd.
9. DEI Initiative of the Year
“The following nominee impressed the judges with the overwhelming amount of data backing up the success of this DEI Initiative. They have shown extensive evidence of impact – having gone from 36% to a 54% increase of female graduate recruits. This mentoring and sponsorship scheme is aimed at retaining and promoting female talent within technology firm-wide within the UK. It has, since its inception, been adopted by other global member firms. The organisation has taken real action and demonstrates a working environment where integrity, passion, and entrepreneurial spirit flourish.”
The winner was ‘IT’s Her Future (IHF), Anna Somaiya – KPMG.
10. Employer of the Year (over 250 employees)
“This year’s Employer of the Year (over 250) has demonstrated an excellent commitment to women and to developing the organisation as a viable role model for equality in the tech industry. Their mentorship programme is a fantastic opportunity for women to give back and support each other within the organisation. The group also focuses on introducing the younger generation to the world of technology. Through partnerships with organisations like Girls in STEM, the women at the company can help educate young girls about the career possibilities in technology. As a result, there is a clear investment in development, partnerships, growth and the advancement for women within this organisation.”
The winner was Pax8.
11. Employer of the Year (up to 250 employees)
“This is an inspirational company founded for the sole purpose of making careers education more accessible. They have almost tripled the number of students registered on their professional networking platform this year alone. They have sent their resources out to 80,000 students in 440 + schools across the UK, and none of this would have been possible without the technology that the company CEO and the team used to bring this mission and vision to life. They have considered the customer’s needs, and as a small company of 14, they have pivoted during the pandemic to ensure that a group of people who were likely to be disproportionately affected could still be reached. Our judges believe that this organisation lives, breathes and represents what it is to be championing diversity.”
The winner was Uptree.
12. Male Ally of the year
“This individual goes above and beyond and makes his allyship efforts part of this everyday objectives. He is very highly respected and truly cares about inclusivity across the board based on kindness. He supports several initiatives that advance women’s career development, using a global view based on humane values. He actively leads through his involvement in many aspects and broad view of effective DEI. The judges commend his team diversity metrics, his engagement in industry events to promote female diversity, and the vast range of activities he is involved with to engage STEM, women in technology and diversity participants at multiple stages of their career, including support with return-to-work programmes. Thank you for being an ally and role model for others.”
The winner was Nitin Gupta – Tata Consultancy Services.
13. Board Director of the Year
“This year’s winning nominee represents digital at the board level and demonstrated multifaceted strategies for its integration into the business that had a direct and positive impact on the effective handling of organisational issues when faced with COVID-19. This showed exactly how digital data could assist with massive threats to the community. This year’s Board Director of the year leads a number of DE&I support initiatives and recognises the important contribution of teams in her effective delivery of required changes in these areas. Judges saw a clear blending of vision and tactics, which lead to a well-qualified set of results. The sheer breadth of impact during what have been extraordinary times has really been impressive.”
The winner was Beth Lawton – Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust.
14. Advocate of the Year
“This year’s Advocate of the Year was chosen because of the societal scope and breadth of ambition that she has demonstrated. Through her work in remote areas, she has seen first-hand the power and importance of entrepreneurship when fused with education worldwide. She developed a programme that allows aspiring individuals and experts to work together to solve pressing global problems and spark change through various measures. Her level of tenacity and drive to lead global change, particularly in areas that are so often neglected, is commendable. With recognition from both the UN and UNICEF, this reinforced the importance of her work and how her approach is changing lives.”
The winner was Elena Sinel – Teens in AI.
15. IT Team of the Year (Led by a woman)
“This IT leader and her team have led a fantastic programme that increased efficiencies and reduced spend by redesigning processes and allowing greater insights and transparency to customers. They have provided excellent transformation results in different business units, driven by IT Operations, and have introduced new technologies while aligning with existing legacy systems. The programme of change was huge, complex and transformative. The team produced very impressive results, and our judging panel acknowledge that leading transformation of this size in an established company is not a small achievement. However, this team has delivered demonstrable benefit to the organisation in a relatively short time and deserve to be recognised for this work.”
The winner was Ashlihan Millet – Danone UK & Ireland.
16. Tech for Good Award of the Year
“This year’s Tech for Good Award goes to an individual whose technical thought leadership applied to the genius of the organisation’s software fulfils one of the greatest social responsibilities of protecting our future. She has evidenced the inspirational use of tech to tackle a powerful issue for so many parents and families. Judges could see great commercial acumen via acquisitions to accelerate her focus towards achieving her purpose, and that she has been nationally recognised for her overall work. She works to protect the most vulnerable in society through both her tech company and her volunteer work. The importance and need for shielding our young people in the open world of the internet to allow them to navigate the digital landscape without falling into traps of predators is an effort towards humanity and thinks about the greater good. This year’s winner is a pioneering figurehead in the UK safety tech industry.”
The winner was Sharon Pursey OBE – SafeToNet.
17. Outstanding Contribution of the Year
“This year’s Outstanding Contribution Award is awarded to an individual that has been responsible for overseeing the biggest innovation in living memory, and very possibly in their institution’s 700+ history when creating Virtual and Hybrid options that ensured critical democratic continuity with digital. What would have potentially taken 15 months to do, was carried out in a two-week timeframe. In the last 18 months, this individual has led and been involved in processes and changes that will continue to make history. The transformation carried out could completely change how the institution works and supports greater diversity, equity, and inclusion. It has opened up more possibilities to rethink the setup of the entire institution.”
The winner was Tracey Jessup – UK Parliament.
18. CTO of the Year
“Leadership, integrated and commercial were some of the words used to describe this year’s CTO of the Year. This nominee has provided impressive results to transform and scale the business. They led the team in developing a long-term implementation strategy and prioritising work based on delivering business and customer value with predictability. There was a clear demonstration of increased delivery, problem-solving and customer insights. Over the past year, they implemented a system of continuous integration and deployment that enables the company to integrate updates sooner. They created robust processes, reduced technical risks; created a safer tech environment; and built a happier team with a new career framework that offers clearer pathways and enhanced development opportunities.”
The winner was Sophie Davies-Patrick – MPB.
19. CIO of the Year
“This nominee has led through the global pandemic with some outstanding results and at the same time increased her employee engagement scores. Our judges saw a vision, agility, quantified results and a huge amount of delivery. Some of the key achievements include leading the world’s largest trials; transition to the remote working of a lab-based service; increasing their database; modernising legacy systems and processes; ensuring cyber secure working; increased sustainability efforts; new operating models, and more. In addition, she and her team have worked tirelessly to continue to save and improve lives. As one of our judges shared, “It’s the sticky end of bringing everyone with you that counts and this nominee was able to cut through process to get to tangible outcomes.”
The winner was Wendy Clark – NHS Blood and Transplant.
20. Woman of the Year
“This category received almost 60 nominations from outstanding candidates, and the final decision was a challenge for our judges. This year’s Woman of the year is a great example of strong leadership in difficult times. She is a trailblazer in tech. She has enabled her organisation to thrive and open up new channels for D&I and sustainability practices. Our judges agree that her achievements, dedication to tackle climate change, and her strong level of seniority are what we need to continue to see and learn from. In addition, she has shown a truly authentic approach to her business and to her life. This year’s winner is an inspiring role model who is leading a tech business, who became the first woman to take a company public on the German stock exchange, and who has an inspirational focus on her charity, which was inspired by her daughter, that works to give girls more confidence. We don’t know how she does it all, but she does it, and she does it extremely well – congratulations!”
The winner was Melissa Di Donato – SUSE.
To find out more about the Women in IT Summit and Awards Series, click here.