WIT UK awards 2022: Larissa Suzuki tops the list of female inclusion influencers

Winners are using tech to help society, upskill diverse talent, and keep them in the sector

Larissa Suzuki, Technical Director at Google Cloud, scooped the headline Woman of the Year Award at the 2022 Women in IT Awards UK (WIT UK Awards 2022) for her inclusive leadership efforts, advocacy, and inspirational personal resilience.

She is a true role model for women and the neurodiverse community in tech. Diagnosed with autism and bullied by school peers because of it, she focused on her passion for STEM to get her through.

As a tech professional today, she has personally mentored over 400 women, is a supporter of skills development and delivers initiatives within deprived communities.

Aside from being an inclusive leader who wants to share her knowledge with other women in tech to help them succeed, she has also become an influencer and thought leader, advocates for the ethical use of technology and data in the industry, and has made contributions to academia, industry forums, institutes, and societies.

An “exceptional young woman who has been excelling in STEM from the age of seven”, she is a true role model for the power of difference in the sector. “Her life is a direct example of what it truly means to survive and thrive as a woman in IT,” continued the judges.

WIT UK Awards 2022: A snapshot of the amazing winners

A group of astounding women in tech were honoured with awards last night for their inclusive leadership styles, their work diversifying the sector’s talent pool, and their tech products that are helping communities thrive.

Described as “target-driven” by the judges, the Advocate of the Year winner Kirsteen King, Director of Business Operations at News UK, has boosted female representation in her team from 15% to 37% in just five years.

Hiring more women into the male-dominated tech industry is one thing, but making them stay and contribute to the industry is essential too, and King has managed this with flying colours.

Last year, half of her firm’s hires were women, with female hiring rates overtaking female attrition, which is an incredible achievement. Women often leave the workplace due to caregiving responsibilities.

Her firm’s significant female retention rate shows her workplace is a highly inclusive one and results from her powerful advocacy for other women in the sector, which is proactive and anything but passive.

With COVID-19 having presented one of the greatest health and inequality threats of our time, this year’s Digital Transformation Leader winner took on the health challenges brought by the pandemic and helped design a tech offering that helped communities access healthcare support easier.

Susie Day, Head of Delivery (NHS App) at NHS Digital, is an example of harnessing the power of tech to help wider society and increase the accessibility of services for all.

The judges were clearly impressed with the nomination: “With no room for error, this incredibly high achiever played a critical role in the Government’s response to the pandemic by leading the integration of the NHS App with the Covid Pass and subsequent national roll-out.”

Undoubtedly, her contributions have helped people from various backgrounds access services and live their lives again, improving their mental health in the process.

The judges concluded that her evident passion for delivering effective access to digital healthcare services while meeting the needs of multiple stakeholders and assimilating multiple mobile devices made her the clear winner of the award and showcased her “strong, collaborative and capable leadership.”

Padmasini Dayananda Global Head of ESG Outreach- Volunteer Led Social Impact, Cognizant won the Social Mobility Project of the Year award for devising programmes to help others enter the tech industry.

She is on a mission to upskill talent from various backgrounds. She has helped over 1500 students with their critical thinking abilities and has put 988 young people from BAME backgrounds through training boot camps and established e-Mentoring for women in the third sector as well as students.

From her list of initiatives, it’s clear that the judges’ comments about her ring true; “her passion is inclusion in tech, believing digital skills are for all, regardless of gender, age, racial and socioeconomic background.”

Through establishing initiatives and educating colleagues, 2022’s Diversity Lead of the Year, Tolu Oke, Global DEI Customer Engagement Leader at Amazon Web Services, ensured they took on the diversity and inclusion mantle as allies and advocates. During the pandemic, one of her diversity and inclusion programmes grew 235% to 1,450 ambassadors and expanded to 30 countries. The judges commended her proactive approach to refreshing and adding to existing initiatives.

The Employer of the Year winner is a great example of the importance of a united organisational response to diversity and inclusion needs.

The judges described software firm Iterable‘s approach to diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) as “ambitious and encompassing” and congratulated them for building “a more inclusive workplace that meets the needs of everyone wherever they are located,” adding that it “demonstrates the inspiring effort it has taken to attract diverse talent from a variety of locations, circumstances, and environments.”

The organisation won the prestigious award due to its “equal compensation no matter where you live pay policy, desire to hire managers from underrepresented backgrounds, and introduction of non-typical policies such as Adoption and Fertility Assistance.”

Huge congratulations to the winners, who are making the tech sector more diverse and accepting by creating environments that women and other minorities can enter and remain in, and accessible tech products that empower diverse consumer communities.

Awards sponsors and judges – background

Sponsored by Google Cloud, Frank Recruitment Group, Morgan Stanley, and many others, the awards, which consisted of 19 categories, celebrated incredible and awe-inspiring female tech leaders who use their talents to positively impact the industry and make it more accessible and inclusive to all.

After careful deliberation, the 2022 winners were selected by a 16-strong judging panel of business leaders in the technology and digital transformation spaces. These included; Elaine Allen, Regional Sales Director – Service Cloud, Salesforce, Tanvi Bhardwaj, Co-Founder & CTO, MishiPay, Joel Blake OBE, Founder and CEO, GFA Exchange, Avril Chester, CTO, RIBA, Joanna Drake, CIO, The Hut Group, Jane Gilmour, Director of Architecture and Tech Services, Marks and Spencer, Ian Golding, Chief Information Officer, Anthesis Group, Nitin Gupta, Director, Growth & Transformation, UK Financial Services, Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), Cecilia Harvey, CEO / Founder & Chair, Hyve Dynamics / Tech Women Today, Zoe Morris, President, Frank Recruitment, Georgina Owens, Chief Technology Officer, Liberis, Claire Priestley, Founder, CIO +1, Jacqueline de Rojas CBE, President, TechUK, Tavier Taylor, Interim Chief Technology Officer, The Harrier Group, Elizabeth Vega OBE Group CEO, Informed Solutions, and Joanne Webb, Founder, The Girls Club – Network.

All the winners from the 2022 Women in IT Awards

Advocate of the Year, Kirsteen King, News UK

Ally of the Year, Kim Lawrie, Engine Creative

CIO of the Year, Jo Graham, Boohoo.com

CTO of the Year, Niki Trigoni, Navenio

Data Leader of the Year, Neha Pandey, Direct Line Group

DEI Recruit and Advancement Initiatives of the Year, Aspire Project

Digital Transformation Leader of the Year, Susie Day, NHS Digital

Diversity Lead of the Year, Tolu Oke

Employer of the Year, Iterable

Entrepreneur of the Year , Liz Ashall-Payne, ORCHA

IT Team of the Year (led by a woman)  Private Sector, Christina Morris, Just Eat Takeaway

IT Team of the Year (led by a woman)  Public Sector, Pooja Bagga, Royal Mail

Next Generation Leader of the Year, Hannah Crompton, bp

Outstanding Contribution of the Year, Isabel Straw, NHS and University College London

Outstanding Diversity Network of the Year, Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Wellbeing Network – Credera

Security Leader of the Year, Naina Bhattacharya, Danone

Social Mobility Project of the Year, Padmasini Dayananda, Cognizant

Sustainable Tech Award of the Year, Veera Johnson, Circulor

Woman of the Year, Larissa Suzuki, Google Cloud

This year’s awards featured many diversity and inclusion categories. Stay tuned for more content on these important category winners. To find out more about the Women in IT Summit & Awards Series, please click here.

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