Role models are crucial for young girls when they are considering what they’d like to be when they grow up. Seeing women succeeding in the tech industry is important as it helps dispel doubts and instil self confidence into the next generation. Strong positive female role models help to normalise the idea women can be tech leaders, scientists and digital experts. For that reason DIGIT went to some of the top women in Scotland’s tech industry to find out which women inspired them and why.
Anna Doyle, Business Operations Manager at British Interactive Media Association
One of the most inspiring women in tech to me is Dame Stephanie Shirley, who founded software house Freelance Programmers, staffed by and for women, and was inducted into the BIMA Digital Hall of Fame last year. Her story of striving to use her talents in what was then, more than now, a man’s world is formidable.
It is difficult to pinpoint what inspires (awes) me most: her endless optimism; her relentless energy and focus to achieve her goals; her pioneering approach to allow women to use technical skills and work flexibly before flexible working was even invented; her pragmatism; her undoubted intelligence and skill; and finally, how she used all her skills and corresponding eye-watering income for philanthropic ends.
It seemed clear to me that everything she did was simply to allow herself to realise her full potential and help others achieve theirs. The fact she was so financially successful was a bi-product and not an end goal. We interviewed Dame Shirley at the BIMA100 celebration in 2017 – a party to celebrate a 100-people doing great things in digital right now. I don’t think there was one person amongst the 100 stars who was not humbled by Dame Shirley’s story and the humility with which she told it.
Vicky Brock, Entrepreneur, Founder and CEO of Get Market Fit
Firstly, I am inspired by authoress Mary Shelley, best known for Frankenstein however she also authored The Last Man – probably the earliest good, post-apocalyptic science fiction novel. It’s a piece of genius, it was written in 1829 but they have proto mobile phones, though they still use horses. Secondly, of course, Ada Lovelace – this is what tech could and should have been, if we’d just accept a seamless integration of arts and sciences.
Finally I am inspired by Maggie Philbin, she is why I work in tech. From Tomorrow’s World to Multi-Coloured Swap Shop to all the amazing work she does now, by being so active and visible in tech and science she has provided a role model for the next generation. They will be able to look up to her as someone to follow – now we must do the same thing.
Lynsey Campbell, Executive Director at JPMorgan Chase & Co.
I was recently hugely inspired by Jody Davids who is Global CIO of PepsiCo. I heard her keynote talk at a conference last year in London and was so moved and inspired by her story.
Jody shared with us that day how she has overcome significant personal difficulties, including the loss of her son, and how she used those experiences to push forward and inspire others.
She is the epitome of a straight-talking strong and powerful female who can her real self to any situation – that inspires me greatly. Jody talks with significant expertise about the power of a great leader and her closing remarks along the lines of “you cannot always choose what happens….you can always choose how you respond” will stay with me.
Melinda Mathews Clarkson, CEO of Codeclan
The woman that inspired me in Tech was Janet Perna of IBM. Janet was the general manager of IBM Data and she put IBM DB2 on the map. She was a bit of a data/coding geek and in those days that wasn’t the in thing to be. She was the ONLY women in the leadership of IBM that wasn’t HR or Marketing, she was tough and straight talking.
I loved how she managed the business and she taught me so much, the biggest lesson she taught me was to be honest to your executives… not to make the world all fluffy and perfect. She always had time for me and I was first line manager (way way low on the org chart). She would get up at 5 am, go to the gym and be at her desk by 6:30 am to launch into the day.
Janet was Sales, Executive, Development, Product Offering etc and she just made it look amazingly easy. Her business and technology leadership earned her numerous honours and awards, including her 2001 induction into the Women In Technology International Hall of Fame. Most important, she was respectful to everyone.
Serra Dodds, Chief Creative Officer at Jukebox Labs
The women who has inspired me for many years in my career within the games industry is Jane McGonigal a well respected games designer, writer and TED Speaker who has championed the development of games for social good.
I came across her TED talk “Gaming Can Make a Better World” a few years back and I was so humbled by her determination to use her own illness to design and develop game content that helps to support people with chronic pain and mental illness.
Jane has developed several games and written a couple of books on the subject. Her game SuperBetter is a wonderful example of how gamification and social gaming can enrich and improve peoples lives. Her work has inspired me to always strive, to not only create products which are engaging and visually pleasing, but also bring about social good. I love her sense of humour and humility in the face of adversity.
Liza Horan, Digital Strategy Consultant & DrivenWoman Leader
Now known as the founder of the first woman-owned Internet company, Cybergrrl Inc, Aliza Sherman is an international keynote speaker, digital strategist, and author of ten books including “Social Media Engagement for Dummies,” “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Crowdsourcing” and “Mom, Incorporated.” She’s a champion of women in tech and is regarded as having paved the way for us, she really inspires me.
Aliza was the one who taught me html — by hand, none of these WYSIWYG editors, in 1995. Driving down to the East Side of NYC from Connecticut every weekend, a small group of gals huddled in a non-descript office space to learn about opening and closing tags and how to anchor hyperlinks.
20 years later, I can thank Aliza for influencing my career from editorial publishing to digital strategy and product development. She provided the tech know-how and vision, plus a “safe” climate for women to explore coding, to move me and legions forward. And both her work, and mine, continue. Thanks, Aliza!
Leah Hucheon CEO and Founder of Appointedd
My biggest inspiration is Hedy Lamarr – so much so I named my daughter after her! Not only was she a ground-breaking Hollywood actress, but when she got bored with acting, she went on to invent the technology that underpins Wi-Fi. Pretty amazing!
Sophie Lanc Founder of EqualiseHer
Limor Fried, is truly inspirational for me, she achieved a joint degree in Computer Science and Electrical Engineering at MIT, while in her spare time making tech like an MP3 player out of a mint tin, that she then shared with the world.
Alongside this, she founded what became Adafruit Industries from her MIT dorm room. Limor’s drive and energy inspire me. She sees the possibilities others don’t, like creating a unique innovation ecosystem that encourages understanding, community, collaboration and sharing ideas from different perspectives and disciplines.
Her dedication to inclusive, continuous learning has changed attitudes toward technology. She was the first woman engineer on the front cover of WIRED. But bigger than that, she’s helped make technology possible and accessible to everyone. Limor said: “If there’s one thing I’d like to see from this, it would be for some kids to say to themselves “I could do that” and start the journey to becoming an engineer and entrepreneur.”
Jude McCorry Head of Business Development at The Data Lab
Sheryl Sandberg of Facebook inspires me because of her common sense attitude about careers and family, and women in leadership. She is also very honest in her take on life and giving insight into how she ran her career, having kids etc. Sandberg’s intensive work life – “During my first four years at Google I was in the office 7am to 7pm every day at a minimum” – and how she adjusted after the birth of her son in 2005 to both care for him and make her time in the office more efficient.
“Slowly, it began to dawn on me that my job did not really require that I spent 12 full hours a day in the office. I became much more efficient – more vigilant about only attending or setting up meetings that were truly necessary, more determined to maximise my output during every minute I spent away from home. I also started paying more attention to the working hours of those around me; cutting unnecessary meetings saved time for them as well. I tried to focus on what really mattered. I began to adopt the mantra ‘Done is better than perfect’.”
Maggie Morrison Vice President, Public Sector, CGI Scotland
I am inspired by Dr Sue Black who left home and school at 16, married at 20 and had 3 children by the age of 23. A single parent at 25 she went to university and gained a degree in computing then a PhD in software engineering. She set up the UK’s first online network for women in tech BCSWomen and led the campaign to save Bletchley Park.
Sue campaigns for diversity in the industry and also founded #techmums with one aim which was to empower women and their communities through technology. She is now aiming to get one million techmums on board by 2020. What better example of how technology can change lives for the better?
Frances O’Neil, Founder of Global Trails
As a former teacher and volunteer with Fairbridge (Prince’s Trust), I’m inspired by the sheer ambition of Kimberly Bryant, the founder of Black Girl’s CODE, an organisation that teaches girls in underrepresented communities about computer programming and technology.
Having already reached thousands of girls, Bryant’s stated aim is to reach 1 million girls by 2040. She herself is inspired by the Maya Angelou’s quote “I go forth alone, I stand as 10,000.”
Polly Purvis Chief Executive, ScotlandIS & Chair, CodeClan
It’s difficult not to be inspired by Mary Somerville, the woman who taught Ada Lovelace maths. Known as the ‘Rose of Jedburgh’, she was born in 1780 in Jedburgh in the Scottish Borders, and grew up in Fife and Edinburgh.
A bit of a rebel, she stood up for the rights of West Indian Slaves, petitioned for women to get the vote, and taught herself mathematics, becoming a renowned scientific scholar and writer – extremely unusual for a woman in the 1800’s.
She combined all of this with being a society belle, a wife and mother and an inveterate traveller, with a lifelong interest in nature. Quite some woman!
Dr Hannah Rudman Digital Transformation Expert
Imogen Heap inspires me because she has always been pioneering using tech for good. Firstly, to create novel music experiences. Secondly, to develop fairer business models and ecosystems which have integrity. For example, developing blockchain based platforms for transparency in how musicians get paid for their performances and recordings.
She founded myceliaformusic.org to unlock the huge potential for creators and their music related metadata so a new commercial marketplace can flourish.
Toni Scullion Computing Science Teacher
At university I learnt about the amazing work by Ada Lovelace and Grace Hopper. I love reading about them and proudly have both an Ada and Grace poster displayed on my classroom wall and ensure I share their stories to my pupils each year. Four contemporary women who inspired and have help me at different stages of my education are; Chris Sinclair, she was my college lecturer at Jewel and Esk Valley college. She believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself, helped me complete college and get me to university.
This is where I met the amazing Hazel Hall at Edinburgh Napier University. She also helped build me up when I needed it the most. She helped me complete my Honours degree and believe I could achieve things I never thought ever possible for me; particularly winning grants for my dissertation. Fiona Sabba, who taught me so much and helped shape me as the teacher I am.
Finally, Evelyn Walker, who provides so much support, bundles of encouragement and makes me believe I can make a difference and make my own dent in the universe. I will be forever grateful for these four amazing ladies and I strive to inspire and provide unwavering support, encouragement and belief for each of my pupils like these four did for me.
Morna Simpson CEO at Enterprise Porridge Ltd, Business Analysis & Management Methods for Technology Innovation
I really admire Dawn Foster – who wrote “Lean Out,” it was a relief to hear someone calling out the crap and challenging Sheryl Sandberg’s “Lean In” which gives what I’d call a privileged view of feminism that isn’t feminism at all. Dawn Foster talks about people who have real challenges finding work around in the tech start-up world.
Vicky Brock is following in her footsteps by keeping it real in tech start-up circles in Scotland. I’m looking forward to reading her book when she has collated enough podcasts and blog posts to write it. What she is doing reminds me a bit of Ben Horowitz “The Hard Thing About Hard Things”. So many stories are written with a populist ego driven, identity politics perspective. It is the only book I know of that tells it like it is.
Heidi Roizen is another Silicon Valley star who I admire. She has been very candid in telling her truth. She blogged about the difficult time she went through as a mother when her then daughter told her she was trans. Despite difficult times in her personal life she has managed to keep producing in her career at an exceptionally high level. She is one of the most personable people I have ever met – and took the time to meet me for coffee, and give me good advice when I had difficult decisions to make.
To me real strength is speaking about the vulnerability when you are in it, its about dropping the mask and being who you are. There are so many examples of people fro this egocentric tech start-up world, who talk about their rags to riches story… and that is just the perfect picture of the American Dream. They only talk about it when they are rich, successful and have a range of choices at their fingertips.
Sally Smith, Head of School of Computing at Edinburgh Napier University
I am inspired by Dame Wendy Hall, who is a Professor of Computer Science at the University of Southampton, she worked on early hypermedia research that pre-dated the web. Wendy was Dean of the Faculty of Physical Science and Engineering from 2010 to 2014.
She was Head of the School of Electronics and Computer Science (ECS) from 2002 to 2007 and now is a Director of the Web Science Institute.
I’ve heard her speak at conferences and she’s very inspirational – she’s a real champion for more diversity in computer science research.
Sarah Stenhouse, CEO and Founder of Pixey
My female tech inspiration must be Whitney Wofle, she is the founder and CEO of Bumble and a co-founder of the dating app Tinder. Despite having to deal with inappropriate behaviour from within her own company she was still able to grow one of the world’s most successful mobile apps.
Not only that, but Whitney ultimately left Tinder to start her own competing business, Bumble which focuses on giving women much more control over who they engage with online. To me she is the definition of girl power! December last year she was listed in a TechCrunch feature on 42 women succeeding in tech that year.