What does it mean to be successful, to be an influencer? Is it down to net worth, social standing or a name badge reading CEO?
I would argue that it is none of things, it is instead the impact that we have on other people – our ability to affect someone else via our actions and character, which in turn affects their character, behaviour or development. In short, it is being a role model – someone who is inspirational.
Female role models, or influential women, is a topic hard to pin down – on one hand, never before have we seen so many women succeed in business, with the technology sector in particular having high-profile women lead from the top. There are a number of high-profile women tech leaders – Meg Whitman, HPE CEO and HP Inc Chairwoman, Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, and Ginni Rometty, President and CEO of IBM, which is to be celebrated – but there is another side to this story.
Gender equality is a fantasy in the business technology world – men outnumber women and it is apparently going to take around 100 odd years to reach gender parity. Not only that, there are even signs that the gender stereotypes when it comes to technology have got worse not better – 47% of young girls believe that boys are better matched to STEM subjects, with 60% of those girls thinking STEM is too hard to learn. This, of course, is not helped by the 51% of teachers and 43% of parents who also think STEM is better suited to boys.
This way of thinking is only adding to the ever-widening digital skills gap the UK, and the world, is facing. This is a major factor as to why successful women are embracing the role model moniker, exerting their influence to make both industry and government sit up and take note of the lack of diversity in the industry.
Baroness Joanna Shields goes even further, stating that it is the responsibility of women in tech to give back, saying: “it is the responsibility of women across the globe that have achieved success in the digital and IT sector to give something back. Together we can capture the imagination of young women and give them the confidence to believe they can create the great tech innovations that will define our future.”
However, it is not just girls that need to be inspired when it comes to STEM and careers in technology, as both boys and girls need to be given that spark of inspiration – both will be needed to plug the digital skills gap. As Accenture’s Emma McGuigan stressed to CBR: “We need to ignite the interest of a wider demographic to ensure the UK is equipped to compete in the digital economy and we all have a role to play – business, government, educators and parents.”
The women listed below should certainly be celebrated. Firstly they should be celebrated for breaking the glass ceiling, overcoming numerous barriers to reach the top of their profession. Secondly they should be celebrated as business leaders in their own right – no matter their gender they have reached the top of their profession. Not everyone makes it the top CEO spot, regardless of them being a man or a woman. Thirdly, they should be celebrated for being a voice – a voice of a role model, a voice to encourage and inspire.
10 of the most successful and influential women in UK technology – not ranked