Three Female Leaders Changing the UK Tech Industry
As part of our Women in Tech campaign, we’d like to highlight the female leaders in the industry who are changing the game and also the world. This article includes three mentions coming from our UK office, but feel free to head over to our US, Australian and Swedish editions to read more stories from women of different backgrounds!
(source: Anne Boden/Starling Bank via https://www.altfi.com/article/8487_starling-is-not-for-sale-says-anne-boden-in-new-chapter-of-her-book)
Founder of Starling, the British digital-only bank, Anne Boden has certainly had an amazing career. After climbing the corporate ladder for most of her adult life, she decided to make a change in her mid-fifties, becoming a wildly successful tech entrepreneur.
Working her way up, from one bank to another, she’s faced serious hurdles as a working woman. Landing her first role at Lloyds Bank in 1981, she worked as a computer specialist. Speaking of the workplace environment of the time, she said ‘that environment is not used to having women’. Spending the next 30 years taking evermore exciting fintech roles, by 2014 she found herself wanting to create her own bank – so she did.
“I believe that technology can change the world and make it better. And, fundamentally, I want to be part of this new, brave world of technology but I wish it wasn’t so narrow-minded.”
Starling, now 9 years old, has garnered over 1.7 million users. Started after a falling out with Tom Blomfield (who went on to create Monzo), Starling is still a widely successful digital banking platform. Since its founding, it has received over £500 million of funding, and Boden has said that she aims for a public listing within the next few years.
Flavilla Fongang has a long history of success, having worked to become an award-winning, serial entrepreneur. She’s the founder of 3 Colours Rule, a branding and marketing agency that specialises in delivering brand strategy, identity and marketing to technology companies of all sizes. She said that she chose to focus on the technology industry so that she could work alongside brazen ‘disruptors’ and ‘game changers’.
Fongang is also the founder of Tech London Advocates – Black Women in Tech, the second largest organisation of the TLA group. TLA, a non-profit organisation, works to bring together tech leaders, experts and investors to form groups and provide guidance within the tech industry. She launched her own sector within the TLA in order to ‘improve representation, diversity, and opportunities’.
“When I started working in technology, I quickly realised the lack of diversity. Most women or Black women who work in tech will often find themselves being the only ones in the room.”
In late 2022, Computer Weekly named Flavilla as the most influential woman in tech within the UK. They noted her book, The Voices in the Shadow (aimed at educating school-aged children about some of the more under-represented people in the industry), as a key reason for her spot.
Priya Lakhani is the Founder and CEO of CENTURY tech – an AI education technology learning platform, which develop AI-powered learning tools for schools and employers all over the world. Originally a practising barrister, Priya left her career to become a culinary entrepreneur. After launching Masala Masala, a fresh Indian cooking sauce brand, she saw incredible success. From there, she was awarded the Business Entrepreneur of the Year Award in 2009 and was fast becoming a highly recognisable name.
“You don’t get anywhere in life if you don’t persist, persist, and persist some more… Every pitch you fail or idea that gets shot down develops your resilience, sharpens your acumen and ultimately leads to a more successful entrepreneur – provided that you don’t give up” – speaking to the Female Lead, 2019
Seen as a role model for women, Priya was invited to join the advisory board of the UK Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, and was honoured with an OBE in 2014. It was through this role that she learned of the serious issues within schooling in the UK: in 2018, 36 per cent of primary school pupils were failing to reach the required standards in reading, writing and mathematics. She also discovered the stresses placed on hardworking, but significantly under-resourced teachers, and this is where the idea for CENTURY came about. After discussing the idea with Vince Cable MP (Secretary of State at the time), she realised the potential in applying AI to classroom software programs, and how this might help relieve some of the burdens on both teachers and students.
CENTURY set out to provide the tools needed for teachers to organise learning content, but also to recognise where a pupil might be falling behind, or need extra help in a specific area – ‘a transformation of teaching via neuroscience rather than merely a digitisation of existing classroom methods’ (Martin Vander Weyer, 2019).
Priya currently sits on the UK government’s AI council, and continues to work towards a future that can use AI in order to improve education, ethically and responsibly.
Don’t forget to continue reading about more inspirational women in tech from the US, Australia, Sweden, and follow us on all social media platforms @uxconnections for more content about Women in Tech!
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