For Ada Lovelace Day this year, and, as October is Black History Month in the UK, I’d like to invite you to join me in celebrating some inspirational women of colour who are driving positive change and transforming the UK tech industry with their game-changing initiatives.
Debs’ background spans UX design, research and front-end development, and she has a particular interest in the impact of digitised public services on minority communities. Describing herself as a black face in a white tech space, she founded Afrotech Fest – the UK’s first tech festival by and for black people of African & Caribbean heritage – which launched in London in January 2018 and returned in April 2019.
“The festival is a response to the underrepresentation of black people in tech - especially those who are marginalised in additional ways - as well as tech conferences and festivals being too expensive for many to attend. We want to create a festival that is intentionally diverse and inclusive of those often excluded.”
Both events have been a resounding success. Over the last 2 years, Afrotech Fest has provided an intentional space for hundreds of black technologists, entrepreneurs and creatives, and the separate youth track has helped foster engagement with the next generation at a crucial point in time. You can catch up on the talks from this year's Afrotech Fest on their YouTube channel here.
Dr Anne Marie Imafidon
Anne-Marie was the youngest girl ever to pass A-level computing at the age of 11, and was just 20 years old when she received her Master’s Degree in Mathematics and Computer Science from the University of Oxford. Combining an impressive career (including positions at Goldman Sachs, Hewlett-Packard and Deutsche Bank) with a passion for inspiring the next generation, Anne-Marie went on to co-found the STEMettes - an award-winning social initiative dedicated to inspiring young women in the STEM sectors.
Since it started 6 years ago, STEMettes has exposed almost 40,000 young people to opportunities in STEM by bridging the gap between education and industry through panel events, hackathons, exhibitions and mentoring schemes. Anne-Marie has deservedly received Honorary Doctorates from a number of educational institutions as a result.
You can find out more about how to get involved with STEMettes here and check out their extensive programme of events happening all over the UK.
Named the 6th Most Influential BAME Tech Leader by the Financial Times and the 15th Most Influential Woman in Tech by Computer Weekly in 2018, June is the Founder of Mums in Technology, the first child-friendly coding school in the UK. She founded the company whilst on maternity leave from Silicon Valley Bank and is a strong advocate for the rights of working mothers. June is also passionate about getting people from all backgrounds into careers in tech.
“We’ve had bankers, lawyers and teachers - even a firefighter - on the course, all looking to change careers, and having the ability to work around their families has definitely been the attraction”
She is currently an Investor at Samos Investments and a Founding Ambassador of the FiftyFiftyPledge, working to improve gender equality in venture capital and tech startups.
June pictured here with Bethany Koby of ‘Tech Will Save Us’, Kara de la Marck, Parita Gupta, Grace Owolade Coombes, Femi Owolade Coombes (Diana Award holder & super coder, now aged 12), Rashmi Sirdeshpande (now a children's author from lawyer) and Joysy John- director of education at Nesta
Tolulope is a 21 year old Computer Science & Mathematics graduate. She set up Coders of Colour to encourage more underrepresented people of colour into tech by giving them the opportunity, access and a safe space to experiment with coding. Coders of Colour run a range of events for young people aged 12 – 25, to either expose them to skills like programming, or to foster their passion.
As well as offering coding workshops at Tate Britain and organising careers fairs, Tolulope fundraises for Project Hezi, which aims to tackle adult illiteracy and provide education equality in Nigeria. Last year, she visited two schools to donate 350 Maths textbooks to their students, and future funds will go to providing more books and further funding to 15 high performing students.
Fey is a self-taught Software Developer who was named on the Northern Power Women’s Future List in 2019. She is Founder of Code and stuff, a weekly coding and networking community for women and non-binary code newbies in Manchester and she is also involved in organising Manchester’s FreeCodeCamp and codebar Manchester. Fey is passionate about learning and bringing communities together and she gives generously to the local community in the hope that others might be encouraged towards careers in tech.
In September 2018, during National Coding Week, Fey launched an online learning platform called Code Possible for those interested in learning how to code, which provides another channel alongside her community efforts.
These people are working to tackle challenging social and economic inequalities to provide a better future for those who have historically been underserved. I am amazed and inspired by these people and encouraged by a future in which inclusive leaders like these are leading the way.