Poppy Gustafsson, most influential woman in UK tech 2021 – winner’s speech

In this video from Computer Weekly’s annual diversity event, in partnership with Spinks, Poppy Gustafsson, CEO of Darktrace, gives her acceptance speech as the 2021 Most Influential Woman in UK Tech.

The lack of diversity in the technology sector has been a long-standing issue, and while there has been some progress in the last 10 years, the pandemic shone a light on the inequalities that still exist both in and outside of the industry.

While the number of women in the UK’s technology sector has remained at around 17% for the last five years, at Darktrace, according to Gustafsson, is made up of around a third of “strong female role models”.

She claims: “At our core, we’re very committed to innovation, and we know that the best innovations come from bringing different perspectives together. And only by doing this, can you create something that’s truly novel and it’s on this principle that we’ve built our success at Darktrace.”

But she also says we should not forget the women who came before – many of whom we have forgotten paved the way for the technology industry as whole, including women during the Second World War and female codebreakers who worked at Bletchley Park.

“I’m also grateful to the women that have gone before. The first computers were people, the math whizzes that did the calculations and the computations that machines do for us now, and what is often forgotten is that many of these people were women,” she explains.

“Women have been woven into the fabric of technology and discovery throughout history, but for too long, their accomplishments have been overlooked or overshadowed.”

Gustafsson told Computer Weekly there are a number of people within Darktrace, and within tech in general, who may not have a specifically technical background – for example she cites people within Darktrace who are mathematicians, scientists, historians, designers and writers.

It’s these different backgrounds that bring a new perspective on the technology being developed in firms such as Darktrace, and this diversity of thought ensure the products made better reflect the customers using them and tackle issues in more innovative ways – Gustafsson highlights people with these differing backgrounds are often apologetic about their skillsets, but they shouldn’t be.

“Cutting edge, innovative technology needs storytellers, it needs linguists, ethicists, accountants, artists and everything in between, and diversity of perspective is not just complimentary to innovation, absolutely essential.” Gustafsson says.

“I don’t believe that you can achieve the latter without the former. For my part, I’m really excited to see the tech industry evolving and I believe that we have a great opportunity here in the UK to take the lead in driving positive change. Here’s the future of innovation and for all who contribute to it.”

Gustafsson is the tenth person to win the title of Computer Weekly most influential woman in UK tech after the initiative was launched in 2012 to shine a light on the amazing women in the technology sector, and the work they are doing both to advance technology and diversity in the industry.

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