Breaking Barriers: Women in the C-Suite

International Women's Day 2024

Inspire Inclusion


In honour of International Women's Day 2024, join us in celebrating the remarkable contributions of the female leaders breaking barriers in the HotTopics C-Suite community throughout the week.

At HotTopics, we are proud to present a compelling series of thought leadership in celebration of International Women's Day 2024. Join us as we shine a spotlight on the remarkable achievements of senior female leaders in the C-suite, emphasising their leadership prowess and invaluable contributions. From nurturing the next generation of female leaders to fostering diversity in business, we showcase HotTopics' unwavering commitment to cultivating an inclusive and diverse leadership landscape. Celebrate with us as we honour the outstanding women shaping the future of leadership in our C-suite community throughout an inspiring week of recognition and empowerment.


TechGirl: Empowering the Next Generation of Leaders


Breaking Barriers: Empowering the Next Generation of Female Leaders with TechGirl

Our commitment towards the achievements of the executive female leaders in the HotTopics community is unwavering—this is evident through the transformative work of the TechGirl community.


We proudly highlight the exceptional contributions of our TechGirl mentors, recognising the profound impact they have on shaping the future of female leaders in technology. Accomplished female leaders offer invaluable guidance and unwavering support to the rising stars in the technology world wanting to make a difference.


The TechGirl mentorship network is an epic assembly of like-minded peers, united by shared ambitions and goals. Together, they form a formidable force dedicated to breaking barriers and championing the cause of women in technology. Through mentorship, TechGirl Mentors pave the way for a future where female leaders not only break new ground but also inspire and uplift others in their pursuit of excellence within the technology industry.


Shout out to the following mentors who are actively contributing to shaping the future of the technology landscape, preparing the next generation of female technology leaders: Miriam Murphy, Charlotte Baldwin, Elizabeth Akorita, Deborah Haworth, Bridgid Nzekwu, Sabah Carter, Sara Mubasshir, Albi Van Zyl, Belinda Finch, Tanya Hannah, Laura Kendrick, Christina Scott, Anna Barsby, Alison Davis, Georgina Owens, Jacqui Lipinski, Joanna Drake, Jyotsna Chandrani, Samantha Wilson, Laura Gilbert, Claire Deuchar, Joanna Pamphilis, Randi Levin and Jess Evans.


The Studio: Recognising our Female Leaders


Breaking Barriers: Recognising our Female Leaders at The StudioThe imperative role of diverse leadership, particularly that of female leaders, cannot be overstated. Our Flagship event, The Studio, bridges the gap between innovation and diversity, giving female leaders the perfect opportunity to showcase their leadership, driving substantive conversations and amplifying their voices in traditionally male-dominated spheres. The representation and active participation of women at such high-caliber events underline the critical shift towards more inclusive, insightful and forward-thinking industry dialogues. Elevate your leadership profile—join The Studio to engage, network and catalyse change for women in the industry. Your active participation ensures a critical shift towards more inclusive, insightful and forward-thinking industry dialogues.



Top Community Highlights: Inspiring Studio Panels and More



What is the International Women’s Day 2024 theme?


Celebrated globally on March 8 every year, International Women’s Day (IWD) brings women’s social, economic, cultural and political achievements to attention. This year’s theme for International Women’s Day is Inspire Inclusion. The aim of this theme is to bring awareness and highlight the significance of diversity and empowerment. 


“This year's campaign theme underscores the crucial role of inclusion in achieving gender equality. It calls for action to break down barriers, challenge stereotypes, and create environments where all women are valued and respected. 

“Inspire Inclusion encourages everyone to recognize the unique perspectives and contributions of women from all walks of life, including those from marginalized communities.” — International Women’s Day.


With the promotion and increased awareness of diversity being a key aspect of Inspire Inclusion, we compiled a list of our top thought leadership, interviews and female movers and shakers in the technology and marketing industry.


Explore our top community highlights for International Women's Day 2024


Breaking Barriers: International Women's Day 2024


Diversity in the Workplace: How to Build a Visionary Team


Kicking off our list with an all-female panel discussion, the panellists of this Studio debate outlined what exactly is needed to commit to fostering diversity in the workplace in this roundtable on diversity in the workplace. With discussion points ranging from acknowledging systemic issues to paying more attention to talent management, the panellists did not hold back on their thoughts to explain the need to diversify the workplace.


“I think we’re not having enough honest discussions about what is really holding us back.” — Sarah Needham, Executive Leadership Advisor & Coach, Unique-U Coaching.


“People are actually recognising and trying to put in place environments, programs, et cetera, to elevate the diversity of their teams.” — Miriam Murphy, CEO Europe, NTT Data.


“If childcare is seen as sort of a part of a family investment rather than offsetting a woman's salary, you won't have the risk of women dropping out of the workforce at certain ages and then struggling to come back when their children are old enough.” — Lauren-Sager Weinstein, CDO, TfL.


“The commitment to really make these changes does take time, energy.” — Christina Scott, CPTO, OVO.


Diversity in the Workplace: How to Build a Visionary Team


TechGirl: Building Tomorrow’s Female Leaders


Having a mentor or a role model to look up to is one of the most important aspects of career progression, having someone to encourage you and nurture your skills. In this Studio roundtable debate, the panellists gave their views on what it means to be a TechGirl mentor for tomorrow's female leaders.


“Being a mentor is foundationally about helping people to achieve their potential by encouraging… some of their strengths and weaknesses, areas that they want to work on.” — Miriam Murphy, CEO Europe, NTT Data.


“It’s really important to open young people's eyes because then we'll get more people, more young girls into technology in the future.” — Jacqui Lipinski, CIO, Royal College of Art.


“I didn't have any role models who looked like me when I was younger. So it's important to me to just step forward and be that role model or mentor to someone now.” — Elizabeth Akorita, Group Deputy Director, Digital Delivery, DSIT.




Charting the Female Lead Across the Business


In this roundtable debate there was a unanimous emphasis on the indispensable role of mentorship, self-belief, resilience and continuous learning in Charting the Female Lead Across the Business. The panellists shared insights from their personal journeys, highlighting the transformative power of authenticity and the pivotal need to navigate and overcome the gender-specific challenges.


“Early opportunity is critical. Probably all of us can speak to somebody that gave us a shot somewhere in our career then supported us… That is typically every leader’s story, that's the common thread: somebody believed in you.” — Albi Van Zyl, Chief Sales Strategy and Operations Officer, NTT Data Ltd.


“You can have all the mentorship in the world, but if you don't believe in yourself, I think you're going to struggle to move forward.” — Caroline Carruthers, Chief Executive, Carruthers and Jackson


“Male or female, charting the lead towards a leadership role requires resilience, requires the will [and] the conviction to overcome obstacles.” — Joanna Pamphilis, CDIO, UniCredit.


“Be honest, be brave, be courageous, but also be realistic.” — Ashley Somerville, VP Technology Transformation, Experian.


Breaking Barriers: Charting the Female Lead Across the Business


Barriers to Entry: Diversity in the 2023 Business


What are leaders doing to break the barriers to entry in the technology industry? The panellists of this roundtable debate addressed this and the idea that progress towards gender equality is still moving at a slow pace. The all-female panel dove into their first-hand experiences, breaking the glass ceiling and exploring solutions to increase the number of female leaders in the workforce and encourage growth.


“I don’t think we’re addressing the early career opportunity enough and if I think of my own experience, having early mentorship, early sponsorship, early opportunity helps you move forward and it also builds confidence. It’s visible to the entire system” — Albi Van Zyl.


“There are 10 men to women in this type of job position. So what I think is that it has been quite hard because what we see is men in top level management and also in Board positions in the Boardroom. If you consider women, just 15 percent of these positions are occupied by women.” — Maria Pilar Varela.


“I’ve been in financial services for 19 years now and I’m still often the only woman in the room… it takes getting used to, it takes adjusting to being the ‘only’ in the room, whatever that means. And, we don’t have enough role models… if you can’t see it you can’t be it.” — Nidhi Howell, IT Director, Marsh.


“There is a sense of ‘you shouldn’t be there’. And it’s reinforced by the environment that you’re in and somehow you have to find a way to silence that and that’s actually incredibly difficult to do.” — Anna Brailsford, CEO and Co-Founder, Code First Girls.


“I used to be the only woman on the Board for three years… It’s not easy to be with men, to be loud because usually they expect the woman to not sound loud… I have the right to be loud. We also have to work in the education of women but also in the education of men - work with these women so that they understand that we are all equal.” — Nafy Diagne, Chief Digital and Customer Experience Officer, Free au Sénégal.




The Career and Leadership of Dame Stephanie Shirley


Step into the extraordinary life of award-winning British CEO and Founder, Dame Stephanie Shirley, in a 2019 episode of The C-Suite Spot with HotTopics' Editor Peter Stojanovic. A WWII refugee turned technology pioneer, she founded a groundbreaking software business, challenging norms and sharing fortunes with colleagues. Discover her resilience, philanthropy and innovative strategies in this impactful podcast episode.



“As a young woman in business… It's very recent that women have ceased to be second-class citizens. And then for the last 20 odd years I have been really trying to do some new things in philanthropy and very much learning by my mistakes."


Dame Stephanie revealed the driving force behind her success – a refugee start that ignited her journey to become a "worthy person", shifting from a passive recipient of circumstances to a proactive architect of change. Throughout the podcast, Dame Stephanie's resilience and determination shine through, recounting her tenure as the first female president of the British Computer Society until 1989 and her philanthropic endeavors, which have raised over £68 million for charities.


Tune in for a firsthand account of her challenges as a woman in a male-dominated industry, where she candidly shared anecdotes of navigating bias and societal expectations: "It was the convention that we did not wear trousers, that we felt that would actually challenge the male clients that we were trying to sell to and I can remember being taught certain things to do to make myself look more vulnerable... so it was obvious that I was a silly little woman."


Movers and Shakers Spotlight: Technology 💻


Archie Deskus: Technology Movers and Shakers Spotlight

Archie Deskus, EVP & CTO, PayPal

Information technology executive Archie Deskus was recently promoted to EVP & CTO at PayPal, where she has worked for up to a year. Archie has a proven track record of delivering exceptional results through technology-enabled transformations to drive business growth and innovation. Throughout her career, she has worked in leading companies including Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Intel and Cognizant. Archie has been endorsed for her skills in cross-functional team leadership, program management and ERP.



Movers and Shakers Spotlight: Marketing 📢


Raejeanne Skillern: Marketing Movers and Shakers Spotlight

Raejeanne Skillern, VP & CMO, AWS

With a demonstrated history of working across marketing and technology, Raejeanne Skillern is an innovative and experienced President and marketing executive who has worked across a variety of organisations ranging from Director, Enterprise Server Demand Creation Marketing at Intel Corporation to her current role as Vice President & Chief Marketing Officer at AWS. She has been described by colleagues as a growth, detail and business-oriented marketing leader with skills in product management, go-to-market strategy and cross-functional team leadership.

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