The Workplace Advocates: 23 women sending the ladder back down

7 Mar 2018

Image: MJgraphics

For those women who find themselves in the minority at the top of the corporate ladder, it’s necessary that they send it back down for more to join them.

STEM can be a tough, competitive workplace – worse still if you are in a minority group. Thanks to these people setting up and running effective employee support groups and workplace initiatives, women in STEM workplaces can find the tools and support they need to progress their career.

Some of these women are leading from the top, and we think the others are on their way there.

Erica Joy Baker

Erica Joy Baker. Image: IIS/YouTube

Erica Joy Baker, senior engineering manager at Patreon, has spoken a number of times about the gender pay gap and the importance of diversity in the workplace. She made headlines in 2015 for leaking a spreadsheet of salaries from Google, her former employer, to highlight gender pay disparities.

Baker is on the board of directors for Girl Develop It, the advisory boards for Atipica and Hack the Hood, and is a tech mentor for Black Girls Code. She is also a frequent conference speaker and one of the founding members of diversity initiative Project Include.

Anna Bull, Emma Chapman, Heidi Hasbrouck, Tiffany Page and Chryssa Sdrolia

1752 co-founders

Tiffany Page. Image: University of Cambridge | Heidi Hasbrouck. Image: @heidiliane/Twitter | Anna Bull. Image: @anna_bull_/Twitter

In 2015, five UK women tired of the lack of national conversation and data around sexual harassment in the workplace decided to form an organisation that eventually became 1752. Named after the £1,752 allocated for its first event, the group’s work has become all the more topical of late with the rise of the #MeToo movement.

Thanks to them, 1752 now has a roster of experts from the public and private sector, and has brought considerable power to those affected by sexual misconduct in higher-education institutes.

Emma Chapman, 1752

Emma Chapman. Image:

The 1752 group includes Dr Anna Bull, lecturer in sociology at the University of Portsmouth who works with the music sector to improve safeguard practices; Dr Emma Chapman, a Royal Astronomical Society fellow working with organisations such as the Institute of Physics to end harassment there; and Heidi Hasbrouck, an associate director of qualitative research at Kantar Public who has been working on the issue of sexual harassment in higher education in the UK since 2012.

The final two members are Dr Tiffany Page, a lecturer in sociology at the University of Cambridge who has extensive experience in staff sexual misconduct case work and student advocacy; and Dr Chryssa Sdrolia, a deputy curriculum leader within secondary-level education, and visiting researcher at the Centre for Feminist Research in Goldsmiths, London.

Tracy Chou

Fix the system: Women entrepreneurs are not broken

Tracy Chou speaking at Inspirefest. Image: Conor McCabe Photography

Tracy Chou has always used her voice to promote positive change, especially with regard to diversity and inclusion issues in Silicon Valley. She has frequently pointed out the lack of reputable data on gender and racial representation within tech behemoths, and has put forward new insights into how the issue can be combated.

Chou serves as a founding adviser of Project Include, was listed as one of MIT Technology Review’s 35 Innovators under 35 and has overall made it clear that she is refusing to let the flawed status quo in the tech industry prevail.

Lynn Conway and Leandra Vicci

Lynn Conway. Image: @lynnconway/Twitter | Leandra Vicci. Image: Dan Sears/University of North Carolina Department of Computer Science

Lynn Conway is an American computer scientist and transgender activist who is notable for her contributions to VLSI (very large-scale integration) design and her work with the US’s DARPA programme. Leandra Vicci is a lecturer in the Department of Computer Science at University of North Carolina.

Conway and Vicci have been strong advocates of employment protections for transgender people in the tech sector. In 2013, both women successfully lobbied the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE) for transgender inclusion in the IEEE code of ethics.

Joelle Emerson

Joelle Emerson. Image: @joelle_emerson/Twitter

Joelle Emerson is the CEO of Paradigm, a company that uses an approach informed by both data and social science to help tech start-ups and Fortune 500 companies become more inclusive organisations. Paradigm helps these firms identify and combat unconscious bias.

Before founding Paradigm, Emerson was a women’s rights employment lawyer who represented women in gender discrimination and sexual harassment cases. She also served as an advisory board member of Women Who Code.

Melinda Briana Epler

Melinda Briana Epler, Change Catalysts

Melinda Briana Epler. Image: Change Catalyst

Co-founder and CEO of Change Catalyst, Melinda Briana Epler works to empower diverse, inclusive and sustainable tech innovation through events, education, mentorship and funding. Tech Inclusion, an initiative of Change Catalysts, sees her partner with start-ups and tech companies to tackle the issue of diversity and inclusion.

‘It has to be not just about white women, but all women, women with disabilities and women from different backgrounds’

The San Franciscan champions women in tech, but is quick to note that certain subsets of women have even less visibility and are even more greatly discriminated against. “It has to be not just about white women, but all women, women with disabilities and women from different backgrounds. When we talk about diversity, we talk about race, ethnicity, gender, people with disabilities, indigenous people, LGBTQ and age,” she said.

Y-Vonne Hutchinson

Y-Vonne Hutchinson. Image:

Y-Vonne Hutchinson, a labour attorney by trade, is the founder of ReadySet, a diversity-focused consulting firm that works primarily within the tech industry.

She is a member of Harvard Law’s Institute for Global Law and Policy network and an expert on labour relations and diversity in the workplace. She has spoken on diversity, inclusion and labour issues at Harvard Law, MIT Sloan and UC Berkeley, as well as conferences around the globe. She also serves on the Women of Color Council for the Anita Borg Institute and the board of the San Francisco New Leaders Council.

‘When you look at automation and work, men stand to gain one job for every four lost’

Claudia Kessler

Claudia Kessler. Image: SpaceBoard

Since 2008, Claudia Kessler has been CEO of HE Space, making her one of the rare women leaders in the space business. Qualified as an aerospace engineer and MBA, she has worked for more than 30 years in the international space environment.

Kessler was also a founding member of Women in Aerospace Europe, driven by her passion to support high-potential women with their career development. In 2016, she launched the campaign ‘Die Astronautin’, which aims to get a German woman astronaut on board the International Space Station by 2020.

Ita Langton

Ita Langton, partner in Deloitte’s Technology Consulting business. Image: Deloitte

Studying engineering in college and working in technology, Ita Langton has always found herself in the gender minority, and so has actively sought out opportunities to share her experience and mentor other women.

As the first female technology partner in Deloitte, the Wexford woman has become a role model to many and, in her role on the leadership team, she has been involved in talent initiatives that support greater diversity and inclusion.

Viola Llewellyn

Viola Llewellyn. Image: Ovamba Solutions

Viola Llewellyn is the president and co-founder of Ovamba Solutions, providing an unparallelled insight into the African investment market while improving accessibility to capital for SMEs across the continent. Based in Cameroon, Ovamba won the African FinTech Award in the Lending and Finance category.

‘I consciously and deliberately support diversity. I look for it where it is banished. I create roles and opportunities for it and I fight for it’

All this success comes to Llewellyn through hard work and support of those who need it most. Llewellyn is a firm believer in a rising tide lifting all boats, and diversity forms the backbone of how she runs the business.

Lorna Martyn

Lorna Martyn, head of technology, Fidelity Investments. Image: Luke Maxwell

Lorna Martyn, head of technology, Fidelity Investments. Image: Luke Maxwell

2016’s ITAG Woman in Technology, Lorna Martyn leads 650 employees as head of technology at Fidelity Investments. As part of Fidelity Women’s Leadership Group (WLG), she noticed that women engineers in Ireland were less likely to progress on their career paths and apply for senior technical roles. In response, she initiated and co-chaired the technology ‘mentoring circle’ at Fidelity as a safe space for women technologists to share challenges, career strategies, advice and expertise.

Under Martyn’s guidance, several of those involved in this group applied to and were successfully promoted to principal engineering roles.

Geraldine McCarthy

Geraldine McCarthy, Dropbox

Geraldine McCarthy. Image: Dropbox

Geraldine McCarthy, one of the most senior employees in Dropbox in Ireland, has been a strong advocate for diversity and inclusion through much of her career. The Trinity College Dublin graduate was a participant in the first Female Founders Forum in Dublin in 2014 – the precursor to Inspirefest.

McCarthy spearheaded the first International Women’s Day celebration in Dropbox globally and, as a mark of her belief in inclusion, is noted for her encouragement of men to join the women@dropbox sessions.

Ellen Pao

Ellen Pao, partner at Kapor Capital and co-founder of Project Include

Image: Ellen Pao

Ellen Pao is arguably one of the most pivotal figures in Silicon Valley, becoming widely known after she filed a gender discrimination suit against her former employer, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. The high-profile case sparked much-needed debate around the treatment of women in the tech industry and, though she lost in March 2015, Pao won a moral victory by shining a light on the issue of discrimination in Silicon Valley.

Pao is now one of one of the eight successful Silicon Valley women who have co-founded Project Include, one of the biggest diversity initiatives in tech.

Sheeka Patak

‘When it comes to programming, I’m almost completely self-taught’ ZenDesk back-end engineer Sheeka Patak

Sheeka Patak. Image: Zendesk

Sheeka Patak works as a back-end engineer at Zendesk and is also a Rails Girls Dublin organiser. A strong believer in the importance of diversity in tech, she told earlier this year: “A lot of the problems this sector faces can be traced back to a lack of diversity. I’m not referring solely to the gender imbalance here – there are a lot of other minorities that get overlooked.”

Earlier this year, Patak organised a Global CFP Diversity Day at Zendesk, encouraging tech workers to improve their presentation skills.

Sinéad Scully

Sinéad Scully, IBM

Sinéad Scully. Image: IBM

Sinéad Scully has had a long and fruitful career with IBM, having joined the company in 2004 after completing a master’s degree in computer science at Maynooth University. She currently serves as IBM Ireland’s director of enterprise.

Scully is also the company’s female diversity leader and is heavily involved with Connecting Women in Tech (CWIT), which involves her having a direct hand in attracting, retaining and nurturing female talent within IBM.

Hayley Sudbury

Hayley Sudbury, CEO and founder of Werkin

Hayley Sudbury, CEO and founder of Werkin. Image: Werkin

Hayley Sudbury is the CEO and founder of Werkin, a people analytics platform that promotes diversity and inclusion through the use of behavioural science. An LGBTQ entrepreneur and former Barclays executive, Sudbury is also on the steering committee for LBWomen and is a Stemettes mentor.

‘We should be putting our money where our mouth is, supporting what we think is important’

Speaking to last year, she said that companies need to walk the walk if they want to see positive change in their industries. “As a CEO, I thought we should be putting our money where our mouth is as well, around supporting what we think is important.”

Poornima Vijayashanker

Poornima Vijayashanker at Inspirefest 2016

Femgineer founder Poornima Vijayashanker speaks at Inspirefest 2016. Image: Conor McCabe Photography

In 2007, Poornima Vijayashanker decided to start a blog called Femgineer to share her experiences of working as a founding engineer and as an entrepreneur at Now, more than a decade later, it has blossomed into a leading education company that encourages people of all backgrounds to not only get into engineering, but also to start their own businesses.

Vijayashanker now spreads her message across the world through a series of talks, including her well-received Inspirefest 2016 appearance, which encouraged more women and minorities to be the ‘token in the boardroom’.

Rachel Williams

Rachel Williams

Rachel Williams, global head of diversity and inclusion at StubHub. Image: Diversity Advocates

Rachel Williams is the current diversity and inclusion head at StubHub, and is known in the tech sector for her determination to create diversity in empirically measured ways.

‘The culture is changing. That is what the big indicator is’

Williams is leading the pack when it comes to creating inclusive work environments. Prior to her current position, she helmed Yelp’s diversity and inclusion division and delivered some major changes to the company culture. By instituting a number of programmes to encourage diverse hiring policies, she embedded diversity as a systematic process as opposed to seeking out mythical silver bullets to solve all problems.


Inspirefest is Silicon Republic’s international event connecting sci-tech professionals passionate about the future of STEM. Get your Early bird tickets now to join us in Dublin on 21 and 22 June 2018.

Updated, 20 March 2018 at 6.09pm: This article has been updated to correct the fact that Melinda Briana Epler is from San Franciso, not Australia, as previously stated.