Dr Sue Black – Photo by Peter Houlihan
Dr Sue Black takes a trademark selfie with the first graduates of Techmums at The Digital Hub. Photo by Peter Houlihan/PH Photography

Techmums founder Sue Black celebrates New Year with an OBE

31 Dec 2015

The British Queen’s New Year’s Honours list has awarded Techmums founder Dr Sue Black an OBE for her services to technology.

Dr Sue Black has an inspiring story, which Siliconrepublic.com readers will be familiar with. Having left school at 16, she returned to education as a single mother aged 25, earning a degree in computing and a PhD in software engineering.

As well as enjoying a successful academic career, Black is a social entrepreneur and founder of Techmums, a programme teaching digital skills to mothers in local communities. Techmums recently celebrated its first batch of graduates from The Digital Hub.

Speaking at Inspirefest in 2015, Black explained how she hates the expression, ‘It’s so easy your mum could do it’ because, as she puts it, “Mums are just as smart as anyone else.”

Saviour of Bletchley Park

Black was awarded an Order of the British Empire as part of Queen Elizabeth II’s New Year’s Honours list for her services to technology.

As well as founding the Techmums organisation and campaigning for broader digital literacy, Black has made a name for herself as one of the saviours of Bletchley Park.

You may recognise the name of this historic location from the Oscar-winning film The Imitation Game, starring Benedict Cumberbatch as mathematician Alan Turing.

It was in Bletchley Park that Turing and thousands of codebreakers – many of whom were women – worked tirelessly to crack German codes for the Allies during the Second World War.

Saddened by the sorry state she found Bletchley Park to be in at the turn of the 21st Century, Black launched a successful campaign using social media to get the site restored, which has been documented in her first book, Saving Bletchley Park.

It is for this and her services to technology that Black was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE).

Speaking to the BBC, The Bletchley Park Trust congratulated Black on the OBE, saying: “Thousands of people, including Sue Black, contributed to the saving of Bletchley Park over more than two decades. Without their collective work, the site would have been lost forever.”

Honours for remarkable women in STEM and more

The New Year’s Honours list also recognised Clare Sutcliffe, the founder of Code Club, as a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) for her services to technology education.

Launched in 2012, Code Club is a volunteer network created to teach children how to program computers, with clubs now running in schools across the UK.

Over 1,000 people were awarded on the 2016 list, 76pc of whom were recognised for outstanding work in their communities.

Recipients ranged in age from 13-year-old Jonjo Heuerman, who received a British Empire Medal after raising £250,000 for Cancer Research UK, to 99-year-old Dorothy Start who received the same honour in recognition of more than half a century of community work.

Almost half (48pc) of those awarded honours were women and there was a noted increase in the proportion of awards to women at senior levels.

In all, 15 women achieved the top honour of Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire, including entrepreneur Natalie Massenet, founder of fashion website Net-A-Porter; cancer researcher Prof Lesley Fallowfield; ecologist and conservation scientist Prof Georgina Mace; Easyjet chief executive Carolyn McCall; and Heather Rabbatts, the first female board member of the UK’s Football Association.

Women Invent is Silicon Republic’s campaign to champion the role of women in science, technology, engineering and maths. It has been running since March 2013, and is kindly supported by Intel, Open Eir (formerly Eircom Wholesale), Fidelity Investments, Accenture and CoderDojo.

Inspirefest is Silicon Republic’s international event connecting sci-tech professionals passionate about the future of STEM. Join us again from 30 June to 2 July 2016 for fresh perspectives on leadership, innovation and diversity. Get your tickets now.

Elaine Burke
By Elaine Burke

Elaine Burke was editor of Silicon Republic until 2023, and is now the host of For Tech’s Sake, a co-production from Silicon Republic and The HeadStuff Podcast Network. Elaine joined Silicon Republic in 2011 as a journalist covering gadgets, new media and tech jobs. She later served as managing editor before stepping up as editor in 2019. She comes from a background in publishing and is known for being particularly pernickety when it comes to spelling and grammar – earning her the nickname, Critical Red Pen.

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