The FDM everywoman in Technology Awards aims to push innovation forward and create a more hospitable environment for women who are interested in the tech field.
The tech industry continues to struggle to attract and retain talented women — and talented women continue to struggle within an industry that is still far from welcoming. That’s why it’s so important to recognize and lift up the exceptional women who work tirelessly across the industry, not only pushing innovation forward but also creating a more hospitable environment for other women who are interested in the field.
The FDM everywoman in Technology Awards aims to do just that. Held annually in the UK, this year’s gala event took place on March 9, the day after International Women’s Day, at the Westminster Park Plaza. Avast was a sponsor for the 2022 awards, specifically in the cybersecurity category, and we were represented by our CISO, Jaya Baloo; our Director of Diversity and Inclusion, Dita Formankova; our Director of Experience Identity, Ines Bamburac-Alibasic; our Head of Innovation, Daria Loi, Ph.D.; our VP of Global Communications, Stephanie Kane; our VP of Customer Success, Retention and Loyalty, Sam Honey; our Director of Customer Intelligence and Personalization, Jennifer Clay; CX Transformation Director, Pearl Mahama; the Global Executive Director of the Avast Foundation, Shane Ryan; Software Engineer and D&I Champion UK, Janine Luk; and Senior AI Researcher and Czechitas Community lead, Elnaz Babayeva.
Formankova and Loi were judges for the cybersecurity category. For the first stage, Dr. Loi went through dozens of applications in order to weed out the finalists: sixaccomplished British women with roles ranging from senior security analyst to head of cybersecurity to senior information security manager. For the second stage of judging, the six women spoke with Formankova, and Reena Pathak, Director, Information Security Governance at Centrica.
“It was my pleasure to meet all of these influential ladies at interviews on a judging day,” Formankova says. “From the first minute, it was clear that the decision would be a difficult one, since they were all super powerful candidates with a very diverse range of experience.”
The winner was Fay Sears, a cybersecurity analyst at SSE, investigating potential security risk caused by third party suppliers involved with the support of critical national infrastructure. Sears told the FDM that she “really didn’t consider any other industry to work in” because she “grew up with computers” and did most of her socializing as a teenager online.
“I was always fascinated by the different worlds I could escape into whilst sitting at my desk and would spend hours researching niche interests to the point of expertise or playing games repeatedly trying different scenarios to experience the different outcomes that had been programmed,” Sears said.
Formankova tells Avast that the final decision was difficult, but that Sears ultimately stood out to the judges.
“Fay Sears has a strong cybersecurity background and is a great advocate and role model who supports women and children in general aspiring to work in technology,” Formankova says. “Her passion, the impact she made, her professional results, her voluntary activities towards diversity and inclusion, and her drive stood out. As Avast, head sponsor for Cybersecurity Award, I am grateful that we had this opportunity to recognize some of the role models in the industry with significant achievements.”
For Baloo, the gala events “wasn’t just about the winners.” For her, one of the best parts was connecting with other accomplished women in tech.
“One of the coolest things was you saw so many women who are innovators,” Baloo says. “I met one woman who is the founder and CEO of a quantum computing startup. And in our category, I spoke with a woman who works at American Express; I would have hired her in a heartbeat! It was lovely and I was really impressed by all of the women who were there.”
Meeting other women in the field was also the best part for Luk, who is very active in the DEI efforts of the company and beyond.
“As an intersectional women in tech, the journey of improving DEI can oftentimes feel isolating,” Luk says. “However, thanks to events like the Everywoman in Tech Awards, it was touching and encouraging to be able to witness and hear the stories of all the finalists and winners. Together we are stronger and we definitely need more events which highlight the trailblazing work that women in the tech industry are making. I thoroughly enjoyed myself and left the event feeling more inspired than ever.”