The Women Who Shaped Technology In 2020

The Women Who Shaped Technology In 2020

If the past 12 months have reminded us of anything, it’s the importance of technology in keeping a separated world together. For families that can’t visit each other, Zoom calls now provide a sense of connection, while workforces around the world now rely on the various digital systems that enable remote work.

At the forefront of this technological revolution are a number of remarkable female technologists, who are leading this change and helping make the world a better place. Here are just a few of the top achievements by women in tech in the past year.

Did you know entries close for our Women Leading Tech awards today? You can apply for the 2021 Women Leading Tech awards here.

Vanessa Pappas – TikTok

If you were going to pick the technology company that created the greatest impact in 2020, it’s hard to go past TikTok. The video-sharing app has built a cultural revolution on social media, with Instagram being forced to create a copycat version (Reels) to keep pace. But the all-pervasiveness of TikTok has been overshadowed by a series of regulatory issues, none smaller than former US President Donald Trump vowing to ban the app from the United States due to security concerns. With Trump promising to go ahead with this threat, TikTok was given the difficult task of finding a technology partner with the hope this would change the President’s mind.

Leading this task was Australian Vanessa Pappas [pictured], who became TikTok’s interim global CEO in August, after former boss Kevin Mayer stood down suddenly. After being thrown into the role just days after Trump signed an executive order to ban the app, the University of Queensland graduate managed to negotiate a deal that TikTok’s US operations sold to Oracle and Walmart and Trump’s threat ultimately withdrawn.

Whitney Wolfe Herd – Bumble

Whitney Wolfe Herd made headlines last month when she became one of the youngest female self-made billionaires ever when she took her company Bumble to a hugely successful IPO, with the company valued at $US13 billion ($16.8 billion). Herd, who is 31, started Bumble in 2014 after initially starting her career at Tinder. After wanting to create a female-focused social network, she soon updated her vision and created the female-focused dating app which is so popular today.

Of the 559 companies that went public on the US stock market over the past 12 months, only two other than Bumble were founded by females. Herd said she hopes she can be a pioneer when it comes to women leading tech. “Hopefully this will not be a rare headline,” she told Bloomberg. “Hopefully this will be the norm. It’s the right thing to do, it’s a priority for us and it should be a priority for everyone else.”

Melanie Perkins – Canva

One of Australia’s greatest technology exports has continued its meteoric rise in 2020. Canva, which is led by CEO Mel Silva, raised $US60 million from investors last June, which saw its value almost double from US$3.2 billion to US$6 billion (AU$8.74 billion) overnight. She has also now taken Canva to the point where it is used by 85 per cent of Fortune 500 companies.

Mel Silva – Google

Like TikTok, Google had a year that was heavily clouded in regulatory complexity, particularly here in Australia. After the government moved to introduce a News Media Bargaining Code – which would force Google and Facebook to pay news publishers for content – Google began to campaign against the move. This saw a lengthy process of inquiries, Senate committees and public campaigning against what the tech giant deemed as ‘unworkable’ requirements.

At the forefront of this entire process was Google Australia & New Zealand managing director Mel Silva, who acted as the public face for Google in Australia at a time where the company was under siege. In late January, as the controversy appeared to be coming to a close, Silva fronted a Senate committee hearing about the Code. Reports later emerged that she had in fact gone into labour that same day and given birth on Saturday morning.

You can apply for the 2021 Women Leading Tech awards here. Entries close at 5pm, March 8th. 

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