Celebrating inclusion for International Women’s Day 2021

The theme for 2021’s International Women’s Day 2021 is #ChooseToChallenge, focusing on celebrating women’s achievements and helping to “collectively create a diverse and inclusive world”. 

AbilityNet believes in a digital world accessible to all, so we’ve chosen to celebrate a selection of inspiring women who are helping to create an inclusive digital world.

We’ve listed their Twitter handles, so it’s easier for you to connect, follow and share. 

All the women listed are leaders who inspire us and others; all spoke at our 2020 accessibility conference TechShare Pro in November 2020. 

The show is the largest accessibility gathering in Europe. All are welcome to share knowledge and learn how to create an accessible digital world. 

Women who are leading from the top

It takes strong leadership to drive a diversity and inclusion culture and ensure accessibility is at a company's heart. We celebrate women and the top, helping to drive the D&I agenda. 

Caroline Casey, co-founder of The Valuable 500 @CarolineBinc

A head shot of Caroline CaseyChange starts at the top, believes Caroline Casey, is the founder of The Valuable 500, an organisation she founded to put disability on the business leadership agenda of 500 national and multinational, private sector corporations.

Caroline is a force to be reckoned with and has inspired 342 companies in 31 countries across 52 sectors (as of November 2020) to be inclusive.

She is also joining our Head of Digital Inclusion, Robin Christopherson, as part of our accessibility insights service. 

Leena Nair, Chief Human Resource Officer, Unilever @LeenaNairHR 

A head shot of Leena NairUnilever’s Chief Human Resource Officer Leena Nair also believes strong leadership can drive a Diversity and Inclusion agenda.

Find out more about how the organisation drives a culture of accessibility by embracing the “inner and outer game of leadership.”

Nair, who helps drive the D&I agenda, is the first female, first Asian, youngest ever Chief Human Resource Officer of Unilever and member of the Unilever Leadership Executive.

She spoke at TechShare Pro alongside Microsoft’s Cindy Rose.

Cindy Rose (OBE) President of Western Europe, Microsoft @CindyRose

A head shot of Cindy RoseCindy Rose was appointed President, Microsoft Western Europe, in October 2020. In this role, she is responsible for bringing to life Microsoft’s mission – to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more. 

“I've learned that you know when we empower people with disabilities using technology, we empower everybody,” she said, speaking at TechShare Pro 2020.

She added that an inclusive agenda also makes good business sense: “I’m blessed with a team of dedicated colleagues and a CEO that keeps accessibility at the top of our list of priorities." 


Influential women empowering disabled voices

Covid-19 has highlighted the role of technology in empowering people to do more or keep going when we can’t connect physically. However, technology can disable if it’s not designed inclusively. We explore women making sure that digital accessibility stays top of the accessibility agenda.

Jenny Lay-Flurrie, Chief Accessibility Officer Microsoft @jennylayfluffy

Digital accessibility has “never been more important”, according to Jenny Lay-Flurrie, Chief Accessibility Officer for Microsoft. She shared how and why Microsoft is putting digital accessibility first at TechShare Pro 2020.

Among her many achievements, Lay-Flurrie has created a hiring programme whereby Microsoft identifies and trains people with autism, has chaired Microsoft’s Disability Employee Resource Group and been named by the White House as a champion for change. 

You can see her Lay-Flurrie in conversation as part of our accessibility insights podcast. 

Corie Brown, Continuity Announcer & Co-Chair of 4Purple @CorieB

A continuity announcer for Channel 4, Corie Brown is a leading voice in digital accessibility.

She found an early passion for technology and works to give a voice to disabled people, including working for the BBC and as founder and co-chair of 4Purple, Channel 4’s disability staff network.

Elisabeth Ward, Accessibility Specialist for Scope

Accessibility Specialist Elisabeth Ward of Scope is passionate about redressing the balance of digital inequality exposed by Covid-19.

She is part of Scope’s Big Hack programme, which highlights digital inequalities across sectors.

Ward offered insights on digital design for a post-pandemic world at TSP 2020. 

Getting technology into communities

Technology is a great enabler. Here we celebrate women, ensuring that no-one is excluded through lack of access, social inequalities or lack of skills. 

Helen Milner (OBE); Group CEO, Good Things Foundation @helenmilner

Under Helen’s leadership, The Good Things Foundation has published a blueprint for change designed to reduce some of the social inequalities that lead to a lack of access to technology, reinforcing social inequalities and leading to loneliness and social isolation. 

Milner is Chief Executive for GTF and has worked on the internet and communities for 30 years. In June 2015, Milner was appointed an OBE for digital inclusion services in the Queen's Birthday Honours List.

Sarah Brain, Free Services Manager AbilityNet

A picture of AbilityNet's Sarah BrainSarah Brain looks after our FREE services, including our 300+ volunteers who support older and disabled people to make the best use of their technology.

She also looks after our FREE online services, including factsheets and My Computer My Way.

Sarah was recently recognised for her inspiring leadership

Equality through policy: key influencers

Policy is a key lever in terms of driving an accessibility agenda. Several influential women are involved in the policy arena. 

Malin Rygg, Norwegian Digitization Directorate @malinrygg

a head shot of Malin RyggMalin Rygg has been in charge of the department of monitoring at the Norwegian Digitization Directorate since 2013. 

The directorate supervises Norwegian legislation that requires public and private sectors to comply with international accessibility requirements (WCAG 2.0). 

Malin is a lawyer and a prolific speaker, including policy's role versus the drive towards inclusive design benefits. 

See Malin in conversation with AbilityNet.  

Susanna Laurin, Funka @FunkaNu

A picture of Susanna LaurinSusanna Laurin is Chief Research and Innovation Officer of Funka and helps share future digital accessibility standards.

She has worked with the European Commission and acts as a technical expert in several standardisation committees. This includes acting as a technical expert in the ETSI Special Task Force, which, on assignment from the European Commission, is developing the minimum requirements of the Web Accessibility Directive in the EN 301549.

Susanna represents the International Association of Accessibility Professionals, IAAP, to the European Union and is Vice President of the IAAP Global Leadership Council.

Connecting to drive change

Women are taking a leading role in bringing like-minded people together to share tips on accessibility and to support others at each stage of their accessibility journey. 

Charlie Turrell, BBC @accessibilityC3

Charlie Turrell manages the BBC's network of accessibility champions. 

As the BBC's change manager, she believes enlisting these champions can embed accessibility across all the BBC's projects. 

She is keen to hear from others doing similar work.

Heather Hepburn, Skyscanner @heatherhepburn

A head shot of Heather from SjyscannerHeather is the accessibility lead at Skyscanner.

Her mission is, "let's make travel accessible to all and give everyone the same chance to enrich their lives through the joys of travel."

She's passionate about sharing the message around accessibility and values being part of an accessibility community sharing knowledge, challenges and experiences.

Emma Lawton, Co-Founder, More Human @ems_lawton

Emma Lawton is co-founder of start-up More Human, a platform designed to help build digital communities. 

She chaired the TechShare Pro 2020 session that explored how to create a sustainable accessibility business

Emma was diagnosed with Parkinson's at 29, which opened her eyes to tech's power as an enabler to human interaction. 

More Human's mission is to bring people together in virtual communities. 

Professional services from AbilityNet

Discover more about AbilityNet's accessibility products and services.

How AbilityNet can Help individuals

How AbilityNet has already supported individuals during the pandemic