11 diverse women helping shape Gloucestershire’s cyber sector

With Gloucestershire’s cyber sector growing at an astonishing rate, SoGlos takes a look at some of the talented women helping shape its future – as part of the #CyberGlos series.

By Andrew Merrell  |  Published
Putting the county on a global stage, SoGlos celebrates some of the women helping shape Gloucestershire’s cyber industry.
Putting the county on a global stage, SoGlos celebrates some of the women helping shape Gloucestershire’s cyber industry.

As Gloucestershire races to claim the title of ‘UK Cyber Central’ we highlight just some of the women at the heart of helping shape the fast-growing county sector – whose epicentre is in the shadow of GCHQ in Cheltenham.

A part of SoGlos’s ongoing #CyberGlos series, we consulted with industry experts across the county to compile this crack list of 11 talented individuals. And while career drives to encourage more women into the broadly labeled cyber industry might give the impression of a male-dominated sector, as this list shows, significant female talent is already leading from the front in Gloucestershire.

Madeline Howard – director of CyNam

Anyone who follows the cyber sector in Gloucestershire will be aware of CyNam, the pro-active business-focused group at its heart helping develop the community within the county and beyond.

Which means they will be aware of Howard, a director of the networking group working with the likes of Cheltenham’s Hub8 to bring like-minded businesses together, discover new talent and even stimulate interest in the county’s schools and colleges. She is not the only name from CyNam who made the list either…

Pranith Accapanda – lecturer at Gloucestershire College

Although only in her current role as a lecturer in computing since August 2020, Gloucestershire College did not hesitate to put Accapanda forward for this list.

Teaching students pursuing B-Tech qualifications, she joined the county institution from Halesowen College, where she was also a computing lecturer. Gloucestershire College officially opened its £3 million Advanced Digital Academy in September 2021 and its degree-level apprenticeship in cyber security has been awarded Tech Industry Gold.

Chantelle Bowring – owner and director of Salus Cyber

Salus cyber was founded in 2017 as a certified provider of world-class cyber security services. Its team delivers projects from autonomous underwater security to corporate security transformation programmes and applies the skills it honed in defence to aid the world of business.

Operations director Bowring is a key architect of the Cheltenham-headquartered business bringing, with a track record of working in the computer hardware and cyber industry. Getting more women and girls involved in cyber is a commitment Bowring and Salus are passionate about.

Sepideh Mollajafari – lecturer at the University of Gloucestershire

The University of Gloucestershire offers a long list of cyber security related courses. Mollajafari is part of the team of experts delivering that learning. She is a postgraduate assistant in cyber security specialising in blockchain technology and has a CV including six years working in a major bank’s IT department.

Mollajafari also has a Phd in her chosen subject and works on outreach projects encouraging more women to take up computing, including her involvement with the NCSC’s CyberFirst programme.

Sophia McCall – security consultant at NCC Group and founder of the Security Queens

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McCall is described as ‘not only an incredibly talented technical individual, but someone who has taken a huge amount of time to engage with those looking to enter the industry’.

She is also one of the founders of the Security Queens, a highly successful blog, and part of the ladies of Cheltenham Hacking Society team. Nominees also described her as ‘an asset to Gloucestershire and the local community to cyber and technology professionals’.

Nathalie Cole – chapter lead of Ladies of Cheltenham Hacking Society

Former veterinary surgeon Cole is described by those who nominated her for this list as ‘an amazing lady who is so, so passionate about getting women into cyber security’ and someone who ‘has done a fabulous job at leading the Cheltenham Chapter and is just wonderful’.

The LCHS describes itself as ‘an offensive and defensive technical security meetup for women in Cheltenham’. Its focus is on technical knowledge and skill sharing between women in the cyber security field, stressing it is ‘women centric, but not women exclusive’.

Vivian Dufour – chief executive officer of Meterian

Dufour’s company Meterian, was one of five in the most recent intake of the NCSC (National Cyber Security Centre) start-ups programme. According to those who put her name forward for this list ‘both Vivian’s technical and operational capabilities are outstanding’, ‘she is an inspiration in the sector’.

‘Passion, knowledge and all round loveliness’ were also mentioned. She is another who works closely with Cheltenham cyber group CyNam helping make sure its events remain a success. (Dufour is pictured above, seated, second from left).

Shelley Wood – director of Gemba Advantage

Wood is the co-founder and director of Cheltenham-based firm Gemba Advantage, which is described as ‘making high-impact software that is secure, scalable and sustainable’.

Those who nominated her for this list describe her as someone who ‘genuinely puts the wellbeing and progression of her employees at the forefront of everything she does’. She is also credited as helping others outside her business with their own progression.

Sarah James – people and operations manager at Savient

James is a key figure at Cheltenham firm Savient, a firm which uses software technology solutions and services to help customers solve business problems, unlock the value in their data and transform their companies.

She is listed here also for her passion for community engagement. Her ‘desire to increase her company’s CSR is so inspiring, including regular outreach with charities, local schools and other businesses to offer support’, said one nominee. Her ‘operational knowledge is also extremely impressive’.

Eleanor Hardman – ecosystem engagement and events lead at Hub8 and CyNam

Hardman joined the county’s cyber industry less than a year ago, but according to those in the know ‘has made a huge impact to drive change around cyber skills’.

She has supported Cheltenham’s Hub8 in the opening of its second facility at Gloucestershire College and her work is aimed at enabling the cyber security sector to thrive. She helps both CyNam and Hub8 ‘deliver a huge range of events focused on the sector and the local community’.

Clare Bourne – head of delivery, innovation and growth at CyNam

Another name from the organisation at the heart of the cyber sector community in Gloucestershire, CyNam. Bourne is described as a ‘living legend’.

One nominee said ‘CyNam would not have achieved what it has over the last year without her’, adding she is ‘a leading figure locally in the industry’ and someone who is ‘driving real change’.

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