10 inspirational female founders for International Women's Day

International Women’s Day is celebrated in the month of March every year, and we have taken this as an opportunity to shine a spotlight on 10 inspirational female founders.

These inspirational female founders embody the spirit of innovation, resilience, and leadership, who have made significant contributions across various sectors. From fintech innovators and healthcare pioneers to deeptech entrepreneurs, each of their stories are a testament to the power of female entrepreneurship in driving change.

Anne Boden

Anne Boden is the Founder and former-CEO of Starling Bank. Boden has an extensive background in traditional banking and finance, with a career spanning over 30 years. Before founding Starling Bank, Boden held various senior positions in some of the world's leading financial institutions. Her roles included Head of EMEA, Global Transaction Banking, at Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) and Chief Operating Officer of Allied Irish Banks (AIB).

In 2014, Boden made a significant career move by leaving her position at AIB to start her own bank. She was motivated by a vision to create a customer-centric digital bank that would leverage modern technology to provide better financial services. This vision led to the creation of Starling Bank, which was granted its banking licence by the Bank of England in July 2016. Under Boden's leadership, Starling Bank has focused on developing a mobile banking application that offers personal, business, and joint current accounts. The bank differentiates itself through its innovative use of technology, offering features such as real-time notifications, insights into spending habits, and tools for budgeting and saving. Starling Bank has also introduced a marketplace model, allowing customers to access a range of financial services from third-party providers directly within the app.

Bianca Cefalo

Bianca Cefalo is the CEO and Co-Founder of spacetech startup, Space DOTS. Cefalo studied at the University of Naples Federico II, beginning her studies with a BSc in Aeronautical and Aerospace Engineering, and then going on to complete a Master’s in Aerospace, Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering, where she specialised in hypersonic aerodynamics, microgravity, and satellite imagery. After completing her education, Cefalo moved straight into working on the JPL Insight Mars mission, and was one of the youngest analysts there. Not only did she work at NASA, but she also gained experience at other space startups, as well as Airbus Defence.

In 2021, the idea for Space DOTS was born, and launched the following year. Space DOTS is on a mission to revolutionise space commercialisation and exploration by expediting in-orbit qualification of advanced materials, making it faster, cheaper, and simpler. Its goal is to reduce capital expenditure and time to market for novel materials, to help Space Industry Leaders accelerate advanced materials uptake, and to catalyse technology applications across all space environments.

Catherine Mandungu

Catherine Mandungu is the Founder and CEO of Think RevOps. Mandungu began her career at Microsoft, her dream company to work at, and kind of fell into revenue operations. “I thought I was applying for a finance internship, and they thought I should be in operations. I kind of fell into it at Microsoft, but I’m very thankful for that because I would have never known about this type of role that was perfect for me because it’s so dynamic,” Mandungu reminisced whilst talking to Startups Magazine.

After Microsoft, Mandungu worked at a multitude of technology companies, before founding Think RevOps just before COVID-19. While this time was tough for many, Mandungu made it through the pandemic with a thriving business. Think RevOps is a revenue operations and data consulting firm. It is devoted to helping businesses worldwide increase profitability and build resilience by scaling their growth. Think RevOps help them achieve this by designing and implementing revenue operations strategies, data and automation innovations with Salesforce, HubSpot and wider CRMs and integrations to increase efficiency and meaningful impact in the customer journey.

Dr Elsa Zekeng

Dr Elsa Zekeng is a scientist, advocate, and entrepreneur. She is the founder of SökerData, a startup that is increasing equity in clinical trials for women and black and ethnic minority groups by engaging with Pharmaceutical and biotech companies to support them in diversifying their drug development process.

Zekeng founded her first company, the Northwest Biotech Initiative nine months into her PhD. This was to encourage collaboration between academia and industry, create a space where scientists can learn how to spin out their research into companies and explore career opportunities outside academia.

Emilė Radytė

Emilė Radytė is the CEO and Co-Founder of Samphire Neuroscience, a medical device tech company building wearables for the neglected health needs of women. It achieves this by offering innovative neurotechnology and evidence-based solutions designed for natural menstrual relief. Em graduated top of her class in Neuroscience and Anthropology at Harvard, completed a Master's degree, and began her PhD in Neuroscience at Oxford. While studying, she led Harvard's emergency medical service (CrimsonEMS) and was at the helm of Lithuania's most extensive neuropsychology community (Integrative Neuroscience Association).

Samphire Neuroscience has developed Nettle, the world's first Menstrual Neuromodulation Therapy (MNT) device, delivered through a headband. Nettle emits low-current electrical pulses targeting the brain areas involved in pain and mood regulation. This non-invasive technology, underpinned by clinical evidence, enhances neuroplasticity, and effectively reduces symptoms of chronic pain, depression, and anxiety.

Fionnghuala O’Reilly

Fionnghuala ‘Fig’ O'Reilly became the first woman of colour to win Miss Universe Ireland in 2019. She’s worked as a NASA datanaut, is a systems engineer, a specialist in data science, and you can find her on CBS’s STEM TV show Mission Unstoppable. On top of all that, Fig is on a mission to close the opportunity gap for women of colour in STEM through her company – Space to Reach.

Space to Reach is a platform connecting employers to Black and Brown women in technology and engineering. Its career development programme is helping STEM talent connect with companies looking to hire. Space to Reach is building a pathway for more women of colour to excel in innovation-driven industries. As innovation progresses, the opportunity gap for women widens unless diversity and inclusion are at the forefront, and the company establishes pipelines that helps introduce and retain women of colour.

Dr Ilana Wisby

Dr Ilana Wisby is a notable figure in the field of quantum computing and technology. As an entrepreneur and scientist, she has made significant contributions to the development and commercialisation of quantum technologies. Wisby is the CEO and Founder of Oxford Quantum Circuits.

Oxford Quantum Circuits is building quantum computers to help customers solve some of humanity’s most significant challenges, from climate change to new drug discoveries. It has built the UK’s most advanced quantum computers, which are the only ones commercially available in the country. It has also launched the UK’s first Quantum Computing as-a-Service (QCaaS), bringing quantum to the enterprise, at the fingertips of customers and partners.

Lise Pape

Lise Pape is the Founder of Walk With Path. She has made significant contributions to the field of assistive technology, particularly through her work in developing innovative solutions for individuals with mobility challenges. Her motivation to enter this field was rooted in personal experience, witnessing her father’s battle with Parkinson’s Disease inspired Pape to develop technology to help others who were also suffering.

Walk With Path is a company that focuses on creating devices aimed at improving the mobility and quality of life for people with conditions that affect their walking ability, such as Parkinson's disease and other age-related health issues.

Melissa Chambers

Melissa Chambers is the CEO and Co-Founder of Sitehop, a cyber-technology startup that is developing and supplying FPGA hardware-enforced cyber security solutions for companies requiring the highest level of security available, which is not available from software-only solutions. Sitehop was launched at the end of 2021, with co-founder Ben Harper, after the pair had met working at a previous startup.

She has over 15 years of experience in founding and growing tech startups, Sitehop not being the first startup that Melissa has been the head of. At the 2023 Hustle Awards, Chambers was crowned Inspirational Womxn of the Industry, after being nominated by colleagues.

Reshma Saujani

Reshma Saujani is a highly influential figure known for her significant contributions to technology, education, and political activism. Saujani is best known as the founder of Girls Who Code, a non-profit organisation launched in 2012. The organisation's mission is to close the gender gap in technology and change the image of what a programmer looks like and does. By providing young women with the skills and resources to pursue opportunities in computing fields, Girls Who Code has made a substantial impact, reaching tens of thousands of girls across the United States and beyond with its coding clubs, summer immersion programs, and college loops.

Before founding Girls Who Code, Saujani had a notable career in law and politics. She earned her Master's of Public Policy from Harvard Kennedy School and a Juris Doctor from Yale Law School. Saujani worked at prestigious law firms and was involved in various public service roles, including serving as Deputy Public Advocate of New York City.

Celebrating women year-round

As we conclude our celebration of International Women's Day by spotlighting ten inspirational female founders, we at Startups Magazine want to stress that women in the industry should be celebrated year-round, and not just for International Women’s Day.

The stories of these founders serve as a reminder of the potential that lies in diversity and the importance of providing equal opportunities for all. We believe in continuing to champion gender equality in the industry, and supporting female entrepreneurs in their journeys.