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Akua Opong is a Senior Analyst in the London Stock Exchange Group's Corporate Technology team. She mentors new team members, including interns and graduates, and gives technological advice and guidance to her colleagues across the Group.

She is passionate about her role as a STEM Ambassador and the opportunity it gives her to coach and mentor young people, interns, and graduates in the skills they need to build successful careers, as well as increasing the visibility of women in the industry.

Akua is a strong diversity and inclusion advocate, a mental health champion on the LSEG Wellbeing Committee, and the community lead for LSEG's Women's Inspired Network outside of her primary position.

As a neurodiversity champion, Akua collaborates with the Change Ambassador Network at LSEG through the Accessible Network, researching and testing accessibility solutions and raising awareness about creating an inclusive environment for neurodivergent employees.

She received the Inspiration CEO Award 2019 at LSEG in recognition of her charity initiatives and contributions and has been shortlisted for the Women in Tech Global Awards 2021 and Tech100Women.

We had the opportunity to talk with Akua about being a woman in technology and how she goes about taking down barriers and breaking new ground in the technology world.

All information and links were correct at the date of original publication on
3 May 2024

Throughout your journey as a woman of colour in business and leadership, what strategies and skills have you found most effective in overcoming obstacles and achieving success?

No path to success is ever smooth, or in fact easy but we must keep persevering to pave the way for future generations.

We each define or achieve success at different stages of our lives.

The key strategies and skills I have developed include the following:

  • Advocacy: How to communicate effectively and develop your negotiating skills to articulate ideas and visions. The ability to communicate effectively and confidently can help overcome biases.

  • Strength in numbers: Build a support network of mentors, sponsors, colleagues, friends and sometimes a coach (both financially and for support). Also, remember how to include male allies in your network. They form part of your community (tribe) that will advocate for you, and provide support, insights and invaluable assistance.

  • Influence others: Applying leadership ability to achieve successful business benefits. Learning to balance assertiveness with diplomacy. Demand a seat at the table and develop a growth mind-set. As a role model for others in the industry who can recognise their own ability to inspire others and drive change.

  • Authenticity: Being authentic by adding your own unique style, culture and perspective, while leading with confidence. Here you create your own narrative that leads to success.

  • Resilience: Overcoming obstacles and remaining resilient. This requires a lot of determination, courage and ensuring that you stand in your power.

  • Business Skills: Acquiring business and financial acumen. Saving for your future and retirement, as things change all the time and this is based on Dave Ramsey’s 7 steps to financial freedom.

I believe that with strategic thinking, skill-building, networks of support and sheer determination, women of colour can achieve remarkable success in business.

In traditionally male-dominated industries, women often face unique challenges. What advice would you give to aspiring female entrepreneurs and leaders who encounter such barriers and how can they navigate and overcome them?

I believe in diverse workplaces, different cultures, level playing fields, voices being heard at all levels of the organisation, gender equality and fair pay.

More importantly, we need leaders that help individuals gain access to the right resources.

In the modern world, we live in, technology is affecting the way we work, study and so much more.

We should be promoting using technology for good and helping others.

The key tips I would suggest for aspiring female entrepreneurs and leaders facing barriers:

  • Know your worth: Earlier, I mentioned self-advocacy and it is true as an individual you need to back yourself up by being your own champion, your own advocate and know your own value. Bring to attention any bias when you see it to stamp down your authority as this creates fairness in the workplace. This is so important in the industry as this allows you as an individual to be confident whether it is negotiating a better or fair pay package (bonus or pay rise). Always be clear on what you want and have supporting evidence that will back up your requests. Speak to people you trust, if you haven’t gained this clarity.

  • Personal Brand: What is your Unique Selling Point? How do you want to be known in the industry? Demonstrate clearly how to navigate without feeling unworthy yet you want to be able to raise your profile i.e., panellist at an event. Be more visible.

  • Continuous learning: Learning new skills even if it is 15-30 minutes a day learning. For example, writing better reports to help as I transition into leadership roles. Growth Mindset to improve and this is essential in the technology industry. Seek out subject matter expertise that can help improve your knowledge, industry events and training courses. Remember investing your time, is an investment in your growth.

  • Wellbeing: Self-care is where you take your power back. This is listening to your body, being mindful of your work/life boundaries and channelling your inner strength. Self-care allows one to refuel and reclaim personal power. I review my own thought process by journaling, making affirmations and saying a daily prayer. I use the five-minute journal from Intelligence Change.

  • Achievements: Always celebrate your successes, however small or big. All these accomplishments show how hard you have worked and how far you have come.

  • Goal setting: Set monthly and yearly goals. Break them down into manageable chunks. Develop a vision board that sets out your goals for the year and a theme to achieve the goal.

Just remember girls with dreams become women with vision.

Dream big and challenge yourself to be the best version of yourself.

Your work is going to fill a larger part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do” - Steve Jobs

I believe that you need to have faith. You need to believe in your own capabilities, remove any distractors, and have your community support you and the possibility of the unknown.

New challenges have their own risks but overcoming any challenges shows resilience, breaking down barriers to achieve your aspirations. Always aim high!

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Diversity, Equity and Inclusion are essential for creating thriving corporate environments. In your experience, what are the key benefits and positive outcomes of empowering women to take on senior leadership roles within their organisations or sector?

There are many potential benefits and positive outcomes when organisations empower women to take on senior leadership roles.

Firstly, we have all seen that an increased diversity of perspectives at the highest levels of decision-making can lead to more innovation, better problem-solving and reduced risk.

Research shows diverse leadership teams perform better.

Representation matters, for women of colour to join organisations, we need to see other women who look like us at all levels of the business.

What type of diversity and inclusion networks, plus mentoring schemes are available? Are women of colour being promoted within the organisations?

Growing up, I always sought role models and even when I wanted to join a company, I looked at their Executive Team and senior leadership teams to see whether I could progress within that company.

Is the company diverse and invests in its talent? For example, hosting career talks, and events and discussing ways to get into the industry.

This includes learning about any challenges and obstacles that we face.

We want role models and inspirations for younger women starting their careers, demonstrating what is possible and "normalising" women in power.

This will create a future talent pipeline and eliminate the loss of qualified candidates from gender alone.

We have seen gender bias in Artificial Intelligence (AI) and this could reduce the number of candidates that apply for roles that get through to the interview stage.

I strongly recommend the Netflix documentary Coded Bias as this discusses this in more depth.

In my experience, women leaders often bring fresh approaches and dimensions like collaboration, nurturing talent, emotional intelligence and inclusivity. These can enhance leadership culture.

In addition, brand reputation, will further increase equality and progressiveness, which appeals to today's investors, and customers and this will improve financial performance.

It reflects a better representation of the overall workforce, customer base and society. Leadership should mirror the diversity of stakeholders. This will again help attract more talent to the workforce.

We want to ensure more equality and fairness from a moral perspective yet eliminate any gender bias.

I would like to highlight that a diverse workplace brings huge benefits to organisations.

We need to remove the blockers and barriers to ensure all organisations recruit individuals fairly.

Ensure there are networking opportunities and create a workplace culture that values and supports diversity, inclusion and belonging.

Other factors include education and training. When you have someone working for you, you want them to thrive and give them a great chance to become a future leader who demonstrates great qualities in the workplace.

Could you share some examples of initiatives and programmes you have been involved in to support women in their professional and business journeys; and the impact they have had on empowering women in your organisation and sector?

I am a Mentor with Cajigo, the UK’s first mentoring app, supporting women and girls in STEM and technology careers.

Cajigo is on a mission to support 20,000 girls into the tech industry and I have participated in a number of their Career STEM Talks where I have spoken to over 300 girls in schools, about how they can navigate a route into a variety of technology careers as well as offer them career advice.

I have also created a video Masterclass to help them understand why STEM education matters for their future. This has helped some of the former graduates move roles and get promoted.

Ipsos Mori conducted a report with WeAreTechWomen and Tech Talent Charter through a survey on the barriers for women in the tech industry. The report can be found here.

Urban Synergy is a youth empowerment charity that helps inspire and guide the ambitions of young people in their careers. I am a registered role model/mentor and help provide career talks to schools in the UK during International Women’s Day, and Career and Mentoring Weeks.

This is focused on girls from underrepresented backgrounds to help them understand their options in careers in the workplace. Also, Role model career talks to schools in the UK, volunteering days and career webinars.

To drive initiatives around diversity and inclusion, I have participated in Mentoring with both City Hive, Coding Black Females (where I recently became a Chartered IT Professional through sponsorship) and the Like-Minded Females (LMF) mentoring schemes to help drive change in gender equality.

I have developed so much in the last year due to the organisations that I have joined. We have great organisations such as BYP, Coding Black Females, LMF (Like Minded Females), WeAreTheCity, City Hive with Talk about Black Mentoring programme and Global Tech Advocates – Black Women in Tech that consistently highlight the amazing different careers of Black women in the industry.

All these organisations shine a line on individuals through in-person events, mentoring, training, resources and tech festivals on diverse topics.

As a Neurodivergent black woman in STEM, I want to use my platform to allow others to be the best version of themselves and help others. Intersectionality is so important for making others feel like they belong and are included with an emphasis on why representation matters.

Looking beyond what we can actually see. Another aspect is the importance of community, how can they help and what you can achieve collectively to make a difference or change. It is important to be kind and supportive of one another.

In the words of Mahatma Gandhi: “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.”

As a trailblazer and role model, what message would you like to convey to the next generation of women of colour aspiring to achieve success in business and leadership?

Life is a journey where you may struggle and have to overcome different challenges.

I want to break down those barriers and remove those stereotypes so that regardless of your gender or background you can and will succeed.

From an early age, I was always setting goals - whether career, personal or financial - in terms of what I wanted to achieve. Even times when I would feel anxious or distracted by negative thoughts I would have a self–talk and recognise that often the sum of our life is made up of a lot of small, meaningful, everyday moments—versus huge, momentous, next-level feelings of joy.

I was extremely fortunate to have managers who believed in my capabilities and gave me opportunities to gain experience and learn.

Due to imposter syndrome, I did not fully take advantage of the opportunities and connections as I lacked confidence.

In the last five years, charity work, volunteering, joining D&I networks, LinkedIn contacts, and self-discovery have helped me greatly.

These skills have taken me to a new level or to a new area of opportunity that I wished I had known when I first started out in my career. There are times in life when you hit an obstacle, but you need to keep going and just persevere.

I would like to pass on advice to others as if I were sending a letter to my younger self. Just be brave and always bring your authentic self and never be afraid of learning something new or asking a question. Always believe in your capabilities to dream big and become a girl with a dream that becomes a reality.

GLAM Shero for Young Girls in STEM

Some of this advice has come from a previous mentor Jennifer Burns who always believed in my potential. Jennifer would always say you have so much energy and passion to change the world and create an impact. I hope to fulfil that potential. Also, thank you Jennifer as you were a great professional guide, mentor and friend. Thank you to all the trailblazing women who paved the way for others in the industry.

Why is the path forward so important?

The path forward has been paved by the courageous women who came before you.

In order to honour them by boldly bringing your whole self into your work and leading with authenticity.

Define success on your own terms - not by outdated norms and biases, but by your values.

Lift others along the way and know that your accomplishments can transform what is possible for those who follow.

Be the role model and leader that others deserve. Lead with compassion, ethics and care for the greater good.

There will be obstacles but have faith in your abilities. Build a community of champions who see your potential and advocate for you. 

Nurture your development. Ask for what you need and negotiate unapologetically.

Trust in your voice, take risks and don't shrink yourself to fit outdated standards.

Help cultivate a community where women reinforce each other and realise their collective power. And through it all, stay true to your values.

You belong in every room and at every table. Just remember that with vision, determination and resilience, you can shatter ceilings and create your own narrative. But also know that you stand on strong shoulders.

So, dream big, lean on your community (your tribe), and lead the future with your head held high and wear your crown (homage to Global Tech Advocates – Black Women in Tech Founder Flavilla Fongang).

The next generation is counting on you to manifest the change we need in this world.

I leave you with the words of my role model Michelle Obama from her memoir 'Becoming':

"For me, becoming isn't about arriving somewhere or achieving a certain aim. I see it instead as forward motion, a means of evolving, a way to reach continuously toward a better self. The journey doesn't end," 

I chose this quote as I attended the Becoming book tour at the O2 in London.

Michelle Obama is a massive advocate for young girls to be given a chance to succeed regardless of their background.

Each person should be given opportunities, in a world that is fair and equal. It is about uplift, empowering and not about competing with each other, but working for each other - for the young girl or woman's voice to be heard.

I recently read a post on LinkedIn from UN Women “We need a world where women's rights are respected. Strong legal frameworks must be put in place to advance gender equality in all areas.” #GenderEquality #WomensRights

The time is NOW!!!

We are grateful to Akua for sharing her insights and strategies for inspriting women in tech. If you are interested in connecting with Akua, visit LinkTree or connect via LinkedIn where she will share her communities, partners and networks for increasing the representation of BAME women in STEM.

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