Single mum and school drop out is now in Forbes’ top fifty women in world

A school drop out and single mum-of-three by the age of 23 has been named among the top 50 women in tech in the world by Forbes.

University professor Sue Black forged a successful career in the technology industry despite struggles in her early life.

She is now one of 50 women to appear on a list of the most highly regarded female tech moguls published by the respected American business magazine, Forbes.

However, a career in the tech sector was not always mapped out for her and she was forced to battle back from struggles in early life.

She told Chronicle Live: "I dropped out of school at 16 and had three kids by 23.

"Then my marriage broke down and I became a single parent living on benefits.

"I decided that the only way to make something of myself would be education, so I studied for my A Levels in the evenings and then applied to uni to study computing.

"I just thought that technology was the future and that it was going to change the world."

During Dr Black’s 20-year career in the software industry she has earned a PhD and been awarded three honorary doctorates.

She now works as a lecturer in Durham University’s computer science department and is also the founder of Techmums, an author and a government advisor.

Speaking about her latest achievement, Dr Black said: "I’m amazed. I woke up this morning and, as usual, went straight on to Twitter and saw messages from my friends congratulating me about it.

"The reaction has been wonderful. I’ve had a long career in tech and been fortunate to have been recognised in the past but this is just great."

Dr Black has only recently started at Durham as a senior academic but said that she loves working in the North East.

She told the Chronicle: "I love it at Durham. It’s a great university and such a nice city too.

"I’ve always wanted to do something in the area as I’ve got a connection to the region.

"My great grandfather Sydney Ambury was from Sunderland and served in the Northumberland Fusiliers in Gallipoli."

Alongside her extensive academic portfolio, Dr Black was brought into the university’s computer science team to boost the number of women applying to study at the institution.

"They really want to get some more female students at Durham and next year it’s one of my main goals.

"I’m looking at what other universities have done, such as the progress made by Carnegie Mellon University in Pennsylvania."

Six years ago, Dr Black founded Techmums – classes for women to learn programming skills – to help mums build confidence and encourage them into education.

She is concerned that the UK does not "bang the drum" loud enough for women in the technology sector despite an illustrious history of female programmers.

In 2015, she published the fastest crowd-funded book of all time, ‘Saving Bletchley Park’, which described her campaign to save the WW2 codebreaking site where many women worked.

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