IT's Million $ Babes

New award recognizes the brains and beauty behind some of Australia’s most successful IT businesses

The innovator behind the controversial Screen Goddess IT Calendar and CEO of ThoughtWare, Sonja Bernhardt, announced this week the winners of her latest venture promoting women in IT, the 'Million $ Babes' award.

The award is about recognising women who run multi-million dollar technology businesses across the IT sector.

Vanessa Brewis, CEO of Taurus Software, Liesl Capper, CEO of My Cyber Twin, Lisa Fletcher, CEO of b-Free, Raeleen Gillett, CEO of Octahedron, Danielle Lehrer, CEO of Go-Shout, and Julie Irwin, Executive Chairman of AcknowledgeDB Group, were each honoured with the inaugural award.

Bernhardt called the winners "a great cross blend typically representative of the industry", praising them for "carving a niche into their chosen markets and excelling using a variety of Oracle, Linux, Apache, PHP, .Net, Microsoft SQL, and Web 2.0 technologies".

"In my own life I know and come across a significant amount of women in the IT industry that actually do run million dollar and multi-million dollar businesses, yet I know they tend to be invisible to the general public," Bernhardt told Computerworld.

"So I knew it was about time people actually realized that there are serious businesses that are run by women in IT. Serious not only in the technology but also in the financial side."

The winners were nominated through a variety of industry networks like the Australian Women in IT and Science Entity, and Women in Technology, and were judged according to criteria such as a requirement that a minimum of 50 per cent of the business be owned by the nominated woman and have a revenue of at least $1 million.

According to the competition Web site, "a multi dimensional judging panel was not appointed - instead experience from people in judging other awards - e.g. Asia Pacific ICT Awards, Secrets of Australian Innovation Awards, WIT Awards and Project Management Awards was used to review nominee profiles and map to the criteria".

"They are all creators, they are keen to make a difference and they are passionate. As you can see they all work in different areas and are using different technologies. I actually know every one of them and I'm happy to say they are producers, creators, passionate and they love what they do," Bernhardt said.

Bernhardt believes that recognizing the most successful women in IT will encourage more young women to take up technology studies, as well as encourage women to create their own technology businesses.

Julie Irwin, executive chairman of application development and database administration solutions provider AcknowledgeDB Group, is one of the six IT Million $ Babes, and sees the award as a chance for women to realise the possibilities for success in the IT industry.

"I think it's certainly something that allows other women to think that they can also be successful in that area. As far as we've come there is still a lot of prejudice against women, especially in places like Queensland," Irwin said.

"I think it is changing, however. If you were a very effective and successful woman I think you were always going to be successful in the industry. So I never really felt a whole lot of prejudice when I was starting out, it has always been good," she added.

Bernhardt said the Million $ Babes award underwent a relatively "low-key, soft launch" for its inaugural year, and hopes to increase it's exposure and size as the IT industry becomes more aware of the powerful women it possesses.

"I knew there was interest there but I just did a soft approach this year, and the aim is that this is the first of many. My thoughts on future ones are that we would have more categories, like 'just broke the million dollar barrier' or 'greater than five million', 'greater than ten million' etc," she said.

More information on the awards as well as careers in IT for women can be found here.

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