Blog - Company
Sep 21, 2022 | Read time 3 min

Queen Elizabeth II: Remembering an Inspiring Leader

Our CEO, Katy Wigdahl, looks back on the life of the UK’s longest-serving royal, Queen Elizabeth II, and her indelible impact on the world of technology.
Katy WigdahlCEO

It was with great sadness we learnt of the passing of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II on Thursday 8th September 2022. The British monarch for over 70 years, she was and remains a figure of tremendous importance to many. My thoughts and sympathy go out to those who mourn her loss and especially to her beloved family at this impossibly difficult time.

The Legacy of a Lifetime

All over the commonwealth – and indeed the world – Queen Elizabeth II gave her name to scientific and educational projects. In Canada, the Queen Elizabeth II Graduate Scholarship in Science and Technology Program helped financially support students with scholarships to help them push forward research and development of technology. For the Diamond Jubilee, this opportunity was expanded to Bermuda, Trinidad and Tobago, and South Africa.

In the UK, she gave her name to perhaps the most prestigious technology award, The Queen’s Award. We were incredibly honoured to receive the Innovation in Technology award in 2019. Our former CEO said at the time: “To be recognised for the truly innovative technology that we are producing is a real testament to the incredibly talented team that we have here at Speechmatics.” It’s a sentiment that I echo even more deeply today.

In the week of Her Majesty’s passing, we submitted our application for this year’s Queen’s Award. Whether this will be amended to the King’s Award has yet to be announced. But if the King is even half as inspiring as his late mother is to the many scientific minds of the world, he’ll be doing exceptionally well.

70 Years of Change

It’s quite staggering when you consider the sheer amount of technological change that happened under her rule. For her Jubilee this year, we compiled a lookback on the changing face of speech-to-text from 1952 to the present day – taking in Bell Laboratories’ first speech recognition engine through to the machine learning and AI breakthroughs of today. In almost any tech industry you could chart similar amazing growth and development.

Then there are the many outstanding technologists for whom the Queen has honoured. From knighting Tim Berners-Lee to bestowing an OBE on Sophie Wilson. Bill Gates was given the title of honorary Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 2005.

From a purely personal viewpoint – as a female CEO – I saw Queen Elizabeth II as a truly inspiring figurehead. One who dedicated her life to the service of her country. A woman who was respected throughout the world for her faithful devotion to what she believed in. In her I saw, and still see, the true qualities of what it takes to lead and inspire – an open ear, a genuine interest in others, stability and integrity, and a great sense of humour.

Katy Wigdahl, CEO, Speechmatics