Maggie Philbin has worked in radio and television for over 30 years on a wide range of science, medical and technology programmes. She is co-founder and CEO of TeenTech, an award-winning charity helping young people, their parents and teachers understand more about the real opportunities in Science, Technology and Engineering. In 2016 Maggie was named the Most Influential Woman in UK IT by Computer Weekly Magazine and was also named 2016 Digital Leader of the Year. In 2017, she received an OBE for her work with TeenTech.
She is a Patron of the Council of Professors and Heads of Computing and former President (2014-8) of the Institute of Engineering Designers.
She is a popular and entertaining speaker at conferences and award ceremonies, bringing a unique and insightful perspective on technology, diversity and innovation.
Maggie was a reporter on the recent BBC 1 series Bang Goes The Theory and has a unique resonance with audiences, having grown up with them on shows like Swap Shop and Tomorrow’s World. Many of the everyday innovations we now take for granted were demonstrated on live television for the very first time by Maggie, including the first truly mobile phone, voice recognition, the first car navigation system, the first example of virtual reality, the first fax machine, even the first supermarket barcode reader.
Maggie’s extensive radio and television career includes work with ITV, Channel 4, SKY and Channel 5. She has covered stories worldwide, from earthquake prediction systems in Iceland to water sanitation systems in the Zaartari refugee camp on the Syrian/Jordan border to possibly the most dangerous system for rescuing people from ski cable cars in Switzerland. She worked on a project with the BBC, NHK (Japan) and RAI (Italy) to give the first live international demonstration of Super Hi-Vision.
Her reporting career on live programmes, from Hospital Watch to This Morning, on network television and local radio has taken her into every imaginable and unimaginable situation.
The most memorable moments have come from people I’ve met who have been generous enough to trust me with their stories and experiences. I never take this job for granted.
Maggie has consistently worked to improve the visibility of successful scientists and engineers, both to encourage young people and women to pursue careers and reach top positions in these areas.
It’s heartbreaking to think of the amount of talent and innovation going to waste simply because children and their families haven’t the faintest idea what an engineer or technician actually does.
In November 2008, she founded TeenTech, collaborating with business, education, and professional organisations to create a lively initiative that brings teenagers, scientists, and technology companies together.
The kids had their stereotypical image of engineers completely reversed, and the companies were staggered by the enthusiasm and innate talent of the teenagers.
The BBC1 Politics Show devoted half their programme to the first event.
Maggie is CEO of the initiative, which now reaches over 12,000 young people yearly, with 75,000 using TeenTech resources. TeenTech has been awarded Best Engineering Event in Science Week, Best Communication and Outreach (WISE/UKRC) and Best Employer and Schools Initiative (Relocate). Since the outbreak of Covid 19, TeenTech has also delivered over 150 exciting live virtual events for young people every year.
Maggie delivered a ‘Mini-Reith” lecture on this subject on BBC Radio 4’s Broadcasting House, saying:
We talk endlessly about innovation, but we have to do more to inspire teenagers with fresh, accurate images of the contemporary workplace. The vast majority of jobs, even in the near future, will be applications of science, technology, engineering and Maths, but at the moment, a generation sits in chains, shackled to the false hope of instant success and a magical belief that X Factor, the lottery or marrying a footballer will transform their lives
Maggie is a popular conference host and keynote speaker on diversity and technology, working with a broad range of organisations from the IET, to Lloyds Bank to the IPA.
We need to improve diversity – it’s not just a question of looking at the number of women on the board of a company but at the social and ethnic diversity of the whole organisation at every level. It is not only morally right, but it makes very sound economic sense. Companies waste a lot of talent by neglecting diversity.
Maggie provides practical advice on how businesses can harness modern technology not only to improve their profits but to develop their trust and credibility.
Maggie is a patron of the Daphne Jackson Trust, which helps scientists, engineers, and technologists return to their careers.
Getting the right support and training is key, whether you are 16 or 60. It makes an enormous difference not only to the personal development and confidence of individuals but to the success and reputation of companies and institutions.
She is also patron of the Council of Professors and Heads of Computing.
Today every job is a digital job and every company is a digital company. It’s never been more important to ensure young people have the skills to navigate and develop this fast changing world.
UK Digital Skills TaskForce
In November 2013 Maggie was asked to lead the UK Digital Skills Task Force which published a report ‘Digital Skills for Tomorrow’s World’ in July 2014.
In 2015/6 Maggie joined the Haringey STEM Commission producing a report in July 2016.
Maggie joined the Digital Leaders board in 2017.
In 2012, she was awarded an honorary doctorate in Technology from De Montfort University, recognising her “outstanding contributions to the intellectual and cultural life of the nation and region” and for “bringing about a greater understanding and interest in science and technology” . She was made a fellow of Queen Mary University, London (2014), and awarded a doctorate of Science from the University of Bath (2015), presented with an honorary doctorate by the University of Huddersfield (2016), an honorary doctorate in Science from Solent University (2017) and an honorary fellowship from the University of Leicester (2018).
In 2016 Maggie was named the Most Influential Woman in UK IT by Computer Weekly Magazine and was also named 2016 Digital Leader of the Year for her work with TeenTech.
She was awarded an OBE in January 2017 for promoting careers in STEM and the creative industries. In July 2017 she received the Tech4Good Special Award.
Maggie has one daughter, Rose, named after the woman who gambled on a young student being able to handle the BBC’s first Saturday morning show.