Katherine Lee

Finalist: Katherine Lee was nominated for the awards by her employer, Mastercard

A Warwick Business School graduate is vowing to continue her work helping people to achieve their full potential after she beat off thousands of applicants in the MBA category of the Women of the Future Awards to reach the final six.

“My grandma emigrated from a small farming community in Ireland to the English Midlands but then went on to become the first female bus driver in the region,” Katherine Lee said after being shortlisted as a finalist in the awards, which were held at the London Hilton Bankside.

“It just shows that coming from one place doesn’t define where you can get to.”

The Women of the Future Awards UK have been shining a light on trailblazing women in various fields and professions for 17 years. Katherine was nominated for the awards by her employer, Mastercard, who were impressed by her volunteering work both inside and outside the company, and by her job performance.

One of her main volunteering roles within the global technology company has been for the Girls4Tech scheme, which seeks to encourage girls from more than 60 countries to build skills in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) so they can go on to STEM careers such as data science and cryptology - the computer coding behind cybersecurity tools.

“Our last event was at the London Transport Museum featuring workshops for girls from schools all over London,” said Katherine, who studied for a Full-time MBA.

“We set them technological challenges that they thoroughly enjoyed, and then made parallels between the puzzles they had solved and jobs in the real world.”

Another Mastercard initiative is the Strive community where Katherine works as a volunteer digital expert mentor, sitting down with small businesses to share thoughts on how they can increase their digital footprint.

“I use a lot of knowledge from my Warwick MBA in those sessions,” the alumna said.

Katherine took her Full-time MBA at WBS between 2019 and 2021, but her connections with the University of Warwick stretch much further back than that. Previously studying for undergraduate and postgraduate degrees at the university, she was one of the co-founders of an alumni network that is now known as the Warwick Finance Professional Network.

“It started up as a few meet-ups in London pubs, and then, all of a sudden, there were hundreds, and then thousands of members,” Katherine recalled.

She had to stop her involvement for a while as she moved to Dubai to work for Thomson Reuters but on her return to study for the MBA she re-joined as a committee member again, helping to organise some of the popular events for which, over the past decade, the network has become known. In the latest, in October, she chaired a discussion on diversity in the finance sector at WBS London at The Shard, held in collaboration with the WBS branch of the Black in Business MBA Club

In June 2020, Katherine herself was part of a WBS team of five MBA students who won a United Nations Hackathon to devise a project to adhere with its 17 Sustainable Development Goals. Their winning project identified a new market opportunity in emerging economies to empower women’s mobility.

Two years later, she was joining Mastercard in a global product integration role, helping teams across the world deliver the company’s products and win new customers.

This was a natural progression from both her previous job at Thomson Reuters, where she was enabling teams across the Middle East to adopt new technologies, and her MBA at WBS where she was meeting all sorts of people in her cohort who have “done so many different things”.

“When you come across such a diverse range of people from across the world, it’s good for your lateral thinking. You think the normal way of doing things is AB and C but then you meet someone who says ABC and D.”

The same goes for her recognition from the Women of the Future Awards. As a 2023 finalist, she now joins a network of women who come together at meetings and events throughout the year to share experiences and new ideas.

Shweta Singh, Assistant Professor of Information Systems and Management, is also part of that network after being shortlisted for the Science Award at the Asian Women of Achievement Awards, part of the Women of the Future programme, in June this year. So, too, has been WBS graduate Chelsey Bird (Executive MBA) who won the Women of the Future’s MBA star award in 2021. 

Through this network, and at Mastercard, Katherine is determined to continue her work empowering others through the sharing of her knowledge.

“So many people from less privileged backgrounds have potential locked inside them,” said Katherine. “It’s just about sharing the knowledge to help them feel like they can do something about it.”

Just as her grandmother once inspired her, she hopes to inspire others. 


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