Belgian Minister De Croo Recognises Top Girls and Women in Tech

On 8 December in Brussels, Belgian Deputy Prime Minister Alexander De Croo recognised top girls and women in digital fields in Europe and underscored the need for positive role models, coding curriculum and communities of excellence to encourage youth toward digital careers. “Young people need inspiration,” De Croo said in remarks at a ceremony for the 2016 Ada Awards, named for Lady Ada Lovelace the world’s first computer programmer. “That inspiration comes from seeing excellent people at work, like the girls and women recognised by these awards.”

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Alexander De Croo, Belgian Deputy Prime Minister & Minister for the Digital Agenda

De Croo’s comments came on the heels of news that women make up fewer IT professionals than ever in Europe despite skyrocketing demand for digital expertise. “Over the last ten years, demand for tech specialists in Europe has grown eight times faster than other fields, but women hold just sixteen percent of these jobs,” explained Cheryl Miller, cofounder of Brussels-based Digital Leadership Institute and organisers of the Ada Awards. “By 2020, one million IT jobs will go unfilled because the skills are not available in the marketplace,” Miller continued. “So by engaging women, we can potentially double the number of tech experts in Europe, increasing European competitiveness and making sure girls and women do not get left behind in the digital disruption.”

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Fireside Chat: Niamh Scanlon (14yo Ireland) – 2015 Digital Girl of the Year, and Rosanna Kurrer/DLI

Nuria Oliver, winner of the 2016 European Digital Woman of the Year Award, noted that digital disruption risks exacerbating the lack of diversity in tech, but also holds promise for positive change. “The percentage of girls and women in technology in most Western countries is simply not acceptable,” Oliver observed. “But in the future, we will only be able to address problems like global warming and the ageing population with the help of technology. So we need all our diverse human capital on board: to optimise innovation potential and to increase our chances of success in these important fields.”

According to Beata Stelmach, CEO for GE Poland, workforce diversity and digital transformation are two opportunities that GE, hosts of the 2016 Ada Awards ceremony, is explicitly leveraging for success. “We see GE as a 124-year-old software startup,” said Stelmach. “And with this thinking, we seek to pioneer a digital industrial sector that could contribute as much as $1.7 Trillion to European GDP annually by 2025.” In order to fully exploit the opportunities that digitisation brings,”it will be key to engage the entire European workforce,” she added. “And women in particular.”

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Disrupted Workforce Panel: Cheryl Miller/DLI, Beata Stelmach/GE, Andrea Parola/eSkills Association, Esther Roure/CISCO, Eva Paunova/MEP

Cerys Lock and Gabrijela Juriç, winners of the 2016 European Digital Girl of the Year Award, echoed the message of Deputy Prime Minister De Croo. Fourteen-year-old Cerys, feels that more computer science curriculum in school would be critical to get young people, girls included, engaged in the digital transformation. She reflected on the era of the Commodore 64 and said “forty years ago that computer was popular and got people into coding. We need something similar today, like the Raspberry Pi, that I personally am a huge fan of.” Gabrijela, also 14, added: “I am just proud that what I am doing actually matters to people in the sector. That really inspires me to keep going.”

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Nuria Oliver is 2016 Digital Woman of the Year with R. Kurrer & C. Miller/DLI, Manon Van Hoorebeke (2014 Digital Girl of the Year), Esther Roure Vila (2014 Digital Woman of the Year) & Andrea Parola/eSkills Association

Deputy Prime Minister De Croo summed up the awards event: “When someone is good at something you need to show it and congratulate her for what she is doing,” he said. “That is why the Ada Awards and the work of DLI is important: You need to show examples, and these young ladies are just the kind of examples we all need to see.”

The 2016 European Ada Awards were presented in the following categories to the noted recipients:

2016 European Digital Woman of the Year: Ms. Nuria Oliver, Spain
2016 European Digital Girl of the Year: Miss Gabrijela Juriç, Croatia (14 years old)
2016 European Digital Girl of the Year: Miss Cerys Lock, England (14 years old)
2016 European Digital Impact Organisation of the Year: CyberMentor, Germany

The Ada Awards are an initiative of Brussels-based Digital Leadership Institute in partnership with the Council of European Professional Informatics Societies (CEPIS), DIGITALEUROPE and European SchoolNet. The awards are named for Lady Ada Byron of Lovelace, the world’s first computer programmer. They are an official pledge to the Digital Skills and Jobs Coalition in Europe.

The Digital Leadership Institute is a Brussels-based think tank whose mission is to promote inclusive digital transformation.

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DLI Awards Top European Girls and Women in Tech

LUXEMBOURG – 14 December 2015 – Today in Luxembourg, Europe celebrated top girls and women in technology as part of the Luxembourg presidency of the Council of the European Union. The 2015 European Ada Awards, an initiative of the Brussels-based Digital Leadership Institute (DLI), were presented in the categories of Digital Woman, Digital Impact Organisation, and Digital Girl of the Year.  Two teens from Ireland and the UK were recognised in the category of Digital Girl of the Year.

imageEurope’s Best Young Coders

“I’m really excited,” beamed Niamh Scanlon, thirteen-year-old Digital Girl Award-winner from Ireland who has been coding since she was nine. According to Scanlon, after-school classes at CoderDojo were critical for her to hone and share her award-winning app-building skills. “Classes especially for girls are really important to get them coding,” Scanlon adds. In a field susceptible to discouraging stereotypes, “girls shouldn’t feel like coding is just for boys,” she says.

“I go to an all-girl school and still uptake in computing wasn’t as high as other subjects,” says Yasmin Bey, fourteen-year-old Digital Girl Award-winner from the UK who knows five coding languages and professes a love for tiny Raspberry Pi computers. “I started coding clubs to inspire girls and show them how awesome programming is,” she says. Bey now teaches classes with hundreds of students and is keen to share her knowledge. “Everyone should learn to code,” she says.

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Needed: More Female Tech Role Models

Janneke Niessen, COO and Cofounder of Improve Digital, received the 2015 European Digital Woman of the Year Award and acknowledges that being one of a small group of woman tech founders in Europe “has its own challenges.” Since as few as three percent of European founders in digital fields are women, more action to increase their visibility is needed, according to Niessen. Niessen herself has launched two initiatives: InspiringFifty, promoting women tech role models, and a book for young girls called Project Prep. “Girls don’t know what they’re missing when they say ‘no’ to a career in technology,” Niessen says, “so it’s important for us to show them.”

Longterm Vision and Commitment

Cocky Booij, Director of VHTO in the Netherlands, accepted the 2015 European Digital Impact Organisation Award for her organisation’s pioneering work to increase participation of girls in digital sectors. “Given the dominance of digital technology in our lives and the chronic underrepresentation of girls as digital makers,” Booij says, “VHTO promotes an integrated approach with a longterm vision to engage girls and keep them in these fields.”

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Driving Step-Change

“The goal of the Ada Awards is to drive a step-change in attitudes about girls and women as digital leaders,” says Cheryl Miller, DLI founder, who admits frustration about the pace of change. Unfilled tech jobs in Europe will reach one million by 2020, so skilling girls and women now to take up these jobs is a ‘no-brainer,’ she says. “Targeted action to engage girls and women in digital leadership is not a luxury,” Miller continues, “but an economic necessity demanding urgent action by Europe’s leaders.”

Transition to the Digital Future

Support for the Ada Awards is led by top digital skills organisations in Europe, including CEPIS, DIGITALEUROPE, the European Schoolnet and ECWT, and technology companies like Amazon Web Services who are driving the transition to a digital future.

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1. Digital Girls of the Year:

• Niamh Scanlon, 13-years old from Ireland

• Yasmin Bey, 14-years-old from the United Kingdom

2. Digital Woman of the Year: Janneke Niessen, COO & Cofounder Improve Digital

3. Digital Impact Organisation of the Year: VHTO, the Netherlands

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