Europe Recognises Top Girls and Women in Digital Fields

“We are girls! We are women! We are strong!” – European Commissioner Gabriel to winners of the 2019 European Ada Awards recognising top female digital talent in Europe

“Take all challenges as opportunities,” advised Ms. Mariya Gabriel, European Commissioner for the Digital Economy and Society, to a group of wide-eyed finalists at the sixth European Ada Awards ceremony organised on 16 October 2019 in Brussels as part of European Code Week and the WomenInTech.Brussels Women Code Festival. The Ada Awards, founded in 2012 by Brussels-based Digital Leadership Institute, promote top girls and women in digital fields in Europe in an effort to increase their numbers, a long-term priority for Commissioner Gabriel that she will carry into her new mission as European Commissioner for Youth and Innovation.

Commissioner Gabriel officially opened this year’s celebration of the Ada Awards, affectionately named for Countess Ada Lovelace, the world’s first-ever computer programmer, with a message that technology is “a strategic tool for the empowerment of citizens—of women and of men—that we must continue to use to advance ourselves,” she said. The Commissioner counseled those present to spend less time on embellishments and to focus on taking action when a door is opened, saying she would both hold them to task and support them along the way. The Commissioner closed her message praising the hard work and talent demonstrated by the Ada Award finalists and winners, underscoring: “We are girls! We are women! We are strong!”

Following her remarks, Commissioner Gabriel and Ada Award partners from civil society and private sector recognised the 2019 European Ada Award-winners.

2019 European Digital Woman of the Year Award

The 2019 European Ada Award for Digital Woman of the Year was presented by Ms. Kelly Dorekens, CRM Director at Deloitte Belgium, who shared that “diversity in a group matters as much as ability and brainpower,” adding that Deloitte “actively encourages women to embrace science, technology, engineering and math through selected partnerships and events, like the Ada Awards.”

Ms. Dee Saigal, United Kingdom – 2019 European Digital Woman of the Year
Ms. Dee Saigal is Founder, CEO and Creative Director of Erase All Kittens, an adventure game designed to give girls the confidence to code, whilst teaching digital and 21st century skills. Dee’s goal is for EAK is to transform the way children perceive coding and engineering, and empower millions of girls worldwide with transferable, digital skills. Dee shared that her biggest challenge so far, aside from being a woman in tech, has been fundraising for research and development. Her message to other women and girls is to not think tech is for boys or that it is “geeky.” “There are so many amazing careers in tech that are both interesting and challenging,” says Saigal. Now that Erase All Kittens has 150,000 players, her next step is to raise investment in order to be able to build more educational and gamified version to launch globally. Her team is raising £500,000, and are already at twenty percent of that goal.

2019 European Digital Girl of the Year Award

“10 Years and Under” Category:
The 2019 European Ada Award for Digital Girl of the Year in the “10 Years and Under” category was presented by Ms. Afke Schaart, VP and Head of Europe, GSMA. Winner in this category was Tayra, from Bulgaria.

Tayra, from Bulgaria – 2019 European Digital Girl of the Year “10 Years and Under”
Tayra is ten years old and was born in Sofia. She loves coding, and most recently won a special prize at Softunjada Kids with her Scratch project “three bears fairytale,” using sign language for kids. Tayra says the projects she is most proud of are her webpage and her robots. In ten years, she hopes to be a programmer. Her message to other girls who are interested in tech is: “I believe that girls have a power, and the power of technology can change the world for the better, no matter who we are. It is never too late or too early to get involved in tech,” Tayra says.

“11-14 Years Old” Category:

The 2019 European Ada Award for Digital Girl of the Year in the “11-14 Years Old” category was presented by Ms. Christine Marlet, Board Member, Global Wo.Man Hub. Marlet expressed her awe of the candidates saying “the Ada Awards grant the participants the perfect opportunity to enhance their digital dreams. It encourages them to take risks along the way in order to achieve their digital goals because they believe that their objectives are attainable.” She added: “Belief in yourself stems from belief in your role models.” Winner in this category was Selin, from Turkey.

Selin, from Turkey – 2019 European Digital Girl of the Year “11-14 Years Old”
Selin is thirteen years old and loves building robots, coding, animals and travelling. She wants to study robotics and eventually build a humanoid. Selin shared that she was inspired to build her robot dog when her childhood dog passed away. She said “I knew that blind people especially have a strong connection with their dogs. I wanted to help them out, and felt like this was a great way of doing that.” She spends her free time on the weekends working on and improving her robotic guide dog. Looking forward, Selin says “I am currently developing the second version of my dog, and this one will be able to sit, lay down, bark, and it will even do ‘heart eyes’ towards my mom. Currently it’s only programmed to understand English, but I’m hoping for it to learn Chinese soon!”

“15-17 Years Old” Category:
The 2019 European Ada Award for Digital Girl of the Year in the “15-17 Years Old” category was presented by Ms. Viola Pinzi from European Schoolnet. There were two winner in this category: Anne, from Belgium, and Alai-Miranda, from Spain.

Anne, from Belgium – 2019 European Digital Girl of the Year “15-17 Years Old”
Anne is a fifteen-year-old girl who created Clinicoders, an initiative to bring technology and programming to children in hospitals. One of the goals of this project is to encourage children to create solutions for permanently disabled children. Anne said her next steps for Clinicoders are to bring it to a hospital in Antwerp, as it is only currently in Ghent, Belgium. “My dad wants to help bring it to other countries as well. So we’ll see where it goes,” she said. Over time, Clinicoders has developed from an application for children into something for adults too. “We shared this application called ‘Mindstorms’ to adult hospital animators, and it has been a real success.” In terms of her own future, Anne plans on studying law, but definitely wants to continue engaging hospital patients with Clinicoders.

Alai-Miranda from Spain – 2019 European Digital Girl of the Year “15-17 Years Old”
Alai-Miranda’s passion for STEM began when she was seven years old, and it has yet to fade. Most recently, she was invited to speak at the Amazon Web Services Summit in Madrid to discuss her experience as a girl in technology. Alai-Miranda shared about a new project she has begun to work on called “EsVuela.” A combination of the Spanish words “escuela” (school) and “volar” (to fly), the project will educate children on how to fly and program drones. As far as where Alai-Mirand sees herself in ten years, she says: “Hopefully I will have graduated from MIT and will be working in technology at a company, or maybe I will have even started my own company at that point. I hope to be either in the U.S., or maybe in Europe, maybe even still in Spain – somewhere!” As for her experience at the Ada Awards, she said that she feels “inspired to continue talking about and learning technology.”

 

“Gender-Equality and Europe: Fit for the Digital Era?” Panel

The 2019 European Ada Awards ceremony was preceded by a high-level panel on “Gender Equality and Europe: Fit for the Digital Era,” moderated by Cheryl Miller Van Dÿck, DLI Founding Director, and including panelists Miss Manon Van Hoorebeke, 2014-2015 Ada Award-winner for European Digital Girl of the Year, Mr. Christian Veske, Stakeholder Relations Coordinator at the European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE), Ms. Annick Breton Elias, Partner of Deloitte Luxembourg, and Ms. Afke Schaart, Vice President and Head of Europe at GSMA, a global trade association for the mobile industry.

Christian Veske kicked off the panel with a discussion of EIGE’s 2019 Gender Equality Index released this week, factors contributing to Europe’s score of 67 out of 100, and the increasing importance of promoting gender balance in digital fields. “Women won’t achieve equality until there is digital equality,” agreed Schaart from the GSMA. “Right now, women hold less than twenty percent of jobs in the tech industry, which is why GSMA expanded our Tech4Girls program this year.”

 

At sixteen, Manon Van Hoorebeke shared that winning the Digital Girl of the Year award at eleven years old has played a significant role in guiding her life choices since then, and that she is now studying Physics at university. Van Hoorebeke also admitted that a lack of confidence with technology is a barrier to getting more young women into the field, and even despite her accomplishments, that she sometimes faces self-doubt. Elias concurred that this pattern appears in professional contexts as well, which is why, she said, Deloitte works to identify high-potential women in digital fields and starts conversations with them on leadership. “Because it is often unlikely that women will initiate these discussions themselves,” she said.

 

Formal welcome for the 2019 European Ada Awards Ceremony was provided by Ms. Loubna Azhgoud, COO of Women in Business and WomenInTech.Brussels @1819 Hub, and by Ms. Audrey Scozzaro Ferrazzi, Senior European Policy Manager at Google. Azhgoud congratulated Ada Award finalists and highlighted the event in the context of the third-annual Women Code Festival organised by the Brussels Region, which succeeded this year in reaching 2300 participants, eighty percent female, to encourage them into digital fields. Scozzaro Ferrazzi also welcomed guests with a rousing speech expressing her awe and admiration for gathered laurates who, like her, are pursuing digital fields.

Following the ceremony, WomenInTech.Brussels provided a lovely reception for the finalists and winners of the 2019 European Ada Awards and all their friends, families and supporters.

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Congratulations to the 2019 European Ada Award winners, finalists and nominees for their amazing leadership in digital fields across Europe!

Thank you to our Ada Awards sponsors and supporters!

Photo credit: Digital Leadership Institute

You can find more pictures from the 2019 European Ada Awards ceremony here.

2019 European Ada Awards Finalists Announced

On behalf of the 2019 European Ada Awards jury and under the esteemed patronage of of Ms. Mariya Gabriel, European Commissioner for the Digital Economy and Society, the Digital Leadership Institute and its partners are thrilled to announce the finalists of the 2019 European Ada Awards !

2019 European Digital Woman of the Year™ Award Finalists:

Nadia Aimé (Belgium)

Once homeless and a school dropout herself, Nadia’s work focuses on improving the lives of vulnerable groups, through education and creating more interest and enthusiasm surrounding careers within entrepreneurship and the digital sector. Today, she is an avid technologist social/tech entrepreneur, educator, a single mom, and studying cyber-security who seeks to help people evolve in a fast-paced world of technology and business. Nadia’s passion for sharing knowledge and constant learner, most especially improving her tech skills which she hones, birthed She Leads Digital, which is a Brussels based tech organization, aims at providing programs and initiatives that foster enthusiasm and encourage women and youth to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering, and math fields.

Dee Saigal (United Kingdom)

Dee Saigal is the Founder, CEO & Creative Director of Erase All Kittens – an adventure game designed to give girls the confidence to code, whilst teaching digital and 21st Century skills. Like many women, Dee grew up believing that careers in technology were more for boys, which is why it took her years to follow her dream of getting into game design – and why she founded EAK. She and her team spent 12 months interviewing hundreds of students before designing their product, in order to create a coding tool that girls genuinely love. EAK has 150,000 players in over 100 countries, and 95% of girls want to learn more about coding after playing. Dee’s goal is for EAK to transform the way that children perceive coding and engineering, and to empower millions of girls worldwide with transferable, digital skills.

Eva Meyer de Stadelhofen (France)

Eva is the 21 year old founder of GirlCode, an international nonprofit who aims to reduce the gender gap in the STEM industry by offering free coding lessons to girls of age 7 to 17 in their schools. She also created a mentorship program through which GirlCode students can meet entrepreneurs, scientists, and all-around girl bosses in order to help them find their STEM superstar. GirlCode, which started as a small club, has rapidly grown these last two years into a worldwide “sisterhood of nerds”, with 304 clubs in 25 different countries and an estimated impact of 81’345 girls as of September 2019. Thanks to her work with her organisation, Eva has recently been chosen by Global Changemakers and the Thomas Reuters Foundation to attend their summits as one of the best entrepreneurs worldwide.

2019 European Digital Girl of the Year™ Award Finalists:

Tayra from Bulgaria (10 year old and under category)

Tayra is 10 years old and was born and lives in Sofia. Besides the gift of learning foreign languages (at the age of 8 she speaks some German, English, Chinese and Turkish), Tayra has another talent in the field of modern computer technologies. At the age of 8 Tayra participated in the  IT Znayko award contest and won a prize for an original idea and, as a member of the Coder Dojo club, won an award from the Bulgarian version of Coolest Projects Sofia 2017. The great victory comes in Dublin, Ireland, at the international competition Coolest Project 2017 involving more than 1,000 children from 17 countries. She won in the Scratch category at Coolest Projects 2017, when she is only 8 years old with her awesome project ABCD Code, which is a Scratch game developed to help children learn about healthy eating and the benefits of fruit and vegetables with the help of Makey Makey. The Healthy Eating project in English and Bulgarian version also became involved in the kindergarten process. She personally organizes and participates in workshops. At the age of 9, on 25.03.2018 she won a special prize from the Softuniada Kids (organized by Software University in Sofia, Bulgaria) with an amazing project (scratch project- “Three bears farytail”with the sign language videos for deaf kids).

Selin from Turkey (11-14 year old category)

Selin  is 13 years old and loves building robots and coding also loves animals and travelling. She started coding when she was 8 years old. Selin won first prize in the Hardware category at Coderdojo’s Coolest Projects International in 2018 with iC4U, her robot guide dog for the visually impaired. She was also a finalist in the Open Innovation category of the European Youth Awards 2018. In 2019 she received a 100% educational scholarship and attended a Robotic and Engineering summer camp held at Stanford University. She is presently working on the second version of her robot guide dog, the Raspberry Pi version and on a robot that aims to make life easier in schools and hospitals. She is hoping that her robot will help to make children’s stay in hospital a little easier if only to make them smile. She codes in Python language.    She is working on integrating image processing, voice control and artificial intelligence assisted dialogue capabilities in her robot project.  her aim is to study robotics at MIT or Stanford University and to build a humanoid. Selin speaks English, Turkish and French, she is also learning Python, C++ and Java. She facilitates workshops, mentors her peers and gives presentations at technology related events in order to inspire others especially girls.  She lives in Istanbul, Turkey with her mum, dad and dog Bailey.

Anne from Belgium (15-17 year old category)

Anne Maelbrancke, 15 years old, student at the Bernardustechnicum Oudenaarde, Belgium. Anne has been a member of Coderdojo Belgium since 2014. In 2015 she was confronted with a friend who had to stay at the hospital for quite a long time. She proposed to start an initiative called Clinicoders (facebook.com/clinicoders) to bring technology and programming to children in the hospital. Monthly, together with friend, she animates children patients with programming and robots.
Clinicoders also donates resources to hospitals to educate technology and programming in their schools. This year a “Clinimakers” initiative has been started to trigger children to build solutions for disabled children.

 

Alai from Spain (15-17 year old category)

Alai’s passion for STEM began when she was 7 years old. She has experience coding in multiple code languages, and has attended STEM workshops from textile technology to designing and 3D prototyping. In 2019, she was invited to speak at the Amazon Web Services Summit in Madrid to discuss her experience as a girl in technology. Additionally, this past May she was invited by Google to Women TechMakers Alicante to discuss her experience and future projects.

 

Congratulations to the 2019 Ada Awards finalists and all our nominees for their amazing leadership in digital fields in Europe!

Please join us at the Google Digital Atelier in Brussels on 16 October 2019 for the sixth edition of the European Ada Awards ceremony, where we will announce winners of the 2019 awards, with a special opening address by Commissioner Gabriel and a closing reception. This event is open to the public on a strictly first-come-first-served basis, with pre-registration required.

Top European Women in Tech Recognised

On 30 November 2017 at BeCentral in Brussels, the Digital Leadership Institute and its partners welcomed over two hundred key stakeholders and community members to celebrate the fifth edition of the European Ada Awards and to share the success stories of the 2017 Digital Brusselles project with support from the Digital Belgium Skills Fund. The Ada Awards are a long-standing pledge to the European Digital Skills and Jobs Coalition that recognise top European girls and women in tech and the organisations that support them.

Ms. Cheryl Miller, DLI Founder, opened the evening with a warm thank you to DLI supporters, followed by keynote presentations from Ms. Céline Vanderborght, Brussels Region Smart City Manager and Ms. Andrea Almeida Cordero, Member of Cabinet for Ms. Mariya Gabriel, European Commissioner for the Digital Single Market. Both speakers committed their support and that of their stakeholders to active engagement of girls and women for fulfilling the vision of an inclusive digital Europe. A subsequent tweet about the event by Commissioner Gabriel was very well received on Twitter.

Opening presentations were succeeded by graduation of over sixty participants from the 2017 Digital Muse After School program with Ms. Valentina Cala DLI Digital Creative Manager, and from the first-ever cohort of the CYPRO “First Steps” program with Ms. Mai Ensmann, DLI CYPRO Coordinator.

Ms. Katja Legisa, Digital Brusselles Director, then recognised 200-plus participants of the 2017 “Female Digital Starters” training program, followed by an inQube / Digital Brusselles project pitching session hosted by Ms. Lama Jaghjougha, a recent Syrian refugee to Belgium and founder of Move Women Refugees Forward. Initiatives presented included those launched in the context of inQube Move It Forward events over the past two years, including:

  • Brussely – a platform by/for/about Brussels Generation Y-ers, presented by Ms. Safia Bihmehdn
  • MESS – a gamified concert-going platform for Brussels citizens, presented by Ms. Alexandra Pykacz & Ms. Edith Euan
  • MIA – a virtual innovation space for Brussels citizens, presented by Ms. Muna Ibrahim
  • African Gist – an African tech internship program, presented by Ms. Cynthia Mukendy
  • Tabadoul – a professional mentorship program for women refugees led by ENoWM and DAW, presented by Ms. Sinem Yilmaz

A particularly moving moment of the evening came about when, as part of her pitch for the Brussely platform, Ms. Safia Bihmehdn read a poem she composed about her participation in the Move It Forward for Women in Media event, which as the poem describes, inspired her toward a whole new direction in digital entrepreneurship and in celebrating the youth and diversity of Brussels.

The final highlight of the evening was the 2017-18 European Ada Awards, launched with inspiring keynote presentations by Ms. Dinah Barret, Senior Solutions Architect for EMEA at Amazon Web Services, and Ms. Gabriela M. Juric, 2016 European Digital Girl of the Year, and co-hosted by Ms. Miller and Ms. Loredana Bucseneanu, DLI Strategy Officer.

2017-18 European Ada Award trophies were presented by Ms. Simone Hume of Amazon Web Services in the following categories and announced by noted Ada Award partner representatives:
1. Ms. Pascale Van Damme, Vice President and General Manager at Dell EMC Commercial Belux, is 2017 European Digital Woman of the Year, as announced by Ms. Austeja Trikunaite, Secretary General of CEPIS.

2. 2017 European Digital Girl of the Year honours were awarded in the following age categories:

15-17 Year Old Category, as announced by Ms. Kiki Walravens, GSMA:
Maeve Galvin (Ireland)

11-14 Year Old Category, as announced by Mr. Laurent Roux, Impact Officer at European Institute of Technology:

  • Aoibheann Mangan (Ireland)
  • Charlotte Johnson (United Kingdom)

10 Years and Under Category, as announced by Ms. Tomislava Recheva of European Schoolnet:

  • Helena Staple (United Kingdom)
  • Zara Ilyas (Ireland)
  • Ruby Scott Kenny (Ireland)

3. Teen-Turn of Ireland is 2017-18 European Digital Impact Organisation of the Year Award, as announced by Ms. Michela Palladino, Director of European Policy at Developers Alliance.

The 2017-18 European Ada Awards and Digital Brusselles celebration concluded with a reception catered by From Syria With Love, an organisation led by recent Syrian women refugees to Belgium that Digital Brusselles is honoured to support.

The Digital Leadership Institute and Digital Brusselles would like to thank the speakers, judges, partners and sponsors of the 2017 European Ada Awards and Digital Brusselles celebration, including the Digital Belgium Skills Fund, Amazon Web Services, European Institute of Technology, CEPIS, European Schoolnet, Edosoft, GSMA, Developers Alliance and BeCentral.

Congratulations to all the girls and women recognised by this year’s Ada Awards and Digital Brusselles celebration. We are looking forward to welcoming even more of you again next year!