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On 16 May, the world came to High Tech Campus Eindhoven to celebrate women in tech, their male allies and to get a preview of what the future holds. 

They were not disappointed.

The theme of the fourth annual Fe+male Tech conference was “Dare to Grow,” and that was the consistent message from speakers: be bold, embrace risk and find your career path in a tech world where women in leadership roles are still a rarity. Or, as ASML’s Wendy Gehoel van Ansem put it, an event meant to send you away “confident so that you kick ass.”

If you think women don’t belong in tech and STEM jobs, we know 300 women who’d passionately disagree. More than 300 women, as well as male allies, came from the Netherlands, other countries in Europe and the United States for the sellout event.

Watch the recording of the plenary program here:

They came to hear 30 speakers and panel members, including Lori Glover from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Computer Science Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, Kimberly Fuqua from Microsoft Netherlands, workshops, panels and off-the-charts networking. Also participating were executives from Eindhoven’s signature tech corporations, including Moyra McManus and Marco Pieters from ASML, the Eindhoven-based semiconductor giant.

Trailblazing Women Throughout History
With her keynote "She Who Dares, Wins: Women Leading Fearlessly in Tech,” Glover set the tone early, revealing some of the unsung female tech heroes whose trailblazing achievements never got the recognition they should have. They included Hedy Lamarr, the 1930s movie star who invented the frequency-hopping signal that makes wi-fi, Bluetooth and GPS possible, and the women at the Jet Propulsion Lab who did the high-level mathematics and trajectory calculations that made space exploration possible. These are the women who were actually referred to as “computers.”

iKYpIQDALori Glover of MIT 

Glover advised the current generation of women in tech to take full advantage of new opportunities opening up at tech companies: “When you go to meetings, take a seat at the table, not along the wall.”

Then, Glover opened a new chapter in Eindhoven’s history by inviting attendees to connect directly with her and her CSAIL program at MIT, the legendary engineering school that’s home to dozens of world-class scientists and Nobel Prize laureates, including Sir Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the Internet. Glover also gave a detailed presentation about MIT and CSAIL at the AI Innovation Center as part of the conference.

THAT was just the beginning of the day.

In 1988, 35 years ago, women earned 33 percent of computer science degrees, but that fell to less than 20 percent by 2016. Women have only about 30 percent of top jobs in tech. More women are going into tech, but half drop out by age 35. Why are women dropping out? Glover asked. “Why aren’t women moving up?”

Tech to Career: Exploring Breakout Sessions
Conference attendees chose to attend one of six tech and seven career breakout sessions led by inspiring women in their fields and included topics such as data science, personalized medicine, wearable devices and cancer research. A panel of deep-tech female founders talked about the challenges and rewards of their venture journeys. As usual, attendees found it hard to choose only one breakout session!

Career breakout topics included imposter syndrome, exhaustion, personal presence, equality for bi-cultural women, confidence boosting and how to be an effective role model. Several presentations and workshops addressed the unique career challenges women in tech face, including the career penalty for taking time out of the workforce. Glover cited statistics and trends indicating so much more has to be done.

1G8A7919 Diana Mäkel  (Thermo Fisher) during her Tech Breakout about data science

Fix the system, not the girls
Sahar Yadegari and Rian de Heur from VHTO led a workshop on how we can “Fix the system, not the girls” so more females can be inspired by science and technology from an early age. With women only making up 16 percent of the Dutch STEM workforce and the Netherlands ranking No. 1 in strongest gender stereotypes, their talk was hard-hitting and eye-opening.

Many audience members shared deeply personal stories about their experiences fighting gender bias with their children. With advice ranging from women in tech being more visible to encouraging a growth mindset in children, every attendee walked away with valuable insights and actionable tasks.

The day was not just about corporates, even though Eindhoven is home to multiple dominant semiconductor companies such as ASML and NXP. It was also about a new generation of female entrepreneurs at startups and scale-ups.

Kaylee Hakkel, COO of MantiSpectra, said her company is taking the functionality of a spectrometer and shrinking it down to the size of a chip. When trained with AI and a robust database, this deep-tech solution uses light to detect various types of materials, and it will be used to solve societal challenges, problems from detecting what type of plastic is pulled from the ocean to quality control in food and beverage to sampling illegal drugs.

1G8A7934Kaylee Hakkel (MantiSpectra) 

At only 28 years old, Kaylee already has a wealth of experience from being a startup co-founder. Her talk drew an audience of women that filled the room and who asked probing questions about the science and applicability of MantiSpectra’s solution.


Here are some highlights from the day, curated by conference attendees:

  • Lori Glover noted that leaders aren’t necessarily bosses. Leaders are people with intelligent, curious minds and the vision to see what’s possible. They have exceptional communication skills and the ability to inspire. They show responsibility and share credit with others.

  • In her keynote, Microsoft’s Kimberly Fuqua told attendees that women in tech shouldn’t underestimate the human touch. “Don’t call them soft skills anymore. Call them superpower skills,” she said.

  • Fuqua advised continually reevaluating your relationships. “Take note of the energy of the relationship. You are responsible for the energy you bring to the relationship and the energy you take away from it."

1G8A8225Kimberly Fuqua (Microsoft) 

  • ASML executives and others noted that while men tend not to take “no” for an answer, reapplying over and over for jobs they were rejected for until they get it, women typically only apply once or twice.

  • The male allies panel featured Marco Pieters, ASML; Andy Lürling, LUMO Labs; Johan Feenstra, SMART Photonics and Ed Heerschap, City of Eindhoven. Eindhoven-based serial entrepreneur Johan Feenstra told the audience during the panel discussion, “We need to pay the role and not the person.” Feenstra said women and highly skilled internationals often don’t negotiate and fall behind when it comes to salary.

  • Ed Heerschap, Living In Program Coordinator for the city of Eindhoven, noted that families are crucial to Eindhoven’s tech talent shortage because many highly skilled internationals won’t come unless they can bring spouses and families.

Conference Donates to Gender Diversity Cause

The fourth edition of the Fe+male Tech Heroes conference marked the first time organizers charged for the conference. Attendees paid €30 for a day full of amazing speakers, meaningful content, great food and networking while also contributing to a worthy cause. More than 80 percent of ticket sales went to VHTO, a Dutch foundation and Expertise Center that actively champions and empowers Gender Diversity in STEM, Engineering, and IT.

And it wasn’t just the attendees with key takeaways. Keynote speakers and breakout session speakers also saw great value in the conference. “The best word I can use to describe about how I felt about the conference is GRATEFUL!! The atmosphere was so electric, the people and other presenters were so encouraging with a learning and curious mindset. I will make this event one of my annual 'not to miss' going forward,” said Kimberly Fuqua.

Keynote speaker Dan Jing Wu, CEO and Co-Founder VivArt-X and co-founder of fashion company NOYA NOIR, said "I'm so impressed with the organization and the audience was so kind and responsive. It gave me so much energy!”

And that’s a wrap! Watch this space and mark your calendars for other Fe+male Tech Heroes events. If you’re not already a member, join the Fe+male Tech Heroes community and stay updated about news and events!

1G8A8368-2Hilde de Vocht (Fe+male Tech Heroes), Rian van Heur (VHTO), Sahar Yadegari (VHTO), Ingelou Stol (Fe+male Tech Heroes)