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How does one event keep a sold-out crowd of 300 women and their male allies engaged for a half-day conference?

Variety, great speakers and interactive workshops.

“From FemTech Lows … to Glows” was multiple events in one, with three keynotes, six career workshops, a Tech Safari with Tech Talks and demos at five innovation hubs around High Tech Campus Eindhoven, ending with networking, snacks and drinks in the perfect setting – a giant summer tent on the edge of the Campus lake.

The events were varied, but the theme running through the conference was encouraging the courageous … “We’re here for you. I believe in you.”

The keynotes


Cara Antoine, Executive Vice President and Chief Technology, Innovation & Portfolio Office at Capgemini. "Be the First."

For “Be the First,” Antoine used her personal narratives and historic examples of pioneering women who were first in tech, including Katherine Johnson, a mathematician whose calculations were critical to NASA.

Antoine stressed finding our “advocates” – not just “allies” – because they go beyond supporting us, opening new doors, inviting others to the table and promoting us when we aren’t in the room.

As part of her early career at Royal Dutch Shell, she created protective clothing that actually fit women, “made by women for women. When the clothes fit, they belonged.” She stressed finding a solution for what you are facing that no one else is solving. In this way, we can “be the first.”

“Be the change to get the future you want,” Antoine concluded. “I believe in you.”

Christine Brown

Christine Brown, Senior Director, Development & Engineering at Eindhoven-based semiconductor tool company ASML. “Untitled Stories”

Brown, honored as Female Tech Hero of 2023, used anecdotes from her own life that helped her through her journey from her family of 10 children in the Philippines to senior manager at ASML, Europe’s most valuable tech company.

Her big break was getting accepted into the elite Philippines Science High School, where she found her love of science. Without the security of her family at Mount Holyoke in the U.S., Christine was able to reframe because no one judged her by her family. “I suddenly had no standard of measure. So, in college, I could define myself.” Brown’s two younger sisters saw her journey as a route to success and also attended American women’s schools. “I blazed a trail. I made it possible for my sisters to discover themselves in a new country.”

Three lessons from Christine

Lesson 1: Reframe toward possibilities

Her advice: don’t be defined by someone else’s standard of measure. “Define for yourself who you really want to be.” And don’t forget: “It is a privilege to be a woman.”

Lesson No. 2: Lead from any chair, even without the title

When she came to work at ASML 10 years ago, “In a meeting I was told I was weak. I was really jarred by that feedback.”

People will forget what you did or said but never forget how you made them feel. So, Christine became more constructive about how she gives feedback. She suggests treating feedback with “kind curiosity,” processing it and deciding what you want to take away from it.

Lesson No. 3: Be authentically you

Joyce dreamer

Joyce de Ruiter, author and speaker. “Leading in Change”

Joyce de Ruiter began by stunning the audience into silence with a stark choice: go deaf, or go blind? Then De Ruiter revealed she’s never had the luxury of choosing.

At 16, she learned she had Usher Syndrome, a rare genetic and progressive condition that ultimately will render her completely deaf and blind. The doctor who diagnosed her, “told me, ‘You will be of no use to society.’ But what is value? What makes you valuable?”

Each of us has to decide that.

For 24 years, de Ruiter has lived with the knowledge that her world will become entirely dark and silent around age 40 … which is now.

“What attitude do you take when you’re facing change?” she asked. “We all have to be flexible … and agile.” But in those 24 years, she’s decided “I am not the changes in my life. I am not the disease. I am Joyce,” a wife, mother and dreamer.

“I’m cramming a whole life into half of it so of course I am in a hurry.” She told the doctor who predicted that she’d be useless she wanted to work in visual marketing. And she did. She wanted to run a nighttime marathon, her metaphor for life. And she did.

“When you ask for a little help, you can do so much more.”

Career workshops

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Nice girls just don’t get it: a workshop about negotiation
Ilse de Graaf (and team) SMART Photonics

Perhaps because of the title, this one was the first workshop to fill up.

As soon as you apply, the negotiation starts, de Graaf said. Women tend to compromise more. They shouldn’t.

Her advice:

  • Avoid making concessions up front.
  • Avoid taking negative emotions into negotiations.
  • Avoid oversharing and don’t talk too much. Use a limited number of talking points and stick to them.
  • Never ever show up with your pay slip.
  • Ask for the highest defendable salary but have the research to support it

“Hiring executives will use your weakest argument against you,” de Graaf said.


Career Compass: Navigating highs and lows in your tech journey
Mayke Smits & team, Program Marketing at Dassault Systèmes

The workshop provided a lens through which to explore our career journeys to date, reflecting on what specifically has contributed to our highs and lows throughout our journeys. Attendees partnered up to share reflections and helped identify themes and provide an outside perspective. They agreed women often see themselves through a more critical lens than others do.

Gen Z

Help! Gen Z in the workplace – leading Gen Z
Ingrid van Tienen, expert in talent, leadership and organizational development, Ormit Talent

How do you work with Gen Z employees? It’s a matter of perspective. The group was divided into managers and employees who paired up to brainstorm advice for leading Gen Z in the workplace.

From Lale Boyd, Gen Z attendee: “The manager I was paired with was very open-minded and had a lot of experience with Gen Z’ers like me, both at home and in the workplace. We agreed that biases can go both ways, simply because we’ve been raised in drastically different societies.”

“My key takeaway and suggestion are for Gen Z’ers to drop their own biases, which they often carry about those outside their generation,” Lale said. “Communicate clearly but leave the biases at the door.”


Walk the Catwalk and empower yourself
Annelies Hoek, Catwalk Experience

Annelies Hoek, an international, high fashion model for more than 30 years, knows a thing or two about walking the catwalk. She has parlayed that experience into her own business, the Catwalk Experience, and shared with the group of 20 how to walk with confidence in everyday situations.

Her advice:

  • When entering a room, stop, take up space, take time and with shoulders back and chin up, walk with confidence into meetings.
  • Your exit is also important! Shake hands, say goodbye but look at the person for a beat longer before turning away.
  • Invoke the power pose! Stand with legs apart and arms straight out at each side. Hold the pose for two minutes and you’ll see your testosterone levels go up by 20% and cortisol (the stress hormone) go down by 50%.
  • Always walk the catwalk to “Stayin’ Alive” by the Bee Gees.


Telling Better Stories
Lisa op 't Hof, Managing Director, Demcon

Lisa op ‘t Hof stood in front of the room and weaved stories and fairytales into her talk as a way of showing us that we need to change the narrative about women. By flipping the script and not staying silent, we can tell our stories to inspire other women and young girls.

We teach girls to be perfect, not brave, but we need to change this. We need to be comfortable with imperfection, because when we preach perfection, women tend to gravitate towards careers they know they will be good at.


Be Your Own Career Hero
Margot Nijkamp, ESTI

Attendees learned how to “coach” themselves throughout their STEM careers and the many opportunities available to them. They learned which questions to ask, which signals to process and how to make decisions. Her advice? Challenge yourself on the uncertainties you experience. How threatening are they really?

Tech Safari highlights: Tech Talks and demos at HTC innovation hubs

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Holst Centre

Holst Centre Entrepreneur in Residence Denny Mathew talked about her career in tech that includes 16 years with Philips and her current startup, AIKON Health. She led the group on a tour of the Holst Centre Experience Center, with displays of tech breakthroughs in LiDAR, medical monitoring, thin-film sensors, wearables and photonics.

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AI Innovation Center

It was a full house at the AI Innovation Center, where Ymke de Jong gave a fascinating Tech Talk about all things AI. De Jong asserted that AI is there with or without us and we need to think how we can use it as a societal tool. Will it replace jobs or can we reframe our thoughts and think about what tasks it can replace instead?

SAP executives Marleen Verhaag and Martine Fase gave a tech demo about the application of AI in a business environment and how AI can enhance and streamline the experience.

Alex Tavassoli, CEO of Enliven, demonstrated how his company’s technology is helping make a more empathetic world using virtual reality. Women lined up to demo Enliven’s VR software than allowed them to experience unfair workplace events through the eyes of a woman just returning from maternity leave.

Hightechxl collage


Cristiana Virone, Chief Research Officer for Carbyon, led the Tech Talk. As Carbyon scales, its Direct Air Capture technology is important in capturing, reusing or storing carbon to restore the balance in our atmosphere. Ambitious? Yes, but attendees left believing if anyone can do it, Carbyon can.

Two tech demos followed the Tech Talk. Efrat Steinberg from Inner showed us components of electric vehicle battery packs and cells and how Inner’s technology can quickly and effectively diagnose problems in a car’s electric battery. Miriam Van Der Meer of Senergetics talked about its integrated photonics sensors that monitor corrosion under industrial pipe insulation and the huge market opportunity in industrial asset management.

WVH and 5G

Other Tech Safaris: Workplace Vitality Hub and 5G Hub

Other Tech Safaris included the Workplace Vitality Hub, which explores technology and innovation to improve our work environments and office spaces. The Fe+male Tech Heroes attendees also visited the 5G Hub, where they experienced a world of limitless possibilities made possible by new advances in telecommunications.

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Networking under the Summer Tent

As usual, the closing network event was packed with attendees discussing the highlights of the day, reconnecting with old friends and meeting news ones. And there were door prizes, a fun surprise. It was a, well, glowing event.

A quick survey of attendees at the Summer Tend found a high degree of satisfaction with the day. “The conference speakers and breakouts were inspiring and thought-provoking — I walked away with a lot of homework,” said Amy Klinger, a first-time visitor from the tech center of Seattle. ”It was also a great event to meet other women and learn about the diverse experiences and opportunities for women in tech in The Netherlands.”

Watch the plenary program with three keynotes.

See the photos.

Check out Joyce de Ruiter's website.