(Editor’s note: The Fe+male Tech Hero awards shone the spotlight on Eindhoven’s large and growing number of highly skilled expats, with winners, nominees and organizers representing a number of countries including India and Iran. This post is part of our Tech Tuesdays series.)
For a first-time event, The Fe+male Tech Hero of the Year awards set a new standard for glitz and glamour in a tech ecosystem that can be rather sedate. It also had full participation from foundational partners with representatives from the largest companies including ASML as well as from major economic-development agencies such as BOM.
More than anything, the Tech Hero of the Year had authentic emotion, with the raucous audience of 300-plus momentarily hushed by the winners’ candid retellings of their journeys, then breaking into prolonged standing ovations.
Bolstering the sell-out crowd were the fan clubs from startups and companies who’d come to support nominated colleagues. At one point, nominee Alex Tavasoli’s supporters chanted, “He gets it! He gets it!”
Five years lead to one big night
The event was the culmination of five years of building FTHs, the High Tech Camps Eindhoven-supported organization dedicated to recognizing and encouraging women in tech and the men who support them. The High Tech Campus Conference Center was transformed from a corporate meeting space to “gala night,” with videos, a walk of fame with stars for each of the Fe+male Tech Heroes nominees, balloons, champagne and, of course, a red carpet.
The evening’s emcee, comedian Katie Nixon from Boom Chicago in Amsterdam, got the crowd signing to Shania Twain’s slightly reworked hit “Man! I Feel Like a Woman in Tech!”
Then, the two founders of Fe+male Tech Heroes took the stage to recognize four tech heroes, to celebrate a movement that’s grown rapidly and to talk about the future.
Hilde de Vocht, marketing and communications manager for HTCE, said Thursday night’s event was to celebrate a community that’s grown to a community of 4,000 members. We’ve existed five years and … we’ve grown tremendously. We need to take the next step.” That includes events that highlight role models within companies. So Fe+male Tech Heroes “is looking for a big group of partners that support our goals – and effort that just started a few months ago.”
As of November, there are 13 Fe+male Tech corporate partners: High Tech Campus Eindhoven, ASML, TNO, TU Eindhoven, PSV, SMART Photonics, Axelera AI, Conference Center High Tech Campus, Eurest, Nearfield Instruments, Expat Spouses Initiative, Fontys, DeepTechXL and HighTechXL.
And the winner is ….
But the night belonged to the people who’ve changed the world.
Fe+male Tech Heroes was about recognizing “a woman who would never nominate herself, the guy who really gets it, the corporate that doesn’t just talk the talk, but walks the walk,” said Ingelou Stol, Director, Marketing Communications for Salvia BioElectronics.
Judges had their work cut out for them, scoring 10 finalists from more than 230 nominations. The 10 finalists represented Eindhoven’s signature institutions, including ASML, TU Eindhoven and Philips. The jury included Maarten Steinbuch (TU/e), Moyra McManus (ASML), Clara Otero Perez (NXP), Brigit van Dijk (BOM), Judith Heikoop (Entrepreneur), Monika Hoekstra (NXTGEN HIGHTECH) and John Bell (HighTechXL).
The first of the four was the Hidden Gem Award, with Brigit van Dijk from BOM presenting.
The winner was Amrita Singh, Cluster Lead/ R&D Process and Integration Team at Smart Photonics.
From her nomination:
“Amrita was born in a poor village in India where girls were not allowed to go to school. Being the rebel she was, she gave her parents such a hard time they allowed her to go to school. Today she still visits her home village to inspire girls, telling them they can become tech heroes one day, too.”
“This is for all the fathers who believed in their daughters,” Amrita said.
She described her village as a place where “our destiny was fixed.” Her mother married at 9, her sister 16. “One person who believed in me … my father. I had to escape that destiny that was already decided.”
The Male Ally award for “guys who get it, with Monika Hoekstra from NXTGEN HighTech presenting.
From the nomination:
From the jury report: “Alex Tavassoli, an Iranian refugee, arrived in the Netherlands when he was 8 years old. He experienced domestic violence as a child. He used his experience in game development to develop Don’t Forget Me, a virtual reality empathy training program. Using VR, the program puts users in the shoes of the victim and increases awareness of the emotional and mental impact of destructive behavior. Since Enliven’s launch, Alex and his team have developed other VR-enhanced Diversity, Equity and Inclusion empathy training programs, including Gender Bias. The programs allow users to experience and feel workplace inequality through the eyes of a woman.”
“I really didn’t expect this,” Tavassoli said, thanking his wife for “the person I’ve become.”
Tavassoli said he found his ambition in preventing children “from what I went through. I want to be a voice for empathy … to make sure everyone is heard, make sure everyone is equal in the workplace and the classroom. To be treated like humans. To make sure at every step to put ourselves in the shoes of others. To treat everyone as we want to be treated.
“I guess we have a lot of work to do there.”
The third award, Corporate Inclusion, was presented by HighTechXL CEO John Bell
And the winner was … LUMO Labs, a venture builder/venture capital firm based at High Tech Campus.
From the nomination form:
“LUMO Labs is an investment fund and venture builder that believes in diversity, equity and inclusion in their own team as well as their portfolio companies. Seven of the 15 portfolio companies include female founders. They fully understand the highest performing teams are diverse teams. At LUMO Labs, females make up 1/3 of the LUMO Labs team, and there are two women on their Scientific and Industry Advisory Board. “
Co-founders Andy Lürling and Sven Bakkes used the moment to announce a new investment fund, where the leadership team will consist of three females and three males. And they invited Alex Tavassoli, whose Enliven is a LUMO Labs startup, on stage.
Fe+male Tech Hero Award
The climax of the evening was the Fe+male Tech Hero Award, with Ingelou and Hilde making the presentation.
The winner was Christine Brown, Sr Director, Development & Engineering Performance & Integration at ASML.
From her nomination:
“Christine is a die-hard techy woman by nature, very knowledgeable on loads of technical topics and an engineer by heart. At the same time, she has the most beautiful softer side and is a true wizard with her soft skills. She is not afraid to speak her mind, both on technical topics and/or on non-technical topics. She is a frontrunner in design and integration at ASML and a source of inspiration for many of us at ASML. She is not the type to step into the limelight but she does deserve it. She knows her tech-stuff and she cares for you, a true role model and hero.”
Christine, a native of the Philippines, said she didn’t think she was going to win, but her husband James, who she called her “chief encouragement officer,” told her she better write a speech just in case.
“My first reaction was, ‘Do I deserve this?’ I’m deeply honored and grateful for people who recognized me and me.
She recognized her ASML and her late father, “my role model for leadership from when I was a child.”
Christine cited author Bréne Brown as another influence for a woman navigating the world of tech, quoting Brown’s advice to “stop looking for confirmation you don’t belong. You’ll always find it.”
The truth about who we are lives in our hearts, Christine said. “No one belongs here more than you.”
The Fe+male Tech Heroes evening concluded with representatives of all 14 organizations on stage, followed by a serious party – food, drinks and dancing – that closed down the campus. The final consensus was, the attendees had been part of a women-in-tech movement that is about to get much bigger.
Or as Alex Tavassoli noted, “Who wouldn’t want to be part of this great organization?”