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They are heavily outnumbered, but they are here: women in deep tech. InspiringFifty Deep Tech Benelux+ Edition is a global initiative to shine the spotlight on women working in technology. Today, 50 winners were announced. “These women are rock stars. They are all working on big challenges facing the world,” says Cheryl Boyd, marketing manager of sponsor partner HighTechXL.

Nearly 100 women in the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany and Great Britain were nominated, from which the jury ultimately chose 50 women. These women work on the most advanced hardware and software technologies, also called deep tech. Boyd explains, “Each of them has had a major impact on a wide range of industries, such as healthcare and telecommunications. I was speechless when I saw the list of nominees. These women are truly inspirational.”

Sponsor partners HighTechXL and Fe+male Tech Heroes, based at High Tech Campus Eindhoven, Netherlands, jointly compiled the list of nominees. A jury consisting of judges working at major tech companies, including ASML and Philips, selected the final winners. An award ceremony was originally planned for December 2021, but due to the current corona measures in the Netherlands, the event has been postponed. Organizers will schedule a new date in spring 2022.

InspiringFifty DeepTech winners

Janssen vaccine developer

One of the winners is Hanneke Schuitemaker. Hanneke has been working on vaccine development for Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) for the past 10 years. In her role at Janssen, she has overseen the development of a universal flu vaccine and vaccines against Ebola, HIV, RSV, Zika virus and now SARS-CoV2. “She is one of the most notable winners. Even if only she were on the list, I would find it inspiring.” So in this top 50 there are not only highly educated women, but in addition real entrepreneurs.” A large number of winners work at multinational technology companies, including ASML, Signify and Philips.

Read also: Promoting diversity in start-ups has a significant impact

‘Look, here they are’

Be inspired. That, according to Boyd, is the ultimate goal of bringing out the top 50. “Women in deep tech are clearly underrepresented. We want to change that. With this list, we’re sending the message: look, here they are. Get inspired by them and get in touch with them. The more people hear about these women, the more normal it becomes for women to work in tech.”

Moving away from traditional roles

Most of all, then, we need to let go of old-fashioned role divisions, Boyd believes. “We’re dealing with over a hundred years of ‘mental conditioning.’ But we live in the 21st century and we can let go of those traditional roles. Slowly, you’re seeing more and more of a shift in that, and that’s positive. Nobody disputes the fact that having a diverse and inclusive team is beneficial for organizations.”

An example for younger generations

The top 50 serves not only as an inspiration for employers but especially for the younger generations. “We need to show little girls what is possible. Is your daughter good at math? Then encourage her to use her talent. This list of women also shows them: it may not be easy, but if you have a passion for something, then a lot is possible. These women are an example of that.”