Celebrating and recognizing women who have disrupted or are transforming businesses, industries, and communities through the use of technology.
This years awards were opened to an Worldwide audience after the success of last years inaugural event. Although Storm Gareth was still raging for some on their arrival, it wasn’t strong enough to hold back these finalists. Attendees and sponsors traveled from all over the globe to see the women who have been making giant leaps in their fields over the last year.
To find out more about this years winners, read our article Visionary Women in Technology across the Globe recoginised by Booking.com at 2019 Technology Playmaker Awards.
The Gala Dinner was held at The Brewery, Shoreditch, London and organised with the help of Ketchum PR. The awards were announced during the course of the evening with some excellent speakers like Eileen Burbidge. The event was opened and closed by Gillian Tans the CEO of Booking.com.
“We are a motivated team with expertise in Design, Programming and Technology who dedicated years of research to develop multiple wearable technology solutions for the sole purpose of liberating millions of signers from the accompanying interpreter, enabling them to have two-way conversations and interact directly with the public.”
As I was reporting from the event I was given the opportunity to speak to last years winner Hadeel Ayoub, CTO of BrightSign. Hadeel is a trailblazer who will be bringing the first wearable technology for sign language that can verbalise. Ed Hill also works as CEO with her and works on the management and software side of things.
As last years first and overall winner they gained a huge boost in promotion and were delighted with the exposure that they garnered from it. They attracted a great deal of sponsorship enquiries and even more from people who would like to use the product. When asking how much further they were in bringing their product to market; Hadeel confirmed they are currently in prototype phase and conducting usability studies in schools. It is currently being used in Primary school classes with the children and the feedback they have received has been really encouraging and good so far.
They are also sourcing national and international manufacturers of their glove at this time as well.
I asked how the glove worked and Hadeel said that unlike any other smart glove attempted before it doesn’t come with a predefined library of sign language. It allows every user to train it to their personal level of ability and language. For instance, in their current usability studies they found that in the 6 schools they are trialling their glove there was 3 different sign languages being used like British Sign Language, Macaton and one I didn’t catch. It made more sense for the glove to learn the language from the user in order to make the product a more global success.
Ed went on to say “In terms of how long it takes to train the glove the “library” of words they would use, if you look at the number of words we use on a daily basis the vast majority of communication between people only really happens with a few words. The vast majority of communication is usually within 80-100 signs, in your day to day conversation…..What we have noticed when trialling this glove is that people feel so excited even just programming the first 5 words into it, it just makes such a huge difference to the user.”
This glove isn’t just for people born deaf either. It can be easily used by people who have lost the ability later in life for example, stroke patients. It allows people who can’t communicate to speak again. The varied function of the glove means you don’t need to be exactly the right kind of less abled or fit a constrained box like others have needed you to be in the past. It’s also an excellent rehabilitation tool.
Hadeel is still looking for the right sponsor. Her vision to bring her product to market is to make it as affordable as possible to meet the audience requirements far quicker. This product will easily have a global, transformative acceptance, so once the right funding is found it will become quite evident very quickly how this “universal translator” (my words) will be incorporated to everyday life for people who need them.
Girls in Tech
“Girls in Tech (GIT) is a global non-profit that works to put an end to gender inequality in high-tech industries and startups. We do that by educating and empowering women who are passionate about technology. As a result, we offer everything from coding courses to bootcamps to hackathons and startup competitions no matter age or profession. It is Girls in Tech’s mission to support women with the access and community they need to succeed in tech.”
Before the evening began I sat down with the Irish finalist Coral Movasseli of Girls in Tech Dublin. This lady is all business and oozes credibility and a strong work ethic. She was thrilled to be a finalist for this prestigious award.
The past few years has seen Girls in Tech grow. They have been approached by both small and large tech focused businesses who want to improve their inclusivity and improve the diversity of their workforce overall. GIT have seen that people want to meet the expectation of the Googles and Facebooks out there and to do that they need to remain progressive.
I asked if only targeting adults is the only correct approach to meet these expectations and Coral felt that there should be a two-pronged approach. “I think there is two branches to that. From a societal perspective there are these norms that are enshrined in our society that we can’t quickly pivot from. By that I mean they go back thousands of years. It’s going to take time for people to shift their mindsets and what is encouraging is the next generation. They are way more vocal! You see them protesting and creating movements….”
She then went on; “The other layer is the more structural layer and I think that’s where we see policies being conducted from a non-government and governmental perspective. That’s where we are targeting schools and how to get more females interested in technology? They both need to go hand in hand. If we look at the scientific data and research we can see that in the Western countries there are now fewer women even after everything we have been doing to promote it. That’s because its still a very nuanced and complex issue.
We briefly touched on the first in Ireland Technological University Dublin – which is modelled on similar institutions in the UK. This brand new University opened up at the beginning of 2019, so little is known at this time about how successful this will be to make the shift in our next generations skills and mindsets when it comes to women in tech.
Coral agreed it will probably change the paradigm in education. The current route is doing a Masters and a PhD. Now maybe it will make it more practical to go through this route. She gave the example of training to become a Coder or a great Data Scientist you don’t need to go to University. You can learn how to do that from the age of 10 and be really good at it by the age of 14.
She herself pursued a long educational trajectory by living and studying in London for 4 years doing her undergraduate degree at the London School of Economics, she was a Hansard scholar, she worked in the Parliament. She then later did her Masters in London as well. None of this is necessary to be a good Coder.
What I did learn from her was about these bootcamps – initially borne out of San Francisco where you stay intensively and become qualified within 3 to 6 months as an Engineer. These courses are ideal for career changers or returners to work. So there is various routes to get the career your looking for.
This year Girls in Tech are running their very first Hackathon for Humanity in Ireland after running it for over 175,000 times around the world. It will also be first Women in Tech Hackathon event ever held in Ireland as well, so definitely trailblazing for women. This event will be at the Digital Hub on the 24th to the 26th May, please see the details in the link above/
Inspiration in the Room
After some networking in the room and as people gathered for the evening, I was sat down on a predetermined table with an array of guests and finalists. I was delighted to see Avye Couloute, whom I met back at Maker Faire Rome last year. At 11 years old she was the youngest finalist in the room. She was there with her parents and was up for the Young Technologist of the Year.
Then next to her was the remarkable Anubha Maneshwar. What a journey of creativity and passion she had to bring her there on the day. Anubha is 23, founder of GirlScript Foundation India. Her non profit organisation supports beginners in 35 cities of India.
I also had on my table Maha Ech-Chefaa and I got chance to sit down and speak with her briefly. She originally hailed from Morocco and has now provided a platform for supporting underprivileged women in Morocco with an opportunity to improve their life conditions through creating business opportunities.
On my other side I have Adoabi Adibe and her mother. Adoabi had started CAREforSeven back in 2017 and now at 22 she was a finalist for this years event. Her mission is to provide affordable and reliable “…clean cooking fuel to villages, reliable electricity to hospitals and schools and affordable energy to residents facing rising costs.”
Unfortunately none of the people on my table won that evening but to hear the stories of the women who have made so many changes to other peoples lives and their community, was impressive.
This event was not only superbly well organised but strived to find the excellence out there in all the accomplished women around the world. Their stories and accomplishments were aired and celebrated to all that attended.
I can see this award will be a transformative change for the better for women in tech for years to come.