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Booking.com annual tech awards focuses on creating visible role models

Booking.com has announced the winners of its 2018 Technology Playmaker Awards and emphasised the importance of having more visible female role models in the industry

Travel booking site Booking.com announced the winners of its 2018 Technology Playmaker Awards on International Women’s Day to mark the progress women are making in the technology sector.

Throughout the awards process, it was made clear that one of the most important things about celebrating the Tech Playmaker nominees and winners was to ensure there are more visible female role models at all levels of the technology industry to inspire girls and women to pursue a career in tech.

Booking.com CEO Gillian Tans said the awards are important to “make sure we award and celebrate their success to make sure we recognise them as role models so others can follow in their footsteps”.

Young girls have admitted they want more encouragement from role models to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and maths (Stem).

Tans put a big emphasis on making sure more female role models are visible across the tech industry, and said it is important for other women to see not just people in senior positions at firms, but across all levels and roles.

“Gender diversity is something we are very passionate about at Booking.com,” she said. “We see so much innovation happening in Europe and so many inspirational women leading this innovation.”

Although all women in the technology industry are role models, many are either not visible or do not consider themselves role models, she said.

“These women are role models far beyond the walls of their companies,” she added.

Among the finalists was 11-year-old Avanti Sharma from Luxembourg, who runs creative coding workshops to inspire her peers to share her passion for technology.

“Our future is in good hands,” said Tans.

The winners

The Booking.com Technology Playmaker Award winners were decided by a panel of industry experts from across Europe, chaired by Tans.

This year’s judges were:

  • Ruth Chandler, chief people officer at Skyscanner.
  • Didier Rappaport, CEO of Happn.
  • Lisa Hillier, chief people officer at Just Eat.
  • Marili ’t Hooft-Bolle, COO and CFO of WeTransfer.
  • Jon Reynolds, co-founder of SwiftKey.
  • Eva Maydell, member of the European parliament.
  • Maija Palmer, digital and communities editor for the Financial Times special reports.
  • John Schmitz, dean of faculty of electrical engineering, mathematics and computer science at Delft University of Technology.

Winners for each category were awarded €5,000, and the winner of the Technology Playmaker of the Year award, selected from the nominees, was awarded an additional €10,000.

The winners of the 2018 Booking.com Technology Playmaker Awards are:

Entrepreneur of the Year – Kaidi Ruusalepp, CEO and founder of Funderbeam.

Rising Star of the Year – Kerstyn Comley and Suzi Godson, founders of MeeTwo Education.

Role Model of the Year – Anne-Marie Imafidon, co-founder and CEO of Stemettes.

Innovator of the Year – Bethany Koby, co-founder and CEO of Tech Will Save Us.

Sustainability Innovator of the Year – Floortje van Bovene, founder of Spectral.

Digital Leader of the Year – Kathryn Parsons, co-founder and CEO of Decoded.

Community Impact Award – Hadeel Ayoub, founder and CEO of BrightSign.

Business Leader of the Year – Zoe Cunningham, managing director of Softwire.

Employer of the Year – Intuit.

Technology Playmaker of the Year grand prix winner – Hadeel Ayoub, founder and CEO of BrightSign.

Overcoming technology stereotypes

Despite much of the hard work many organisations are putting into shifting the dial towards diversity in the technology industry, many stereotypes still exist that can make tech less appealing to women and others in the minority.

Speaking at the Technology Playmakers Awards ceremony, Randi Zuckerberg, CEO and founder of Zuckerberg Media and sister of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, joked: “I am very used to speaking at events where it’s rooms full of guys in hoodies.”

While many firms focus on increasing the number of women in their tech remit, retaining high levels of diversity is unlikely to happen without a culture shift, and Zuckerberg said company culture is “something I think more startups need to think about” to begin ingraining the importance of inclusive culture in scaling organisations.

“Something amazing happens when you get rid of that fear of failure,” she said.

Read more about women in tech

There have been many high-profile cases of women in Silicon Valley talking about experiences of sexual discrimination, and Zuckerberg admitted the Silicon Valley environment could be “toxic” for women.

She said she did not think of herself as an entrepreneur while in Silicon Valley, but when people are exposed to an environment where there is less fear of failure, they can be more creative and are more likely to be sitting on a “two in a million people idea”.

Young girls are often put off Stem careers from an early age, in some cases because they perceive Stem subjects as “too hard” and at other times because they are not aware of what roles are available in these industries, said Zuckerberg.

“Nobody ever told me ‘Randi, you can create any job you want’ and I think that’s something we need to say more to little girls in our society,” she said. .............................................................................. ........................................................................................................................

Read more on Diversity in IT

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