“Education is the most powerful weapon to change the world.” Carole Ory, Alpes-Maritimes territorial director for the Enedis group and member of the Women in Tech Trophies jury, quotes Nelson Mandela. Perfect words to talk about the action of the WHAT06 collective which brings this event to the territory. They are a dozen volunteers working to honor “those who dare”. Carole Malbrancq, president of this collective and engineer in nanotechnology for Siemens Paris, hammers home this idea that “women have a future in tech, at least as much as men.”
Easy to say with only 17% of women graduates in digital professions in France(1). So last Thursday, the 2nd edition of the Women in Tech Trophies, one of the two big events that the collective organizes each year, with the Girls Tech Day, cleared the horizon. Red carpet for these women who shine in tech. Startups, employees, researchers and experts in AI were therefore honored at the Palais des Festivals in Cannes. And it had to be! “This year we received 60 applications for our trophies and in each file, there is a questionnaire to fill in on the values that each one embodies, distills, on the way they see themselves within the world of tech and/or digital. As a result, 100% don’t see themselves as role models. That has to change.”
Optimistic to the core Carole Malbrancq sees that society is changing, that companies are aware of the lack of women in these professions, that things are moving.
During the first edition of the Women in Tech Trophies in 2019, the former employer of a winner was in the room and opened his eyes to this quality CV and this nugget he had let slip. An off-the-record confidence, of course. Proof if any that the potential of these women is not highlighted. “Yes, these trophies are above all a personal recognition for these women, but they also allow recognition within their structure or their ecosystem.”
The 60 applications were scrutinized by a jury of experts (members of INRIA, INSERM, 3IA, universities, large groups, start-ups, accelerators or incubators) who had hard to tell them apart. “It was very tight and the files very qualitative.” Thirty-three financial partners made this event possible. We were very ecstatic that evening and for a thousand reasons. Among the 650 registered for this evening, there were not only women, and the proximity to the 140 exhibitors of the World AI Congress, allowed all present to “become aware of the female talents that exist in the territory“.
Carole Malbrancq from slipping: “Recruiting a woman in a tech job is good, but you still have to know how to keep her. Like any talent that joins a company.”
But that’s another story.
(1) Global Contact/Gender Scan/2022 study.
“I dreamed of founding my own startup”
“Wow!” this is the first word that comes out of Delphine Monti’s mouth when she is asked to join the stage to receive the Startuppeuse Trophy during the Women in Tech ceremony. She co-founded and has chaired Finwedge since 2019, whose head office was repatriated to Sophia Antipolis recently “because I needed to get closer to the Mediterranean and Team Côte d’Azur convinced us”. His startup is at the origin of the WedgeInvest platform which connects innovative companies with investors. “Our mission is to help entrepreneurs to be able to negotiate agreements with investors that are satisfactory for both parties in order to succeed in their successive fundraisings.”
Passionate about finance, Dephine Monti cut her teeth in investment banking in Milan for fifteen years before discussing further with one of her clients based in Sophia Antipolis (Nicox). The click. She returns to Paris, sets up Finwedge, her own fintech startup. “I think I’ve always dreamed of setting up my own startup, she confides. And to have my seat here.” Why didn’t you do it instead? “Thanks to the contact with this client from Sophia Antipolis, I saw the possibility of working with interesting and competent researchers in the field of artificial intelligence, necessary for the development of our WedgeInvest platform. I am delighted, the Region takes me and door.”
Passed by MIT in Boston for specialized training in the applications of artificial intelligence and blockchain to financial transactions, Delphine Monti, locked the trading rooms. Obstacles encountered as a woman? “Ah! I got all the clichés, all the remarks. When you are a woman surrounded by men in a trading room, you are not seen as an equal. I also had appointments you business, with men who, when I answered (very technically) their questions, preferred to turn to my collaborator – man, therefore – to continue the debates. Whatever, the talent is there and she is moving forward.
At the head of Finwedge, which now has nearly ten people, she wants to be open. Does not necessarily fixate on the recruitment of women and expects Finwedge to be “multicultural. I feel deeply European, I cultivate diversity, regardless of sex and origin, I seek competence. In my job, we don’t do politics, we do business.”
But all the same, women, they are more precise, diligent and hard-working, aren’t they? (To smile) “I have very good female elements indeed. But not only!”
With the network she woven in Italy in her past life, new bridges are being built to grow this startup she dreamed of.
From “not very strong in math” to “researcher at the CNRS”
Serena Villata shamelessly admits, “In high school, I wasn’t very good at math.” However, today, she is a tenured researcher at the CNRS in Sophia Antipolis, artificial intelligence chair and deputy scientific director at the Interdisciplinary Institute of Artificial Intelligence (3IA) in Sophia Antipolis. How is it possible ?
She studied at a science high school in Italy and then turned to social sciences. “There, I worked with professors in artificial intelligence and I was passionate about it. I enrolled in a master’s degree in computer science!” So yeah, she had to catch up on math, worked hard but “I wanted to, I gave it my all”. And she got there. Inria came to look for her and in 2021, she won the Young Researcher prize for this institute.
Now installed at the CNRS, she applies herself to creating AI tools capable of analyzing the logical structure of any text, from political speech to simple tweets. A promising avenue for combating fake news and other language deviations. “The art of automatic reasoned language on information”that’s what she likes.
As a woman, does she think it is more difficult to integrate such research centers? “At this level, I would say no. On the other hand, at school, and in particular in high school [elle tient un rôle de marraine pour le CNRS et fait régulièrement des interventions en lycée, ndlr], we see that many young girls are tempted by science courses but that they do not feel up to it. They still think science is for boys.” A long-term job to change mentalities but Serena Villata does not lose hope. “Girls can. Like boys. They have a different sensitivity, it’s true, but that in no way should be a hindrance. On the contrary, we need it in our jobs!”
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Women in Tech Trophies in Cannes: Proof through talent!
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