“Leaders are not those who never crack. Leaders are those who see the value in the people around them”
— Berta Herrero, Programme Director of the Summer School for Female Leadership in the Digital Age
And here we are. Four days of panels, inspirational sessions, masterclasses, group projects and thought leadership has taken us through leadership in the digital age, culminating in hot debates around the most pressing challenges of our era: climate change and economic recovery following the COVID-19 global crisis. How are leaders contributing to a Greener Future? Ana Prata, European Climate Pact Ambassador for Portugal, and Ana Gomes, Board Member of the Future Energy Leaders Portugal of the World Energy Council, discussed the challenges and opportunities for Europe within the context of the EU Green Deal with Giorgia Epicoco, Senior EU Public Affairs Manager at HUAWEI EU.
Giorgia pointed out that everyone is part of the transition. All pillars of society have roles and responsibilities and we must uphold social and environmental values as we transition. There are 17 global goals, 169 targets, and 9 years left to achieve sustainable development, with the green transition at its core. Ana Prata recognised that young people are panicking about climate change but urged them “do not panic, try to use your energy and resources to do something. Connect more with the initiatives and efforts you can implement in your area of specialisation”. We all have a role and can call for change through social media and advocacy. “We need to go after them in social media. It’s amazing what can be done just by publishing a bad comment linked to a brand in social media”, concluded Prata. From an industry perspective, Ana Gomes, a petroleum and geological engineer, confirmed that they realise the urgency of enabling change. She said EU governments and companies are already changing climate change policies, and have to accomplish the climate change goals and adapt to people’s needs without leaving anyone behind.
How can we make sure that all countries can meet these objectives? “It is important that everyone has access to energy. We need more bioenergy, more renewables. In Portugal we have solar and wind, and we are trying to build a more resilient future. Oil and gas companies are often seen as the bad ones. They can do more, they have enormous power in the industry so they should bring new ideas and diversify the market”.
“We don’t have patience to wait for change”. — Cristina Vaz Tomé
How can we make sure that we Europeans achieve equality goals and adapt to people’s needs in a way that ’doesn’t leave anyone behind? How can we make sure that all countries can meet these objectives? Luc Hindryckx, Director General of the European Competitive Telecommunications Association (ECTA), Eavann Murphy, Managing Director at Open Eir Wholesale, and Cristina Vaz Tomé, Member of the Executive Committee at Impresa Group, discussed ways to harness the opportunities and changes brought about by the COVID-19 crisis with Luisa Baldini, Co-founder of Composure Media and former BBC Royal Correspondent.
COVID-19 has accelerated the shift to a digital society. And as the tech sector booms, so more skilled and qualified professionals are required to jump on the speeding train. How women, as 51% of the European population can contribute to the sector has been a recurring question throughout the Summer School programme. Luc Hindryckx shared that in technology “it’s important to have more women, but we cannot just solve the problem with quotas, we need a broader perspective: “It’s important to bring the tech sector closer to schools so all kids can get involved. Social and economic inclusion have to go hand in hand with gender inclusion”.
Cristina Vaz Tomé added that women need to speak up if they want to progress and get promoted. “You have to say that you want to progress in your career, it’s not written on your forehead. Just make sure you have the required experience and skills to progress. We have just men in senior positions. Men remember men when they promote people. That’s why I am in favour of quotas. We don’t have patience to wait for change”.
Eavann Murphy also favoured a change in work dynamics and arrangements, in a post-pandemic scenario. “With the pandemic, working practices have changed. The pandemic brought some good things, we can be productive in a more flexible way and this has actually helped women”. Every cloud has a silver lining and women can grasp these new opportunities to reshape their future. We can be the future of tech and we must lead the way.
The real women in Tech
Sometimes, somewhere, there are already great talents playing their part to bring about the change we want to see in the world. Berta Herrero, Programme Director of the Summer School for Female Leadership in the Digital Age, introduced them as: “the women of HUAWEI”. All of them are peer female role models because role models are not necessarily senior, accomplished female executives. They shared their career motivations and views on the greatest challenges that women face in the tech industry. They are promoting greater diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workforce, especially in tech teams that develop and deploy the technologies with which end users interact.
To promote such great and diverse talent, we need extra help. The media industry is our ally in this. Miriam González Durántez, Adviser on European trade law and regulation and Founder of Inspiring Girls, sees the media industry under tremendous pressure, as it needs to adapt to new business models. “The media revolution means more and more women being able to reach well-informed global audiences. On the subject of female discrimination at work, Miriam said her worst moments have been related to maternity. “During maternity, I realised I cannot compete with any man. I had new limits. And there is something else: women tend to have more responsibility with children and they are also the housekeepers. This is a very unbalanced situation and we have to change that. Fortunately, there are a lot of companies that are making great progress to integrate and promote women. Some things are changing and that’s why I am optimistic”.
Trained to inspire through their vision
At this point, the Summer School programme might have come to an end. But as with every course, not before a ‘final exam’. To boost skills development such as teamwork, critical thinking, problem-solving, and leadership, our 27 #NextGenChangeMakers were divided into three groups of nine members with each team named after three exceptional European women in STEM that changed the world. Guess who they were? Ada Lovelace, Marie Skłodowska Curie, and Rita Levi-Monatalcini. The teams, inspired by their spiritual leaders, finally put all their public speaking and leadership techniques to use and pitched their projects to the audience.. The goal? Find a strategy to build a European network involving all the 1218 applicants and future female leaders, so that the Summer School leaves no one behind.
That’s a wrap. Time to recap and celebrate.
In the evening, we visited one of Portugal’s the most impressive national palaces for an unforgettable Gala Dinner. Berta Herrero, HUAWEI Senior EU Public Affairs Manager and the Summer School programme Director touched us all with an inspiring farewell speech: “Leaders are not those who never crack. Leaders are those who see the value in the people around them”.
Cláudia Cavadas, Vice-Rector for Research at the University of Coimbra, spoke about equality and education in Europe. She shared her hopes for gender equality in all aspects of research: “we can produce research and innovation with high quality, with more impact. For that we have to remove gender biases and integrate gender equality in all activities, from the design of the project until the end, at the communication process.”
After enjoying our very last Portuguese dinner, the Summer School celebrated the immense talent of our future leaders with a certificate and award ceremony. HUAWEI is fully committed to a fairer future that powers inclusive, sustainable, and connected societies. Tony Jin, HUAWEI‘s new Chief Representative to the EU Institutions stressed this message, which was followed by a farewell from Catherine Chen, Corporate Senior Vice President and Director of the Board of HUAWEI.
“Over my 26 years in the ICT industry, I have been keenly aware of the gender gap in the industry. Both Europe and China are facing this problem. The EU is pioneering in its attempt to address this. And this is where companies like HUAWEI can play a key role. It is my pleasure to address 27 young talented women and I hope they will take away from here not just what they have experienced this week but also a thirst and a desire to fulfil their potential. So we can all become role models of the future.”
Remember that the impossible is always possible. As Vicky Piria, Racing Driver at Formula Renault Eurocup & W Series, said, “life is a race…it takes passion and determination to have success and your own results.” So, what more is left to say? Kudos to our 27 bright European talented girls. We are proud of you. Ad maiora, #NextGenChangeMakers!