According to the European Institute of Gender Equality, female empowerment is the process by which women gain control over their lives and acquire the ability to make strategic choices. And with technology playing an increasingly prominent role in our daily lives, gender disparity in the tech sector is an area that requires specific attention.
International Women’s Day 2023 was celebrated under the specific theme DigitALL: Innovation and technology for gender equality, with their campaigns noting women make up just 22% of artificial intelligence workers globally.
Helping to buck this trend are talented female entrepreneurs with big ideas.
The upcoming list of 15 entrepreneurs from across Europe are certainly names to watch out for.
From leading neuroscience technology companies to revolutionizing recruitment marketing, let’s look at how these trailblazing entrepreneurs are going about building strong organizations and the challenges they have encountered on the path to success.
Alla Zhedik, CEO of Tempo France
Zhedik is the CEO of Tempo France, a payment institution and the principal EU anchor for stellar blockchain payments. She has several years of experience in financial risk management and asset liability and as an entrepreneur.
She has worked at leading financial institutions and handled the projects of banking startups, the creation of banking joint ventures, merger and acquisition projects, the restructuring and cost optimization of banks, and portfolio forecasts across Europe.
“We are working in a very competitive environment with all its attributes, including deadlines, multitasks, long hours, and so on. It seems to be so easy to forget about anything else. And the main challenge, I believe, is to be logical and cold-blooded in business and remain a woman outside of work at the same time,” said Zhedik.
Zhedik is helping to further Tempo France’s mission to build a unique payment ecosystem that allows entrepreneurs to grow their businesses by adopting disruptive fintech solutions and assisting individuals to benefit from next-gen financial services fully.
Audrey Barbier Litvak, Co-founder & CEO Offishall
Litvak left her General Manager position at WeWork to create Offishall. The company leads the hybrid working revolution with affordable, innovative, zero admin, transparent solutions for employees who want to choose when and where they work and companies that want to be part of the change.
There, she managed 30 buildings across her territory, four countries and five cities, and more than 50,000 members during the pandemic. One year later the company raised a pre-seed of $1.2 million from BA. This also marked the first time in fundraising history that a majority of women sat at the cap table.
She and her associates recruited great tech, sales, product, marketing, and business content managers.
When asked about entrepreneurship, Litvak observed: “Being a female entrepreneur feels similar to the plight of Elizabeth I: ‘I know I have the body of a weak and feeble woman, but I have the heart and stomach of a King.’ You’re a queen, yet you have to convince others that it’s just as good as being a King.”
Outside of Offishall, Litvak also started a podcast named The Office and leads a think tank with CHRO and academics covered by Les Echos in France.
Viviana Premazzi, Founder at Global Mindset Development Training and Consulting Services Ltd
Premazzi is a former UN and World Bank consultant. She has provided expert advice to Fortune 500, international organizations, government agencies, national and international companies, NGOs, charities, and social enterprises on topics related to Cultural and Religious Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, Migration, Integration, Financial Education and Cooperation and Development.
She is the founder of GMD Training and Consulting Services Ltd which provides online and in-person consulting, training, and mentoring services to companies and organizations worldwide. The company focuses on helping them develop an open and curious mindset to work effectively across cultures and promote diverse and inclusive workplaces and societies.
When asked about the challenges of female entrepreneurship, Premazzi replied: “To overcome the challenges of being a successful female entrepreneur, you should surround yourself with people who want to dream with you.”
She has been a researcher and adjunct professor in Intercultural Management and International Business and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion for universities, business schools, and research institutes in Europe and North America.
Premazzi has traveled to more than 50 countries and lived in six countries before falling in love with Malta, where she set up her international social enterprise.
Sara Dalsfelt, Head of Brand & Community at Adway
Dalsfelt is an expert in Digital Talent Acquisition and first joined Adway in 2019. She heads up brand and community within Adway’s Growth Team and is recognized as a critical voice in the industry through LinkedIn’s Official Content Creator program for 2023. She has grown an engaged global talent acquisition (TA) network of over 24,000 TA managers, TA specialists & recruiters keenly interested in the future of TA.
Dalsfelt’s LinkedIn Lives and webinars with the world’s top recruiting experts are world-renowned, attracting sign-ups in the thousands.
She is a communication powerhouse passionate about diversity and inclusivity in the workplace and challenging the industry status quo through technology.
Designed to facilitate talent acquisition at scale and speed, enabling recruiters to identify, reach, and engage with talent directly, Adway’s innovative recruitment marketing technology is trailblazing the industry and assisting recruiters in finding, connecting, and converting talent.
Emilia Sękowska, CMO at Spyrosoft
Sękowska has over 15 years of experience in marketing across different industries and geographies.
Currently leading Spyrosoft’s marketing team to drive business growth and talent acquisition, she is passionate about marketing strategies, and enjoys working in multidisciplinary teams that intersect with sales and marketing processes.
“The IT sector empowers women to pursue successful careers and seems to be the best choice for women who look for an unbiased and fair work environment, no matter which role in the company structure we consider,” said Sękowska.
“However, today the biggest challenge for all executives, regardless of gender, is the ability to adjust business ideas and decisions properly to the demanding conditions we operate in. In that sense, I perceive being a female as an additional asset that brings additional value to many areas, including leadership and change management,” she continued.
Spyrosoft was established to bring together software development enthusiasts. Its founders utilized their professional experience to create a distinctive offering that bridged the divide between technology and business.
Malene Ørgaard Ege, Head of People and Culture in Hyme Energy
Ørgaard Ege’s role at Hyme Energy is crucial for the organization; her accomplishments strategically recruit the most suitable candidates and foster a positive and driven culture that guarantees optimal output and employee retention. She holds an MA in Communications & BA in Psychology from Roskilde University in Denmark.
“ Being the only female in an executive group can feel challenging at times, but then I think about the things I bring to the table: Intuition and a different perspective, for example. That helps us make better decisions,” says Ørgaard Ege.
She joined the organization in January 2022, bringing her 15 years of HR experience from DS Norden, Maersk, and PwC and her vast knowledge in HR Services, HR Partner, and Recruitment Partner, including internal roles, external consultancy roles, and assisting customers with HR projects.
Ørgaard Ege urges women to “consider your intuition; learn when to follow it and when not to. Women’s intuition is often strong, which is an advantage over most male colleagues, as you will see and sense things earlier and more robustly than most men. However, this also means that women can get stuck on their intuition. This is where you need to remember your common sense.”
Kristen Shannon, Founder and CEO of Highliner Technology
Shannon founded Highliner Technology, a consultancy of senior startup operators who help ambitious tech companies shift gears to scale and systematically accelerate to the next level. Their clients have included companies such as Cisco Meraki and Sonantic, acquired by Spotify, iProov, and Oxford Ionics.
With over ten years of experience in strategy development, operational execution, and organizational scaling, she has worked for ambitious organizations that have doubled in size year after year, leading recruitments of over 800 FTE a year and leading and scaling teams in multiple functional areas.
Shannon is also passionate about supporting underrepresented groups in tech and is involved in various initiatives, including mentoring underrepresented founders and angel investing.
Jana Večerková, Co-founder of BrikkApp
Večerková is a serial entrepreneur and management professional with a focus on fintech and technology. She founded the multi-awarded educational program Coding Bootcamp Praha in 2016 and the real estate micro-investment marketplace BrikkApp in 2019. Both companies share a mission of democratizing access to their respective areas of high-quality education and investment opportunities.
Previously, she worked for a Brussels-based organization overseeing the development and execution of pan-European projects with public and private entities.
Večerková graduated with an MSc in European Political Economy from the London School of Economics.
Večerková comments “I believe that being in an executive position is challenging no matter what your gender is. It requires determination, resilience, and a willingness to push through barriers and overcome obstacles. The difference is that society tends to associate these features more typically with men, and the same feature celebrated in a man, can be criticized in a woman.”
“Similarly, women tend to be judged more harshly when they make mistakes – and let’s be honest, every founder or manager has made many. I’ve learned that by focusing on my own goals and not getting weighed down by the expectations of others, I can achieve success on my terms.”
Jess Robson, Head of Marketing, Event Store Ltd
Robson is a dynamic and results-driven marketing professional with over ten years of experience in the industry. Her current role as Head of Marketing for Event Store has made her responsible for developing and executing innovative marketing strategies that drive brand awareness and adoption of Event Store’s world-changing database product.
Event Store Ltd is an open-source state-transition database designed for businesses. It offers commercial support plans, consulting services, and training to help clients successfully build event-sourced systems with EventStoreDB.
“A lack of female role models is something I’ve seen throughout my career, but especially when moving into the tech industry. Women hold less than 20% of all leadership positions in the tech world, which makes it a lonely place. While it didn’t exist for me, I hope to continue to develop myself to be a role model for the next wave of women joining this exciting industry that requires the skills we can bring,” said Robson.
As well as a passion for great branding and marketing designed around prospect pain, Robson has a solid entrepreneurial spirit resulting in launching several businesses from the ground up.
Sheena Pentin, Founder and Director at Careers4Change
Pentin is the Founder and Director of Careers4Change, a recruitment consultancy that connects purpose-driven individuals with organizations that use impact finance as a catalyst for positive social change.
Pentin’s primary focus is recruiting for leadership roles in social impact investment firms, trusts, foundations, charities, and social enterprises, making her a highly experienced professional in recruitment consulting.
Additionally, she has placed talented professionals in family offices and mainstream organizations engaged in impact investment or grant-making with a sustainable impact on people and the planet.
When asked about the challenges facing female entrepreneurs, Pentin commented “The biggest challenge is to find the headspace to innovate, scale and build a team while continuing to deliver a premium service to customers and keep the family plate spinning too! Speaking to a coach or mentor is a great way to find time during the busy ‘day-to-day’ to pause, reflect, and strategize. Keeping your head buried in work all day, every day is not sustainable, and stepping out of that busy zone helps to provide perspective.”
Pentin promotes diversity, equity, and inclusion in all recruitment processes. She recognizes the importance of creating resilient, solution-focused, and creative teams that adapt to the world’s ever-changing needs. Her expertise in recruitment consulting ensures that all her clients receive high-quality services that meet their needs and exceed their expectations.
Caroline Simon, Managing Director, CTG Luxembourg PSF
After 25 years at CTG, Simon was appointed Managing Director of CTG Luxembourg PSF in 2020. Currently, she is responsible for strategic and operational management across the company and has steadily advanced her career at CTG to assume greater responsibility—from Recruiter to Human Resources Director.
Simon says, “Holding an executive position is not easy for anyone, and being a female executive is even more challenging! However, being a strong woman in leadership can help break down gender stereotypes, and this can be empowering and help other women achieve their full potential. Having the strong support of peers, mentors, colleagues, friends, and family is crucial for success, as is being confident in your actions by staying true to your values.”
She has played a central role in driving CTG’s business and growth strategy and laying the foundation for a culture of excellence in Luxembourg. Under her leadership, CTG Luxembourg PSF has grown from a small group of individuals to a team of more than 300 employees and has been certified as a Great Place to Work® for 13 consecutive years.
María González Manso, CEO and Co-Founder at Tucuvi
González Manso is a curious biomedical engineer who is passionate about using AI voice-powered solutions to improve the lives of patients. She is dedicated to combining her knowledge of technology, innovation, and entrepreneurship to develop cutting-edge solutions in the healthcare field.
With a focus on VUI design, she has dedicated her career to creating intuitive and user-friendly interfaces that can help people navigate complex medical systems. González Manso is currently the CEO and Co-Founder of Tucuvi, a health tech company specializing in automating outpatient communication for healthcare organizations using cutting-edge voice conversational AI technology.
Their portfolio includes clinically validated and customizable care processes designed to enhance the quality of care and improve efficiency within the healthcare system. They aim to provide real value to healthcare providers, payors, and patients; their patient engagement rates are among the highest in the market.
Jenny Sagstrom, Co-Founder and CEO of Sköna
As Co-Founder and CEO of Sköna, a B2B creative agency building brave brands for innovative technology companies for 20 years, Sagstrom oversees strategy, account management, and global expansion. She has worked with over 200 clients, leading Sköna from a two-person shop to a flourishing international business.
“I think the problem many women fight against is our own harsh inner critic. I know I often question if I’m good enough or if my opinion really matters. There’s that voice inside me telling me to be quiet because what do I actually know?! Sharing this with others over the years has led me to realize I’m not the only woman fighting this battle. While I’m sure there are many men who also feel insecure, I’ll go out on a limb and say that Imposter Syndrome is not their greatest challenge”, said Sagstrom.
Sköna is a full-service creative agency building brave B2B tech brands in Silicon Valley and across the globe. Sköna has made a name for itself in B2B by helping clients like Snowflake, VMware, and Alteryx become leading brands and recognizable names in their respective industries.
Yasmine Abdel Karim, CEO & Co-founder at Yalla Fel Sekka
Abdel Karim has over ten years of leadership and project management experience leading large complex groups in prominent international organizations impacting more than 3000 workers domestically and internationally, leading teams while completing $20M multinational projects across France, UK, Brazil, USA, Romania, UAE, and Saudi Arabia.
She has a proven track record in Human Resources management, union relations, recruitment, performance management, compensation & benefits, career & staffing, and France and UK labor laws.
She co-founded Yalla Fel Sekka (YFS) and is currently the CEO of the technology company that specializes in providing intra-city urban logistics & courier services, disrupting the delivery industry to improve efficiency and help reduce overall delivery time.
Erin Sivyer Lee, CEO of Flow Neuroscience
Sivyer Lee is the CEO of Flow Neuroscience. This company aims to redefine how depression is treated by implementing science, technology, and scientifically validated psychology to create affordable treatments.
Her experience includes 15+ years of building global teams for some of the world’s fastest-growing health and consumer technology companies, including Google, Uber, and most recently, Babylon Health, where she led global operations and expansion of the business from less than 1,000 patients in the UK to more than 1 million covered lives globally.
This background translates marvelously into Flow’s vision and their clinically-validated neuromodulation platform that delivers holistic, drug-free clinical treatment for depression at home.
Her main concern in the female leadership field is the scarcity of peers: “Once you reach a certain level there aren’t very many of us so you have to get used to being the only woman in the room. This also means there can be a tendency to create a separate sub-category for women executives- like ‘girl boss’ which I personally find patronizing and which often has the unintended consequence of undermining what women accomplish in absolute terms,” Sivyer Lee warns.
“I look forward to the day where we lose the “girl boss” language and no longer have major differences between the challenges of being a female executive versus a male one.”