Another sunny day, another refreshingly inspiring Young Woman to Watch!
This month we’re all about Co-founder of the Digital Future Institute International Valérie Kinoo. This year she’s already been one of the driving forces behind the European Commission’s Girls in ICT Day social media campaign, as well as one of the brains behind the Digital Woman of the Year Award. What’s more, we’ll be following her as she organises a Women2020 event focusing on young women’s contribution to Smart, Sustainable and Inclusive Growth in Europe later this year.
When you meet Valérie you’re instantly bowled over by her thoughtful and quietly confident persona. She’s a natural communicator who, having been Director for Gender Equality and European Affairs for the Commune of Schaerbeek, is also a driven gender expert dedicated to getting more women and girls into the ICT sector.
These are exciting times for young European innovators in ICT after European Commission Vice-President Neelie Kroes announced that up to 1000 digital start-ups are set to receive funding from the institution’s shiny new Future Internet programme budget. Valérie is interested in how many of those digital start-ups will have female founders leading innovation.
We asked Valérie about her journey and the challenges she’s faced along the way.
“I always knew I would start an entrepreneurial adventure, but not specifically in the digital sector. I’m proud that I’ve got here, because it is both an achievement and the result of having developed trust in myself, the future and most of all, a reciprocal trust with my business partner, Cheryl Miller.
The road hasn’t always been smooth. Discrimination based on my age and gender has been a challenge. You have to work doubly hard to gain respect as a young woman and then still face disrespectful comments which people would never dare say to you if you were a 50 year old man in a suit. I try to stay strong and patient, focus on my objectives and let the results speak for themselves.
An initial sense of loneliness at the beginning of your career, when you’re trying to access networks and particularly if you happen to be shy, is also a challenge. Little by little, I surrounded myself with competent people whom I could confide in, Women that I admired and respected. It’s important to have mentors in your life who inspire you when you’re feeling down and encourage you to reach further that you would have thought possible.
My first piece of advice to young women curious about entering the ICT sector would be to put your fears and doubts away! Be self-confident, make the most of your strengths and handle your weaknesses creatively!
Myself, I try to have a balanced life: time for friends and family, time for sports, time for myself,… and I have the amazing support of my fiancé to thank as well.”
When charasmatic young women like Valérie share their passion for technology sectors, suddenly getting more women and girls to consider a career in those fields doesn’t seem like such a big ask. With women consuming more social media and gaming products than men, it’s time we built our own digital future. Less pink it and shrink it, more code it and sell it!
Article by: Laura Hemmati