VivaTech: women take center stage at the innovation and startup fair

Quotas for speakers, pitch contests, meetings with influential women: at VivaTech, we work for gender equality in the tech world. An absolute necessity when only 3% of funds are raised for projects created by women.


 

Clarisse Hagège, a young French woman at the head of a cybersecurity startup project, won the first prize of the Female Founder Challenge, a pitch competition organized at VivaTech, the largest European exhibition dedicated to innovation currently taking place at Porte de Versailles in Paris. If the event is well known for its technological curiosities and its robots of all kinds, it is above all a career accelerator for professionals in the sector. Especially for women, who need a boost even more than their male colleagues.

Gender equality in the tech world is one of the key themes of this 5th edition of the show, carried at arm’s length by its general manager Julie Ranty. “The evolution towards a better representation of women is still extremely slow”, according to her. The figures speak for themselves: only 10% of women are at the head of startups, and only 3% of funds raised go to projects led by women. Numbers “That we cannot accept”, says Julie Ranty.

“A different body language”

To explain such differences, several factors come into play. The weight of education and stereotypes, first of all. Young girls have little incentive to choose scientific, developer or entrepreneurial paths, and models of success are lacking. According to Cédric O, Secretary of State for Digital Transition present at the show, gender roles are integrated very early on: “We see a different body language in girls and boys facing tech lessons from the age of 7”.

Another problem: for those who dare to get started, it is necessary to confront the biases of investment funds, “Predominantly male circles who have more difficulty in trusting women”, according to Julie Ranty.

Strong commitments in favor of women

To overcome this under-representativeness, VivaTech is taking concrete actions. Thus, a quota of 40% of female speakers was imposed on the event. The competition of Female Founder Challenge, him, allowed 10 women to pitch their project to a jury of 13 big investors. Refrigeration solution without electricity, charging stations for scooters, artificial intelligence service for waste processing companies… So many start-ups that will benefit from good visibility. The winner, Clarisse Hagège, will have the chance to be coached by two women figures in entrepreneurship: Claire Calmejane, director of innovation at Société Générale, and Emilie Sidiqian, CEO of Salesforce.

Another measure taken by the show: create mentoring from women to other women through the Women and girls in tech program. “I believe a lot in mutual aid within women’s networks. It is important that successful women pass on their experience, give their good advice ”, explains Julie Ranty. A Equality lounge has also been set up, a space where conferences and discussions on the theme of women in tech are organized. On the program: integration and equality in the workplace, whether through salary or access to positions, but also topics on inclusiveness and LGBTQI + issues.

Progress to be made in education

But the fight for more equality in tech doesn’t end there. For Julie Ranty, “There is still a lot to do in education”. “I am in favor of compulsory code lessons from an early age to create equality of appetite between boys and girls”, she explains. The CEO of VivaTech also encourages initiatives by women’s collectives like that of Sista, which is working on quotas forcing investors to include at least 25% of startups created by women in their portfolios.

VivaTech 2021, from June 16 to 19, 2021 in hall 1 at Paris Expo Porte de Versailles and in digital broadcasting on the exhibition site, vivatechnology.com.





 

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