Last Friday’s listing of the Top 100 women in Tech in Europe came as a surprise to some and a retweet to others. To find out more about the process behind the listing, I interviewed Roxanne Varza, the European Relations manager of the international Girls in Tech network and co-founder of the London chapter which compiled the list after receiving “hundreds of nominations”.
Along with the other co-founders Ella Weston and Mihiri Bonney, Varza helped the judges, verified selections, and contacted people across Europe who assisted in the nomination process. Here’s what we talked about…
How did you come up with the 100 names featured in the list?
RV We opened up nominations for one month for anyone to nominate anyone from across Europe. We received several hundred names this way. We also wanted our list to be as inclusive of all European countries as possible, so selected 15 judges that were primarily responsible for selecting people from certain regions that they were most familiar with.
Did it spur any outrage?
RV Yep. You bet. I think there were some people (women even) who thought it was ridiculous to have such a list. We’re simply providing women in tech with more visibility so I don’t really think we’re doing too much damage. We also had some people who were upset about our group even existing – which is funny because we never encountered any of these problems in France when I launched it there.
People were upset about the use of the word “Girl” (and not “woman”) they found it patronising and the use of the colour pink. And some thought that our events were only for women and that we want to talk about women’s issues (not true).
How many nominations, in total, did you receive? Which country had the most?
RV The UK had *by far* the most. I actually did my best to make sure that at least 50 names were not from the UK
The 19 countries excluded the Ukraine. Any reason why?
RV We simply didn’t have any nominations from there, believe it or not! We also did not have nominations from Portugal, Switzerland, Croatia and a number of other European countries.There was no specific reason for Ukraine.
Did you consider ranking the names? Or organising them in any way?
RV We decided not to “rank” them from 1 to 100 because our main objective is more about “these are the 100 women in Europe you should know” not who is best. We are exploring teaming up with a few organisations for our list next year to make it even more inclusive.
If you were to rank them yourself, who would you put at the top?
RV I think that is a bit of an unfair question just because I haven’t met them all – and my network is very skewed towards France and the UK! I haven’t met Martha Lane Fox yet but I really am very impressed by what she does and I love her way of thinking (I’m actually interviewing her in two weeks at LeWeb).
But then there are some Russian, Israeli, German, etc. entrepreneurs that I also find incredibly impressive based on their profiles. Otherwise, of the people I know, I think Reshma is doing amazing things with Seedcamp, which is having a very strong impact on all of Europe. I also have to say that I think Eileen Burbidge of Passion Capital is incredible – and I like how her organisation is structured and what they’re doing.
In his intro, Mike Butcher distinguished between “meritocratic, flat management” positions and “the traditional ‘IT’ roles,” suggesting the women get fewer of the latter. What’s the representation of positions in the list concerning these two types?
RV Oh man, I don’t have the numbers. I can tell you that entrepreneurs (women founders of internet and mobile companies) were in the lead. We had investors, corporates, journalists, etc. on there as well but majority of the list is entrepreneurs (I would say 75% of the list and perhaps 80-90% of our nominations).
What was the most random or radical nomination? Anything that made you laugh?
RV Nothing that made me laugh (thankfully nobody nominated any boys or objects or anything weird) although we did have some people that thought nomination was based on number of votes – so we had some random people we’d never heard of that were being nominated like 100 times. This didn’t impact their making the list unfortunately.
If you’re not talking about women’s issues, what are you doing?
All we’re trying to do is host tech events – normal tech conferences – with predominantly women speakers. We’re just giving women in tech more visibility. We don’t want to talk about babysitters or children, we want to talk tech. And we want men to join.
How did the judges’ nominations fit in with the public nominations?
RV [Judges] were to select leaders or women making a significant contribution in the tech industry in their country – they could be from their personal network, our nomination list or another source. We checked all names to make sure that all the women held a significant title, had made significant contributions or played a vital role in the local tech scene. Some of the women have also been previously nominated for different lists and awards, like the Forbes list, etc.
Can you imagine a time in which lists like these wouldn’t get passed around like crazy?
RV You know, it’s funny. Some people have actually questioned why we even need a list like this – why people even care. I get contacted consistently by people around the world who are seeking women speakers and participants for tech conferences. So clearly women are still less visible in the tech space. I’m hoping that this list will help change that – and make my life a little easier!