Women talent is crucial for Europe’s growth. Europe’s digital transformation has given rise to a number of opportunities and challenges which have underlined the gender gap in critical fields such as technology, research, and innovation. As the European Union pushes for greater women empowerment and gender equality through its 2020-2025 Gender Equality Strategy, the first edition of the Conversations Unscripted series will take stock of Europe’s achievements and lessons learnt and reflect on the next steps. With the aim of fostering an environment that supports women’s success, we will bring together leaders from key European Institutions, Member States, and the tech industry to work together in support of these ambitions and create an enabling environment for higher women participation in European politics and technology, as well as contribute to Europe’s Gender Equality strategy.
Meet some of the speakers sharing insights at our October event.
Member of the European ParliamentBiography
Director for EU Affairs & Policy Orchestrator for EIT Climate KIC and Founder of ElektroCouture, ThePowerHouse and FNDMTBiography
Head of Cabinet of the Vice-President of the European Commission Margaritis SchinasBiography
Founder & CEO, Womenpreneur InitativeBiography
Digital Skills Leader for Belgium representing the European CommissionBiography
Founder & CEO VALKURENBiography
Policy Officer, The European Cooperation in Science and Technology (COST)Biography
Professor of Quantum Photonics at the University of Bristol and Research Director for the School of Physics in Bristol UniversityBiography
Founder and CEO of Thrive with EQBiography
Director at CyberWayFinderBiography
Head of Sector at the European Cyber Security Organization (ECSO) and Supervisor at the Women4Cyber FoundationBiography
Marina Kaljurand is a Social Democratic member of the European Parliament for Estonia. She is a member of the LIBE committee and has been responsible for a number of files relating to privacy and data protection. She served as Estonian Foreign Minister from 2015-2016, and has held a number of leadership positions in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, including Estonian Ambassador to Israel, Russia, Kazakhstan, Mexico, Canada and the United States.
Lisa Lang is the Director for EU Affairs & Policy Orchestrator for EIT Climate KIC.
Climate-KIC is a knowledge and innovation community established and funded by the EIT - European Institute of Innovation and Technology in 2010.
Our purpose is to tackle climate change through innovation. We are Europe’s largest public-private partnership with this purpose – a growing pan-European community of diverse organisations united by a commitment to direct the power of creativity and human ingenuity at the climate change challenge.
Lisa Lang has gained recognition as one of Forbes Europe’s Top 50 Women in Tech, and has been listed as one of the 50 most important women for innovation & startups in the EU.
She founded highly recognized companies like ElektroCouture, ThePowerHouse and FNDMT who are dedicated to push innovation within the creative and innovative industry eco systems. Lisa Lang is a direct adviser for creative industries, digitalisation and entrepreneurship for the European Commission on several high-level advisory boards, including Pact for Skills, Industrial Forum and the US/EU Trade & Technology Council.
Lisa Lang is on the advisory board to the Zurich university of arts as well as a policy advisor for Fashion Innovation Centre Sweden. She has been given guest lectures at TEDx Athens, KryptoLabs Abu Dhabi and Oxford University.
Despina Spanou is the Head of the Cabinet of the Vice-President of the European Commission overseeing the European Union’s policies on security, migration and asylum, health, skills, education, culture and sports as well as interfaith dialogue and the combat against anti-semitism.
Her work on security consists in coordinating all areas under the heading of the EU Security Union, ranging from counter-terrorism, cybercrime, cybersecurity to hybrid threats. In this capacity, Ms Spanou coordinates the implementation of the EU Security Union Strategy 2020-2025, the first ever EU Strategy encompassing the whole spectrum of security work in the EU.
Previously, she was Director for Digital Society, Trust and Cybersecurity at the Directorate-General for Communications Network, Content and Technology (DG CONNECT) of the European Commission. In this capacity, Ms Spanou was responsible for the European Union’s cybersecurity policy and law, digital privacy, connected cities and mobility, digital health, eGovernment and electronic identification. She was responsible for the implementation of the EU legislation on security of network and information systems (NIS Directive) and for the negotiations of the EU Cybersecurity Act as well as cyber dialogues with the EU’s international partners. Ms Spanou has served as a member of the management board of ENISA, the EU agency for cybersecurity, and of the Steering Board of the Computer Emergency Response Team for the EU Institutions, bodies and agencies (CERT-EU). She is a founding member of the Women4Cyber initiative and advocate for the need for addressing the cybersecurity skills gap in Europe.
Despina Spanou has also been Director for Consumer Affairs at the Directorate-General for Justice and Consumers (2013-2017) in charge of consumer policy, consumer and marketing law, redress and enforcement, and product safety. Prior to this position, she was Principal Adviser in the Directorate-General for Health and Consumers. She was the Deputy Head of Cabinet of the European Commissioner for Health and Consumers Mr Kyprianou (2004-2008) and of the Commissioner for Health Ms Vassiliou (2008-2010). Despina Spanou started her career at the European Commission at the Directorate General for Competition in 2003. She had previously practiced European law with the Brussels branch of a US law firm.
Despina Spanou is a member of the Athens Bar Association and holds a Ph.D. in European law from the University of Cambridge. She is of Greek and Cypriot origin.
Sana is an award-winning, gender expert, women advocate, and public speaker on feminism and women issues. She is author of “Invisible Women of the Middle East”. She has spoken in 50 countries at universities, panel discussions and international events.
In 2016, she established Womenpreneur Initiative that aims to advance women’s place in entrepreneurial scene, technology, innovation & society. Since its establishment, Womenpreneur has trained 16,000 women in Belgium and MENA region. Through her work, Sana reached thousands of women, to drive visibility, social impact, and resources for women in the ecosystem and beyond.
For the past 7 years, Sana advised United Nations, European Commission, corporate institutions and organisations on gender issues. She was heavily involved in SDGs discussions, she helped drafting several resolutions and recommendations on gender in New York, Bali, Geneva, and Paris and presented to UN representatives.
Saskia Van Uffelen has been working in the sector of information and communication technology (ICT) for over 25 years. She has held national and international sales and marketing functions in leading companies such as Xerox, Compaq, HP, Arinso, Bull, Ericsson and the French ICT group Inetum.
Since 2012, the federal government appointed Saskia Van Uffelen as ‘Digital Skills Leader’ for Belgium representing the European Commission.
Saskia leads the National Coalition for Digital Skills & Jobs for Belgium. In this role she focus to skill/re-skill all talents to maximize the activation of everybody in the changing employment market going forward (DigiSkills Belgium).
For Agoria (Federation representing the technology companies) she leads the BeTheChange program leading to a talent transition in a sustainable world.
As coordinator of the BeTheChange program (initiative of Agoria), Saskia stimulates the ecosystem with concrete actions to achieve the objective of 8 out of 10 at work. How can we best tackle the challenges in the labor market? What are the future skills and competencies? Every job will change, so 'Long live learning!'. What does that mean for myself, my team, my organization? How do we maintain the right harmony between well-being and prosperity?
As a manager, Saskia Van Uffelen always keeps a keen eye on the human aspects of collaboration in a company. She focusses heavily on ensuring the synergies between the different generations present in the workplace.
In interviews, opinion articles and her book ‘Iedereen Baas! – Tous Patron!’ she encourages her colleagues to pay more attention to it as well.
The world, our society, is changing and is screaming for a new model. We are living in a digital age, where everyone and everything is connected, where competition is no longer from the sector and customers, users and citizens are in the driver’s seat. Data is gold and sharing is the new having. Dare to help build a new business world, with a balance between results in the short and long term. But dare just as much to help to build another society through personal life choices – a society that is ready for the next generation.
‘Dare for tomorrow’, the title of her latest book.
As a role model she received various awards among others
Nominated as Manager of the Year 2019
Saskia Van Uffelen is married and a mother of five.
With a Master in Statistics, Business Intelligence & Computer Science, Valerie started her career as BI Consultant & Project Manager. At the end of 2014, she decided to create Valkuren, specialized in developing Big Data solutions with Data Analytics & Artificial Intelligence. The objective is to help companies optimizing processes and improving their decision-making with a specific focus on human link & gender diversity.
At Inspiring Fifty, Valerie is leading the Brussels Chapter for Women in Big Data Organization and she is involved in the "AI Training & Job Skills" task force for AI4Belgium. She is also lecturer at UMons, for the AI certificate "Hands On AI", at Solvay Brussels School and other conferences organized in Belgium.
Since 2018 I have been employed as a Policy Officer at the COST Association. In my role I coordinate the development of a Gender Equality Plan (GEP) focused on advancing gender equality in all COST activities, with a specific focus on the COST Actions. In addition, I’m responsible for managing COST activities in the area of science informed policy advice, with the aim to increase the policy impact of COST Actions, as well as the COST Cross-Cutting Activity (CCA) network on science communication. I also present COST and how to participate in COST Actions during COST Info and Awareness Days in COST Member Countries and Near Neighbour Countries across Europe. In previous roles I worked on gender equality policy at the European Commission (DG JUST/D2), as a European Advisor at the UK Research Office in Brussels, and a Research Fellow at the University of Edinburgh.
The European Cooperation in Science and Technology (COST) is a funding organisation for the creation of highly inter-disciplinary and open research networks, called COST Actions. These networks offer an open space for collaboration among researchers and innovators across Europe (and beyond) and thereby give impetus to research advancements and innovation. COST is bottom up, this means that researchers can create a network – based on their own research interests and ideas – by submitting a proposal, in any science field, to the COST Open Call.
Prof. Ruth Oulton is a Professor of Quantum Photonics at the University of Bristol and is currently Research Director for the School of Physics in Bristol University. In a recent European network, COST Action 1403 “Nanoscale Quantum Optics”, she was the gender balance advisor and implemented interventions to start the conversation about gender inequality in the quantum technologies sector. Prof. Oulton is currently developing semiconductor quantum mechanical devices that will form the first reliable quantum sources of light such as single photons sources and single photon switches. These are key components in the up-and-coming quantum technologies, for use in secure communications and in novel quantum simulation techniques that solve classically intractable calculations. Prof. Oulton has a wide interest in light-matter interactions, and her other work includes investigations of how optical interference effects in plants improve photosynthesis, and how plastic molecules called j-aggregates can have the optical properties of metals. Prof. Oulton studied at the University of Manchester (UMIST), and undertook her PhD in Sheffield on the optics of semiconductor quantum dots. She was formerly an EPSRC Career Acceleration Fellow and a Quantum Technologies Fellow, and held an Alexander von Humboldt fellowship in TU Dortmund, Germany.
Nadja El Fertasi spent two decades working in cybersecurity at NATO, and runs a consultancy and training business called Thrive With EQ. As the name suggests, she specializes in helping individuals and organizations build resilience by understanding how important emotional intelligence is in managing security risks for humans, both at home and in the workplace.
Patrick is a cybersecurity expert, educator and practitioner originating from California’s Silicon Valley and San Francisco, focusing on programs securing the global financial sector. A naturalized Belgian he contributes to alleviating the critical cyber skills shortage and building a diverse next-generation cyber workforce via CyberWayFinder. He lectures for the Solvay Executive Masters in Cybersecurity and guest lectures and contributes to cyber pedagogy delivered in universities such as University of Namur, London School Economics and etc. Patrick also leads business and executive ‘cyber-uplift’ programs and masterclasses, is active in the international speaking circuit speaking to business leaders at international conferences such as Euromoney, Treasury Nordics, COSAC. As a past CISO and Security Architect he is responsible to protecting major portions of Europe’s financial infrastructure with clients include BNP Paribas Group, Euroclear, SWIFT and more. His credentials include the (ISC)2 EMEA ‘Senior Practitioner of the Year’ 2017. Industrial credentials and certifications such as Environmental Engineer and California Registered Civil Engineer (C5088042), a BSCEE, and MBA and job titles including IS Director, VP of Operations, Security Architect and Chief Security Officer.
Nina Olesen is Head of Sector for Applications & Human Factors at the European Cyber Security Organisation (ECSO) which she helped establish in 2016 and which is today the unique European public-private organisation focusing on cybersecurity and offering a 360° view on the rapid evolution of the digital environment. In her current role, Nina is responsible for coordinating and supervising all activities related to WG3 on ‘Cyber Resilience of Economy, Infrastructure, and Services’ and WG5 on ‘Education, Training, Cyber Ranges, and Human Aspects’, including overseeing ECSO’s Women4Cyber and Youth4Cyber initiatives.
This event will take place in a hybrid format, with both virtual and in-person attendance.
If you are interested in participating in the conference in-person, we recommend that you please express interest for a place as soon as you register. Those attending in-person will be invited to a reception after the final session, to enjoy networking and conversation.
We will continue to monitor ongoing COVID-19 regulations, follow recommendations regarding masks, social distancing, and sanitation set out by the venue and local authorities and may revise the capacity limit based on the advice received.