Empowering Women in Deep Tech: Unveiling the Women TechEU Initiative

Gender equality in manufacturing remains an ongoing challenge, with women significantly underrepresented in various roles and leadership positions. As we approach International Women’s Day, it’s crucial to reflect on the barriers that hinder women’s participation in these sectors and explore ways to foster inclusivity and diversity. In light of the topic, EIT Manufacturing is proud to present an amazing opportunity for deep tech women-led startups.

Meet Teresa Hernandez, Women TechEU Lead, and a passionate advocate for gender equality. In our discussion, Teresa shared insights into the gender disparities that persist in manufacturing and STEM fields. Reflecting on her own journey as an industrial engineer, she highlighted the stark contrast between gender ratios at the high school level and in university classrooms. While high school classrooms often boast a near-equal distribution of genders in science specialties, university settings reveal a significant drop in female representation, signaling a systemic issue that needs addressing.

There are different barriers that women face, but what I have seen several times, is that organisations are built to produce and they are built the same way that we created our first industries after the Industrial Revolution. And sometimes, productivity is linked to the time you stay at the office. At the same time, women tend to have more than one job because they tend to be the people that take care of the house, the kids, the elderly parents. They cannot afford to spend all their time working in the office. So, I’m talking about this concept of work-life balance.

Teresa Hernández, Women TechEU Lead
As the Project Lead for Women TechEU, Teresa is able to bring change with her work and run a meaningful project that provides much needed support to deep tech female founders. She tells us more about Women TechEU.

Women TechEU aims to empower and support women entrepreneurs in the deep tech landscape by providing financial support and mentoring services. With a budget of 12 million EUR in equity-free grants, the project will financially support 160 women-led deep tech companies, together with supplementary support services integrated into an enhanced EIC Business Acceleration Services (BAS) programme. This initiative is designed to foster innovation, drive economic growth, and enable social progress across Europe.

The beginning of Women TechEU can be traced back to 2021, when the European Commission launched its pilot phase, funding 50 startups. Building upon the success of its pilot, the initiative expanded in 2022, funding 134 startups in its second edition. With a clear mission to bridge the gender gap in entrepreneurship, Women TechEU targets founders and co-founders of early-stage deep tech startups, offering them a unique opportunity to thrive in a traditionally male-dominated industry.

Following a rigorous selection process, a consortium headed by EIT Manufacturing West was awarded the opportunity to run the programme for two years, with the goal of funding 40 women-led startups in deep tech per call. With a focus on digital, green, and social transition, Women TechEU seeks purpose-driven innovations that have the potential to create meaningful impact in both industry and society.

Teresa presenting Women TechEU project at the largest and most influential event in the tech world, Mobile World Capital Barcelona 2024.

The stark reality

Entrepreneurship stands as a cornerstone of economic growth and societal advancement, yet women remain significantly underrepresented in this domain, comprising less than a third of entrepreneurs across the European Union. This disparity not only underscores gender inequality but also impedes the EU’s ability to effectively address pressing challenges such as the digital transformation, environmental sustainability, resilience building, and post-pandemic recovery efforts. Particularly within deep tech sectors, gender balance is even more skewed, with investment in women-led companies accounting for less than 2% of the total.

The main goal of Women TechEU is to provide tangible support to women-led startups. Through equity-free grants of €75,000 per startup, coupled with a comprehensive suite of services, including mentoring, coaching, pitch preparation, and access to investors and corporates, the initiative empowers women entrepreneurs to turn their innovative ideas into reality. Recognising the critical role of support in the early stages of startup growth, Women TechEU ensures that participants receive the guidance and resources they need to succeed.

Having diversity in organisations means having better, more diverse and creative ideas, and we all know that creativity and innovation are key drivers for growth. So at the end, it’s a matter of growth and success for organisations to have diversity.

Teresa Hernández, Women TechEU Lead

How to apply

For aspiring entrepreneurs interested in applying, Women TechEU offers a streamlined process through its website, where applicants can access the application form. The project aims to promote accessibility and transparency, providing support emails and Q&A guidelines to address any questions or concerns. The first call for proposals is now open. Apply by 20 May 2024!

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