With European Women in Technology launching again this November, we spoke to Rachana Bhide, the chair of last year's conference, about her highlights and experiences.
For those of you who were lucky enough to attend European Women in Technology 2019 at the RAI in Amsterdam, you will know that it was hosted by the ever-charismatic and composed Rachana Bhide.
Bhide is a tour de force in the media industry, with international expertise as a moderator, emcee, broadcaster and headline keynote. She has interviewed CEOs, global politicians, entrepreneurs and movement makers, in front of substantial live audiences. Bhide is also a 20-year leadership industry professional; ex-Bloomberg and ex-Accenture, both companies in which she enjoyed a tenured, fulfilling career in workplace psychology.
As we prepare to launch the new programme for European Women in Technology 2020, hear from the woman who was at the heart of it all last year, opening the event in front of 4,000 people, introducing the likes of the former Prime Minister of Denmark, Helle Thorning-Schmidt, and interviewing key tech industry figures.
Why did you decide to get involved with the Women in Tech World Series?
My first experience with the Women in Tech World Series was when a colleague (a male ally) recommended me to speak at Women of Silicon Valley. As it turned out, the available slot was the opening keynote!
I had the incredible honour as first speaker to present The Corner of the Court Project, which is the platform I run for women and men to discuss the positive impact of men as allies. Because the project was developed using design thinking, it illustrated how design methods can generate new ways of thinking about diversity in tech, and why user empathy at all stages is critical.
A few months later, when the Women In Technology team asked me to chair the 2–day event in Amsterdam for European Women in Technology, I was absolutely thrilled! I committed again to bringing my background as a psychologist working in tech; and anchored my hosting around the concept of “herzlichkeit” (loosely translated from German as “warmth” or “heart-filled”).
The conference created many intentional spaces for connection, and countless speakers illustrated how the future of tech increasingly demands that we build human solutions for a modern, connected world.
What were some of your highlights and takeaways from the events?
I have a tonne! I was so moved by the entire experience that I wrote an article summarising my takeaways. I would love to share that with your readers: have a look at “Lights, Camera... Confessions! What You Didn't See on Social Media.”
Additionally, my favourite memories were from the photo booth in the main hall, which was outfitted with a bench, hundreds of country flags and the posted quote, “Technology is best when it brings people together.” I became a psychologist because I am enthralled by human behaviour, and the joy of groups coming together to represent their nations and celebrate their collective spirit in tech was the most affirming experience to witness!
Who did you particularly enjoy speaking to?
I loved getting to know the trio of women from Sprout Social, who spent time with me sharing our experiences as Americans and Europeans working across the globe. And Victoria Hanna Eva Riess shared a lot of recaps on social media, which contributed to the entire conference experience! She not only captured takeaways for sessions I missed; through Eva, I met a lot of women I didn’t get to meet on stage! She was like every speaker and attendee’s PR representative!
What inspired your career path in media and talking about women’s issues?
I know this sounds strange, but the men in my life have been the catalysts for me to do this work on behalf of women. My two best friends (both guys) in grad school were the inspiration for my research on male allies, as they hailed from their own traditionally masculine industries (the military and professional sports), and showed a great deal of empathy and emotional intelligence for diversity and supporting women. Similarly, my media career pivot was also sparked by a male leader who recommended me for TV and broadcast training at my old company.
That said, catalysts are only one spark — alongside there are hundreds of women who are my coalition of confidants, friends, mentors and (yes, also) allies. The Corner of the Court Project is a movement, so it relies on human relationships. Our project would not exist if not for the women who lend their voices, faces, and hearts to spread a message of men as allies, while showcasing their own amazing careers as women leaders in various industries.
Have you got any exciting projects you’re working on at the moment that you can share with our readers?
Yes! I am continuing to do live events, conduct research and share women’s stories around The Corner of the Court Project. I have also launched the media design for The CEO Scrapbook, which uses nostalgia and positive psychology to influence leaders to share their authentic stories with others.
The face of the CEO is becoming more diverse, and memory-based prompts (like photographs and music lyrics) can illustrate the human side of all leaders... whether those leaders are men, women, different generations, ethnicities, and all other aspects of diverse CEOs that can and should be celebrated.
If you could have dinner with three female leaders or tech professionals, who would they be and why?
I’d love to have more time with former Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt! She brought a fantastic depth of expertise in her keynote, as both a world leader and a CEO.
I’d also love to dine with Oprah Winfrey, who has shown extraordinary lifetime resilience while building a media company that helps others. And I’d invite Cate Luzio, the Founder and CEO of the women’s collaboration hub Luminary — I know she’d enthusiastically share the wisdom from our dinner forward, to further empower thousands of other women.
What’s the best advice you have or have heard, for any female professional?
A security guard at my old company always offered me wise career advice. One day I was chatting with him and it was clear I was carrying some insecurities. He said to me, “If you ever want to make it there (he motioned to the big TV screen)... you have to cut that out. Nobody else will believe you are capable of great things if you continue to make yourself feel small. Stop acting like you don’t belong, because you do.”
Join us at European Women in Technology 2020!
We were thrilled with the overwhelmingly positive reception from last year's conference and can't wait to impassion you even further with the next instalment of European Women in Technology. The event will be even bigger and better than before, welcoming 5,600 attendees from across the world for two days of interactive learning, knowledge-sharing and networking.
Don't miss your chance to be a part of the movement to close the gender gap in the tech industry and boost innovations in the sector. European Women in Technology 2020 will be taking place on 24-25 November at the RAI, Amsterdam — secure your discounted First Look Pass now.
In addition to Amsterdam, our 2020 Series will be hosted in Cape Town, London, Dublin, Edinburgh, Boston and Silicon Valley.