Cheryl D. Miller – #I Bootstrap! One Simple Action To Lift Each Other Up – 007 (Part 2)

Here is what is shared and discussed in this episode:

This interview is published in two parts. This is part 2.

Links and Resources:

  • Cheryl’s company link:
  • DLI Initiatives:
    • AdaAwards.com – Global awards recognising outstanding girls and women in digital studies and careers and the people and organisations supporting them, with the Ada Award Ceremony annual flagship event held in a different country every year.
    • inQube – Global network promoting women-led startups in digitally-driven and digitally-enabled enterprises with flagship “Move It Forward” female digital starter weekends carried out in different cities around the world on topics disproportionately impacting girls and women.
    • DigitalMuse.org – Global network promoting ESTEAM skills to girls through creative endeavor, in order to increase the quantity and quality of stories by, for and about girls and women in digital media, with flagship initiative “Girl Tech Fest.”
    • CYPRO – Cyber professional training and career placement program for women with work experience, focused on increasing participation of women in strategic IT professional careers such as cyber-security, data sciences, artificial intelligence, etc.
  • Watch Cheryl’s Tedx Speech: Girls Are Going To Save The World
  • Digital Belgium Skills Fund (DBSF): In collaboration with the King Boudewijn Foundation and through support of the European Commission, DBSF aims to increase social inclusion through digital skills, especially for young people.  Launched in 2016 by Mr. Alexander De Croo, Deputy Prime Minister of Belgium and Minister for the Digital Agenda, investing in initiatives that teach key digital skills, including basic coding and cyber security.
  • Cheryl can be contacted through:
For more:

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About Digital Leadership Institute International (DLI):

Located in Brussels, Belgium, DLI has the unique mission to promote inclusive digital transformation by increasing participation of girls and women in ESTEAM studies, careers and leadership around the world. ESTEAM stands for Entrepreneurship, Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics.

DLI is a dynamic and growing organization. They reach girls in elementary schools, students, and women in the workforce, from all ranges. Truly inclusive. Their work is recognized by the United Nations, European Parliament and private organizations.

A few of the activities are: recognizing outstanding girls and women in digital studies and careers, promoting women-led digitally-driven startups, organizing learning events for school girls, and providing training and career placement for women with work experience.

In September of 2017, DLI has been awarded support from the Digital Belgium Skills Fund (DBSF) for its work. In collaboration with the King Boudewijn Foundation and through support of the European Commission, DBSF aims to increase social inclusion through digital skills, especially for young people. Launched in 2016 by the Deputy Prime Minister of Belgium and Minister for the Digital Agenda.


I continue the discussion (part 2) with Cheryl Miller, Founder and Executive Director of Digital Leadership Institute (DLI), an NGO in Brussels, Belgium.

“I bootstrap women!”

Cheryl says it is crucial that we seize all opportunities to help women grow. “You grab her by the loops of the cowboy boots and you pull her up. Have a conscious or sub-conscious plan: I’m gonna bootstrap!”

She suggest to start our own campaign on social media: #I bootstrap.

Ask ourselves: What were my actions this week or this month, to lift a(nother) woman up? And measure it! Set targets! Can be very small actions, but be we need to act: measure the introductions you do of women, measure the job descriptions so that it appeals to women, measure how often you put a woman in the limelight, and so on,…

When it comes to entrepreneurship, woman stay in the idea space or research space for too long, before they even dare to take the plunge. We all know that by doing you will get a steeper, maybe painfuller learning curve, but oh so valuable lessons for your journey as entrepreneur.

So with DLI, she helps these women by giving them a push and initiatives: the space, tools, (moral) support, education, coaching, expertise and means, but always set within the social context we are living in, following the hottest stuff! Cyber security, machine learning, big data, and so on,…

And her programs attract many women and girls, from all background, ages, experiences and nationalities even: Move it Forward Weekends, Girls Tech Fest, her new program CYPRO (Cyber Professional Training and Career),… Targeting women with and without experience.

The outcomes are amazing: viable Tech business ideas are born, new careers are started and Tech companies collaborate to actively hire these women in Tech and Leadership job roles.

Their cohort, who participated in their 6-weeks program CYPRO, in October 2017, was working with 80 women. A good number of these women had even studied Tech, like migrants to Europe, wives of expats, etc.
We have to support these women, because they have fear. Their time is an investment: a 6-week full time bootcamp to gain deep technical skills. And that’s hard! Not receiving an income during that period too. “And we wanna support them, with them getting paid.”

Women get the opportunity to become practitioners in Tech companies, aligned with the needs of the organizations. These women often already have deep content knowledge of e.g. Project Management or General Management. They can deliver value from the first day.

It is true that we do not have one more female Tech specialist in Europe, since 2005. In Belgium, only 3% of tech founder starters are female.

Shocking, right?

So, Cheryl feels she has to be out there, bringing all the statistics back to the European Parliament, United Nations, European Commission, and other audiences. “The best indicator for our future, is the past.” We shouldn’t be watching and seeing the decline.

She closely watches the statistics, especially of female Tech founders. When this number starts to increase, then she knows the situation is improving.

She tries to work with, and on both sides of the equation, building the content by drawing from a lot of sources. The combination is innovative, with each event very targeted at a specific, single “female niche”.

We need these programs, because: “If we didn’t have sexism, we wouldn’t need these programs.”

In September of 2017, DLI was awarded support from the Digital Belgium Skills Fund (DBSF) for their work to increase participation of girls and women in digital studies and careers in Belgium. With the funding, DLI can focus on building their programs like CYPRO, so that women can build solid Tech skills, that would fit Leadership and Business positions in Tech companies. And Cheryl already sees the cohort grow. The cohorts also see the value, because it helps them retaining valuable employees in their own organization. And women say: “They place what is important to me, as important to them.”

Having support with visibility, and even Government saying: “Yes, we have roles and jobs for them”, is what she needs. She is hopeful, but it will be hard.

When you look at unicorns, the pool is empty. Everybody is tapping from the same pool.

With women Tech founders, you have a pool that has not yet been tapped!

Where are the future unicorns? She’s bringing a whole new set, and that’s where the new unicorns come in. Innovation comes from diversity. The term innovation means: something new.

We need investment for our incubators, and bring real innovation. The pay-off is the most difficult, communicating with Venture Capitalists. But like Neelie Kroes has said:

“Social Innovation is going to eat technical innovation for lunch!”

To create something new, we need different experiences, different cultural background, different genders. Their brilliance!

When Cheryl did her Ted talk a few years ago: “Girls Are Going To Safe The World”, she reflected on that. With DLI, she knew her task was going to be difficult. And that we would need many examples, role models, and outcomes to bring on change, bit by bit.

Showcasing success stories. Plan, do, check, act! How are we doing? Looking at what some amazing woman have done. 14-year old girls, 60 year old experienced women,… And they are paying it forward in all kinds of numerous ways.

DLI is currently a team of about 10 people, but there are thousands of volunteers. In Belgium and in the world.

DLI is taking their programs around the world. And in 2018, they are looking to codify some of their programs and best practices, make handbooks, create plays, provide the research. So that anyone could easily replicate it in their social environment, and not need to re-invent the wheel. Help developing an innovative culture. And she will make sure DLI is there to support anyone who needs a helping hand implementing this.

“It is not us in Brussels living in a vacuum, but it’s taking a life of its own.” “It’s a movement, that won’t happen with the current 10 of us.”

Volunteers who really give their time! Who say: “This matters to me” and they get to take part in that visible, tangible outcome. Cheryl says she is high on it, and that’s why she remains so passionate about her cause.

She also says that more men need to be directly engaged. A silent majority of men want this change!

Therefore, male role models are a critical success factor!

And as women, we have to admit we also have an unconscious bias. Sometimes it’s the most ambitious women, that we want to put in her place. We scrutinize women, as women, more than men, sometimes.

She challenges women to become more accountable too. Us women, we should go out of our way! Don’t fall victim, but remind ourselves! Make that pledge!

Open the door for the most ambitious women! No victim blaming, as we are victims of our ecosystem, as well. Start horizontal women networks!

Let’s keep track on how we deliver!

#Ibootstrap !!!