Julie Foulon believes access to new technologies and entrepreneurial training empowers all members of a community, particularly those who have not always received equal opportunities: women and youth. She believes that a person’s creativity and ambition can be more fully tapped when they transform from consumers to innovators of technology. As a participant in the International Visitor Leadership Program through the U.S. Embassy in Belgium, Julie travelled to the U.S. to learn more about start-ups and innovation.
Julie’s determination to bring social change began with close observation.“I’m curious by nature, and very passionate and enthusiastic about the world and about things that are going on,” she says. What she noticed is the need to more broadly harness the talents of two crucial groups: women and youth.
To accomplish this, Julie relies on her passion for new technologies and entrepreneurship. Her ability to turn these interests into tools for shaping a more inclusive and innovative society benefits many. “I think my main characteristic is that I’m able to adapt myself into society and transmit that to others,” she says.
Her first project, “Girleek,” focuses on empowering women by providing them opportunities to work with new technologies. Her second project, “Molengeek,” is an incubator and recruiting school based in Molenbeek that provides access to new technologies and training in entrepreneurship to anyone.
Julie found inspiration for her mission as a participant in the International Visitor Leadership Program through the US Embassy in Belgium. Not only did she learn more about start-ups and innovation, but she also made cultural observations that resonated with her own beliefs. “In the U.S. they’ve realized that innovation comes from young people.” Julie finds that young people “use technology in a different way. That’s why it’s so important to add them into this world. They’ve got a different point of view, a different perspective. So it’s very interesting to have them.”
“An Inclusive Community”
In targeting young people, Julie’s approach is to “make them actors for change, and not only just consumers of new technologies.” The educational system, which Julie says can be “kind of old-fashioned”, is a tool to help make that happen. She envisions “a more collaborative system where young people can really adapt themselves to society and project themselves into the world we should invest in – in Belgium.” This is an excellent investment of time and resources, Julie says: “We should focus on the young generation because they see the world in a different way. That’s where innovation will come from.”
Julie appreciates her experiences in diverse cultures as a young person growing up in a variety of countries in Africa and Europe before settling in Belgium. Today, it helps fuel her mission to give access to new opportunities to a broader group of people.“I’m currently working on that – to make Belgium more diverse. That’s really a hope I’ve got.”
A more inclusive society means empowering women to fight for equal treatment and to seize the opportunities they deserve. “The change I would like to see is to have more women in ICT because we’ve got few women in the sector, in these kinds of opportunities. It’s really important to embrace and to empower more women because women are half of humanity. It’s a shame they are not there.” Julie has made a long-term commitment to seeing her goals realized: “Even when faced with challenges, I keep going. I stay focused and I try to fight.”“It’s really important to embrace and to empower more women.”