Bath Digital Festival 2018 — Female Tech Leaders

In recent years, the city of Bath has made huge steps to becoming a powerhouse of digital innovation. New incubators are emerging in every corner of the South West and Bath is quickly catching up to the thriving start-up ecosystem seen in the neighbouring city of Bristol.

Bath Digital Festival 2018, a week-long celebration of digital technology for all, is here to celebrate just that. With over 100 speakers at over 85 events across 5 days, the festival has offered local residents, entrepreneurs and enthusiasts, the opportunity to engage in a true crucible of discovery, learning, debate and ideas.

We co-hosted a panel and discussion session alongside Rosie Bennett, Centre Director at Bath SETsquared Innovation Centre and organiser of ITGirls Collaborative meetup and mentoring network. ‘Rise of Female Tech Leaders’ explored motivations and inspirations of female entrepreneurs within the tech sector, and in particular those leading impact and for good businesses.

Our panel included:

· Lisa Forte — Partner at Red Goat Cyber Security LLP

· Mo Tomaney — Director at Wise Bird Network

· Sarah Bolt — CEO and Co-Founder at Forth With Life

· Emily Kent — Founder at One Big Circle and the social enterprise BeeBooked

· Ann Holman — consultant and executive coach, COO Doit.life

We had a diverse audience including several other local female tech leaders, students and women in tech to ensure a broad and ongoing discussion. As highlighted by Lisa, “events like these really encourage people from all sorts of backgrounds to share goals, tactics and inspirations. You come away feeling a huge sense of support and encouragement from your peers in tech”.

Women have long been underrepresented in entrepreneurship, but that trend is shifting — particularly in the impact business and tech sectors. With a rise in female entrepreneurship, this session explored the motivation and ambitions of the female entrepreneur, looking at the personal journeys of our inspiring panel speakers and learning how they built their business to success.

Our panel raised the role of innate personality, highlighting that the drive, resilience and endurance necessary to deal with failure and regular knock-backs faced by entrepreneurs are often ingrained in individuals. And yet, entrepreneurs learn how to build resilience and confidence through practice and experience. You should manage the emotions around your journey — think about your personal trigger-points and develop a toolkit that you can draw upon to build yourself up again. When presented with challenging situations the more you can desensitise yourself to the situation and deeply understand your own self, the more you’ll be able to convince yourself that you’re not nervous, you’re excited. As one of our audience members, Jo from Curious Trekkers, pointed out “We need to get the message out there to all those budding female entrepreneurs that with the right mindset and a healthy dose of confidence, anything is possible”.

Emily highlighted that “there are so many empowering and engaging businesses and movements being created by women and it’s important that those receive the profile and respect they deserve. It is clear that women in tech, and the organisations they lead, benefit from peer support, mentoring and networking and can flourish as a result. There is much to be cheered by, yet still more to be done to ensure that future in tech looks increasingly balanced”.

We also considered that funding and technology cannot support the development of a truly successful business alone and that sustainability and established growth are key requirements. Business teams should constantly seek outside expertise as constant opportunity for learning. Through a determination to deliver they will find success.

Productising is another key feature in building a successful business — not to be mistaken for the common misconception that having a product will innately make you successful. Having identified your target audience and the problem your product is addressing you need to search for that ‘click’. Find a passion around what you do and stay connected to this when you establish your product.

As commented by Ann Holman, COO of Doit.Life ‘I wouldn’t advise jumping off a cliff too often but sometimes you’ve got to just do that and hope you’ve built yourself a safe landing’. Build that landing through resilience, confidence, expertise and productising.

In a recent report published by FastForward it was found that 47% of all tech non-profit founders are women, compared to just 17% of traditional start-ups. The social enterprise model continues to attract female tech leaders with research suggesting this is attributable to their inherently caring, analytical and social behaviours.

For some of our panel speakers the motivation to drive positive social change underpinned their work, creating businesses born out of the urge to speak up and act out when nobody else was willing to. It’s about channelling frustrations and speaking publicly about opinions and representing the unrepresented. But if starting your own business was that easy, everyone would be doing it and no two journeys are the same so never feel intimidated by others success.

So how can you become a female tech leader? Here are our panelists 5 top tips…

  1. Surround yourself with positive people - Lisa
  2. Set yourself goals and reflect on your achievements - Mo
  3. Self-belief - Sarah
  4. Receive and payback mentoring, and always say yes! - Emily
  5. Find your passion and your purpose, then channel it into something positive customers will want to pay for - Ann

Foremost, don’t ever let your gender hold you back. Make sure your passions and business align, be the duck out of water, promote yourself and prove people wrong.

Whether you’re a university student, a corporate employee or a striving entrepreneur… find your place, your purpose and your passion and you’ll find success.

The panel was laden with compassionate advice. I’m in the process of starting my own business, so to hear relatable startup stories from such a brilliant lineup of women was a very reaffirming experience. And I loved the energy in the room! I felt that the whole room was keen to support and encourage each other. Lucia
Thanks for the interesting event. I was especially excited to hear from so many different women and their experience and perspectives — it gave me hope and provided me with insight, particularly around strategy and product development. ‘Purpose&Passion’ is going to be my new slogan and I do hope to make it my mantra in my own life (professional and private). Fran
Very nice to hear from other inspiring women, understanding their individual journeys in what can be a road less travelled when trying to make an impact especially in the world of tech. It was great also to network with like minded people. Looking forward to the next event. Julie
It was great to be in the room with some really inspiring women. I think the panel showed that women have a unique skill set that can really work well in the entrepreneurial environment. Jo
I particularly enjoyed the openness of the panel and the honest discussions with the audience too. Emily

All photography credits to www.venetianorrington.com