With the rise in female founders, has tech’s gender problem lost it’s balance?
The technology sector is beating the FTSE when it comes to the number of female leaders. One in five tech firms in the UK are run by women, compared to just five per cent of FTSE 100 companies and only four per cent of FTSE 250 businesses.
This is certainly a positive statistic for women in tech, but not necessarily for the technology industry.
According to the new research from Tech London Advocates, women still remain underrepresented when it comes to senior management positions at tech companies.
A fifth of London tech companies still don’t have a single woman at board level, according to the annual Women in Tech Leadership Index. Women hold less than a quarter of the top roles at almost half of London’s tech startups. Only one in four senior teams represents the gender split of the capital.
More than half of the Tech London Advocate members surveyed believe the sector doesn’t represent the broader diversity of London, while the same proportion, 60 per cent, said they had actively taken steps to increase diversity when recruiting.
“Female chief executives have been instrumental in the rise of London’s tech sector, creating some of the city’s most exciting businesses, but the lack of wider representation for women at senior levels is shameful,” says Russ Shaw, going on to say failing to address the issue was simply bad for business.
The issue is certainly an area for debate at this year’s London Technology Week, with figures such as Baroness Oona King and Dame Judith Mayhew Jonas speaking at the opening London Tech Week on the topic of gender equality.
“Time and again we see companies flourish when they embrace diverse workforces,” said Baroness King. “London Technology Week brings together inspiring leaders to show how it’s done. It’s not about ticking the box, it’s about thinking outside the box.”
“Failing to engage women in technology careers undermines the open, diverse outlook of the digital industry,” said Sarah Luxford, director at Nexec Leaders and head of Tech London Advocates Women in Tech group, which is organising the event.
Whilst having more women creating and leading businesses is a good thing; we still need to encourage more female talent to join technology businesses at lower levels and provide an environment that allows them to flourish and progress.
For me, the increase in female founders in technology is a testament to the courage and creativity of women and the power of the women in tech community. We live in a time when almost everyone has access to free online courses and information to become a digital entrepreneur, and, from my experience, if the women in tech community conveys just one message to new members it is: “You are not alone in this. Let’s support each other!”
But to build a thriving technology ecosystem we can’t afford not to increase inclusion. As Baroness King reminds us: “a bigger talent pool means more creativity and economic growth for years to come.”
If this trend continues, the tech industry could see a growing imbalance in the distribution of female talent, with the vast majority preferring to be self-employed or start their own business than work as a full-time employee. The current roles models and messages we are giving the next generation right now won’t just influence whether they pursue a career in technology, but how they will decide to employ those skills.
So what can tech startups, SMEs, and multinationals do to improve the representation of women in tech?
There is, of course, no “silver bullet” solution, but in our next blog post on this topic we’ll offer some recommended steps for businesses who are ready to embrace diversity and culture change.
But for those of you who are eager for some suggestions right now we have some great tips from Zoe Lewis, an Inclusion and Diversity executive at Accenture, who shares five ways business leaders can attract, retain and give voice to women in tech.