Putting women in tech on the agenda — it’s time to play your part.
There are no excuses, and it takes no effort.
Yesterday, I was invited to participate in a high-profile panel discussion and pitch event in London. To be honest, it would have done me good to take part — the other guests included a well-known VC I’ve never met, and because our London accelerator programme starts in January, I’m keen to raise our profile any chance I get.
I turned down the offer, because all five guests, on a panel representing London investors and accelerator programmes, were male.
I emailed the organiser, explained why I didn’t feel I could take part, and offered to make introductions to women working in the industry. I’m pleased to say they took me up on my offer.
Three weeks ago I posted in a London startup forum about the lack of female founders applying to accelerator programmes. I added my email address and offered to help any women who had questions or were struggling to find support for their startup.
I expected one or two emails.
I received 43.
Since then, I’ve met over 20 of those founders, to offer advice, but also understand why they don’t perceive opportunities in tech the same way men do.
My eyes have been opened by the resulting conversations. I can’t unsee the fact that as an industry, and as a community, we’re propagating the myth that startup and technology is a man’s world.
This isn’t about inclusion for the sake of being politically correct. There are hundreds of female founders, entrepreneurs, VCs, angels, marketeers, developers, designers and accelerator managers. They’re not a rarity by any stretch.
Organisers and audiences want the best people to speak at events, and quite right, too. The good news is that women also have qualifications and experience and amusing anecdotes to share.
Yes, there certainly are more men then women in the industry — and it’s going to stay that way unless we address this. Know a startup struggling to recruit staff? Of course you do, because there’s a massive skill shortage that is crippling our industry — so let’s stop willingly discouraging 50% of the population.
This is happening because organisers and speakers alike are choosing to be either lazy or ignorant. The good news is that we can change this overnight, because it takes so little effort. We don’t need permission. We just have to make a choice.
So this is a call to action, London, and everyone in the capital’s tech community can play their part:
If you’re a male VC, investor, founder or entrepreneur:
The next time you’re invited to participate in an event, ask who else is taking part. If there are no female speakers invited, put your ego to one side and politely decline.
If you have a few spare seconds, and a conscience, offer to make introductions to the brilliant women you know and work with.
If you’re an event organiser:
Invite women to participate. If you don’t know any, please make the scantest of efforts to find them, by asking friends and colleagues, maybe tweeting, or perhaps using your eyes.
If you’re attending an event:
If the speaker line-up or panel is all-male, put your hand up and ask the first question: “Why are there no women on the panel?” The resulting embarrassment should make the point stick until the next time they’re asked to participate.
This is so important. And there’s no reason why we can’t do this. None whatsoever. Everyone can play their part.
And we can start now. So why don’t we?