By Kat Wellum-Kent, Founder of Fractional Finance

The world of technology evolves extremely quickly, but where it does remain stilted is its gender diversity. It’s still a male-dominated sector, we only need to look at the statistics to prove this.

The gender pay gap in the UK tech start-up market sits at 26%, the highest unadjusted pay gap in Europe. In financial terms, this means for every £1 a man makes in the sector, a woman makes just 74p.

Money is just the tip of the iceberg. Perhaps playing a large role in the gender pay gap in tech is the continued disparity in gender representation. The Tech Talent Charter found that only 28% of the sector is made up of gender minorities, nearly all identify as women. Climb a few rungs of the ladder to senior management, and this number drops to 22%.

Climb all the way to the top to the Founder level, and it becomes truly apparent the disparity women face. When it comes to investment, women will – on average – only receive £736,000 in investment compared to the average £4.7m men receive.

So, it’s no wonder when you look at all these stats that women still struggle to see a place for themselves in the industry.

Breaking the mould

When I first entered the working world, I did anything I possibly could to fit the mould that I saw in front of me, expecting that to be the way to climb the career ladder and be seen. I simply couldn’t wrap my head around why it wasn’t doing me any favours. I was acting, speaking, almost sounding like the people around me who were rapidly climbing the career ladder; so, what was I doing wrong?

I learned, over the years that followed, that I didn’t need to sound, look, or act like others around me to succeed. Instead, what got me noticed was my authentic self and the differences I brought to the table.  I had to be my own role model. Now, working specifically with tech start-ups and scale-ups, my goal is to share my experience with other female founders and help them find success in being their own role models too.

Diversity is a superpower

Not fitting the mould is the best thing anyone can do. When you, as a diverse individual, step into a room, you bring with you new perspectives, new experiences, and new ways of working that would never have been thought of before. And it’ll be these nuances that bring you success because you’ll be the pioneer in the room.

Whenever I think about being the pioneer, I’m always reminded of the example shared by Caroline Criado Perez in Invisible Women:

Virtual Reality is another area of tech that is male-dominated, and it shows. So many women struggle using VR headsets, simply because they’re not designed with them in mind. They’re less likely to fit women and they’re more likely to make them feel motion sick faster.

However, Caroline recounts the experience of tech journalist, Adi Robertson. Adi went to trial a VR headset which was meant to track her eyes. For the first few minutes, it didn’t work. The founder quickly checked to see if Adi was wearing mascara, which she was. Just a few re-calibrations later and the issue was fixed.

As Adi said:

“I was surprised, not by the fact that it worked, but by the fact that someone had thought to troubleshoot make-up. Incidentally…this was one of the only VR start-ups I’ve ever covered with a female founder.”

Your differences not only make you unique, but they also make you acutely aware of the challenges others like you may face, therefore giving you a greater understanding of how to solve them.

Find your community

Of course, being your own role model can be a lonely place. What do you do when you’re the only person in the room that looks or sounds like you?

Don’t be afraid to look outside of your current sector circle to find others who may be in the same boat as you. I have met so many incredible female founders and female pioneers throughout my career who haven’t necessarily sat in the same sector circles as me, but that was key. They brought new challenges, experiences, understanding, and solutions to the table that I would have never thought about or been privy to if I only sat within my own bubble.

Be your own role model to be someone else’s role model

Personal success aside, you’re going to do so much more than make strides in your career by being your own role model. Perhaps more importantly, you’re likely to be someone else’s role model. You could be the reason other brilliant, diverse talents take the leap to join or progress in their industry. You could be the reason someone decides to speak up in a meeting and be the instigator of change. You could be the reason more allies come on board to support diverse talent.

Don’t underestimate the power of taking a chance on yourself.

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