female data scientist, woman leading team

Article by Claudia Cavalluzzo, Director, Converge

The past few years has seen a spike in the emergence of women in technology and leadership who are fronting a new paradigm where innovation addresses many of the world’s chief concerns.

They are driving the agenda to a new generation of disruption and technology.

I witness this all the time as Director of Converge, Scotland’s national company creation programme for our university network, when last year our three main Converge award categories saw triumphs for women founders.

It came as no surprise there was a female ‘clean sweep’. Up to that point, every year we had witnessed an increase in women applying to the Converge programme, coming forward with some truly inspiring ideas and in fairness, this surge of applicants from a strong female academic cohort was hardly unique. Around the world we witness daily how female entrepreneurship and innovation has surged and making a profound difference in so many different walks of life.

The drive, ambition, and focus are the qualities that have kept innovation rolling at a seemingly invincible pace and are managing to now quell any criticism of an industry that had a perceived lack of diversity that was once synonymous and pervasive.

Today, some of the global technology industry’s most influential roles are held by women across the tech spectrum – entrepreneurs, corporate executives, investors, and policy makers.

However,the pandemic has had a disproportionate effect on women in business, as highlighted by many reports, the latest of which is attributed to Professor Norin Arshed, Chair of Entrepreneurship and Associate Dean of Research in the School of Business at the University of Dundee.

This report, focused on Scotland’s female business owners, found that the challenges women entrepreneurs faced were amplified during the pandemic. These focussed around the historically reported barriers for women entrepreneurs (access to finance, lack of specific support, lion share of childcare and elderly care) which were exacerbated by the Covid-19 crisis.

Despite quick advances in tech platforms, networking is still done best face to face and this is an aspect where women tend to excel. Therefore, the lack of social interactions we all experienced in the last 20 months has been more strongly felt by women.

From a Converge point of view, this was reflected in a slowdown in female applications for our 2021 programme with several who participated having to juggle multiple priorities. We adapted our offering to online and on demand training sessions and spent an incredible amount of time brokering relationships between our participants and the entrepreneurial support community.

We won’t stop here. Converge will continue to tap into the global richness and exceptional skills of female-led and inspired innovation that sits within Scotland’s world-class Universities. We will get back on track for gender balance and equality in business.

Female entrepreneurs who apply to join the Converge programme come to Scotland to study from every corner of the globe. Their innovations and ingenuity have created businesses that are tackling head-on, some of the world’s greatest challenges – particularly around areas such as the climate emergency. All of them work towards a common goal of having the potential to transform people’s lives and the planet around us.

Claudia Cavalluzzo, Director, ConvergeAbout the author

Claudia Cavalluzzo is Director of Converge – the only programme of its kind that brings together academic entrepreneurs from every university in Scotland. Its mission is to empower people to take their future into their own hands. This is done  by providing intensive business training – tailored to academic entrepreneurs – a dynamic and supportive network and one to one guidance for staff, students and graduates. More details at www.convergechallenge.com