Technology-community-feature

Article provided by Emma Sayle, Founder and CEO Killing Kittens, Safedate and Sistr

It is a stark fact that the tech industry – like so many industries linked to science, technology, maths and engineering (STEM) – remain disproportionately represented by men.

Just 16 per cent of computer science undergraduates in the UK are women, which means there is an automatic gender bias on graduates reaching the big tech companies. This bias continues deep into the economy, with only one fifth of UK businesses currently run by women and only a third of all UK entrepreneurs are female.  Balancing the books on gender is one of the most important challenges facing our society today because without equal opportunities, we put creativity, growth and diversity at risk.

The lack of female business owners and entrepreneurs is not due to lack of talent or aptitude.  Sistr – an all-female dedicated networking site for women in business – is proof that there are plenty of exceptional and talented women who have launched careers and defined new businesses with phenomenal success.  The long-standing bias towards men in the tech industry makes the achievements of these female-led ventures even more remarkable, especially when you consider only one per cent of investment funding goes to women.

But times are changing and whereas women still are very much the minority in the tech and STEM world, more women than ever before are taking advantage of the digital economy and the fact that anyone can start a business from anywhere, anytime.  The traditional playing field has already changed beyond recognition and the old rules no longer apply, which can only mean more opportunities for women as they start to populate male-biased industries and deliver new business models.

Whilst it will take a long time for more equal representation in tech industry and STEM, there is now a wealth of talented and influential female-led communities that are committed to helping women access all areas of business, as well as launching their own ventures.  This support and inspiration is key to helping today’s business-women push past attitude and gender barriers to reach their full and rightful potential.  What is remarkable about these communities, like Sistr, is the number of qualified mentors who have willingly agreed to give up their time to talk to women and share their own experiences of female leadership in business, helping them to navigate the challenges and bias they face in their careers today.

Perhaps one of the most obvious bias that many women will face is that of parenthood, a bias that is prevalent not just in male-dominated sectors but from society as a whole.  Subconsciously or not, there is an assumption that younger, childless women will want to have children and will therefore stop working at some point; whereas women with children are doubted on their ability to manage their career successfully alongside their parenting role.  For older mothers who have decided they want to launch a business, there is an undercurrent of it being seen as little more than a hobby now that they have children and are not in full-time work.

Taking on a male-led industry requires grit and determination because the fact remains that women continue to be unfairly judged on many variables that have nothing to do with their competency and ability to lead a business.  Re-balancing the gender equation in tech is key to creating a work environment that celebrates and supports diversity, rather than making women feel they have to be more ‘male’ in order to succeed.  Women need to have more self-belief in their ability to succeed and this is where a supportive mentor and access to like-minded female-networks can make a powerful difference.

Ultimately, in order to really tackle gender disparity, we need to start from the grass roots up to help educate the next generation that gender is not a barrier to any industry.  There has to be a deliberate and conscious change in dialogue, from the earliest of ages in our homes and schools, to stem the flow of gender-bias reaching the workplace, because if a young woman starts to doubt if she has got what it takes to launch her own business, the damage has already been done.

Emma Sayle featuredAbout the author

Emma is the Founder of Sistr, a platform that enables professional businesswomen to network, offer advice and mentor each other.

Find out more at sistrapp.com. You can also sponsor Emma and the rest of the Sisterhood for their Channel Swim.

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