female data scientist, woman leading team

From Canada to Cameroon - Women who shape technology innovation shape the world around us

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


desk-with-laptop-promoted-promotion-featured

Women, Technology and Relationships - Three Key Ingredients For Success

Claudia Cavalluzzo, Director, Converge

desk-with-laptopI recently had the pleasure of hosting Lesley Eccles at ‘Inside Innovation’, our new virtual event that showcased some of the most ambitious new and future emerging technologies from Scotland’s Universities.

Many may know Lesley as one of the co-founders of FanDuel, a Scottish born multi billion company (Scotland’s first ‘unicorn’ I believe) operating in the fantasy sport market in the United States. Its story is well known, and it has now been collated by the author Albert Chen in a book called ‘The billion-dollar fantasy’. Lesley, in her interview on the virtual Converge couch, admitted that the journey with FanDuel has not been an easy one but if there is one thing she has learned during the trials and tribulations that led Fanduel’s success, is that relationships are key. In fact, she has recently launched Relish, the world’s first personal trainer app for relationships.

Relationships, in their purest nature, are based on trust. They can make or break a company. Attitude over skills, emotional intelligence over technical abilities. But let’s not forget the relationships that make you function as a human being, like the ones with your partner or friends. Relationships shape who we are and how we behave. They provide that sanity check we need when we can’t think about anything else but our business.

Life is busy, even more so if you are an entrepreneur.  The health of your relationship with your life partner can easily get pushed down the ‘to do’ list or even be left running in the background, like a programme that automatically launches when you switch on your laptop.

The life of a start-up can be so fast-paced and intense, it can absorb people completely. I have seen many entrepreneurs over the years being so entangled with their new business at the expense of their personal life and relationships.

I have the privilege of working with some of the most exciting innovative business that emerge from Scotland’s Universities. A prime example is Elasmogen, a biopharmaceutical spin-out company developing the next-generation of products for the sight-saving treatment of inflammatory diseases of the eye and inflammatory conditions of the gut.  Elasmogen’s founder and CEO, Caroline Barelle, began her entrepreneurial journey after being made redundant from a large pharmaceutical company.

In 2015, she secured the runner-up prize in the Converge Challenge and hasn’t looked back. Under her stewardship, Elasmogen has grown leaps and bounds and was named by Labioutech.eu as one of the top ten biotechs in Scotland. Caroline has also received numerous accolades including the Royal Society of Edinburgh Enterprise Fellowship. A fine example of an exceptional female technology innovator and entrepreneur.

Caroline understands the importance of valuing the team and believes that the right work culture is instrumental to the growth and expansion of her company.

It just goes to show that Women, Technology and relationship are a recipe for success.

Of the hundreds of new technologies, we see every year, many of them are led by aspiring female entrepreneurs. Last year, the Converge programme achieved gender balance, both in terms of cohort composition and prize winners. This year we have seen a drop in these figures, probably due to the unfair impact of the pandemic on women, as highlighted by Women’s Enterprise Scotland, which is the rational behind their newly launched Women’s Business Centre.

The key message is not that lack of female entrepreneurs is unfair (which it is) but it’s that it’s bad for the economy and society.

With more ‘Carolines and Lesleys’, the world is a richer place, both in terms of profit and culture.

Once again, Lesley Eccles is paving the way.  She has seized the opportunity and grabbed it with both hands. Lesley, Caroline and the many female entrepreneurs I see come through Converge every year are all making their marks in the sand, they inspire me every day and give us all a glimpse of hope for a fairer and more prosperous future.

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