Diverse international and interracial group of standing women, women empowering women

How women in tech can break industry biases

Diverse international and interracial group of standing women, women empowering women

Article provided by Elka Goldstein, interim CEO of the London Tech Week conference EQL: HER

Representation of women in the tech industry has been a widely discussed topic, and one we must continue to debate.

In the last five years, gender representation has improved however despite this, just 26% of those in the tech workforce are women.

It’s not surprising then that many tech leaders are now mindful of age-old problems such as the gender gap and the lack of women in the tech talent pipeline.

As the tech industry takes a central role in helping the global economy rebound, it must seize the moment to be inclusively bold. We need every talented entrepreneur contributing to a strong and lasting UK recovery.

Lack of investment in women-led start-ups must be addressed

Despite generating more than twice as much revenue per dollar invested, when compared to male-founded companies, companies founded by women continue to receive the lowest share of investment in the UK. If we look at the statistics:

of pitch decks received by VCs include one or more women founders

of investments went to startups with one or more women founders

of investment value went to teams with one or more women founders

VCs are in the privileged position of making investments that have a real impact on the world we live in.

It is not the women who need to change how they pitch or who they target, it is the structural bias towards women-led businesses that needs to change.

However, it’s not only that few women-led businesses are invested in, it’s also that there are so few women in positions of power to invest in start-ups. Women are significantly under-represented in investment teams, with merely 13% of decision-makers in the UK’s venture capital scene.

Unconscious bias

Although gender representation is going through an organic shift due to the more progressive hiring policies of recent years, two-thirds (66%) of technology recruiters say bias is an issue in hiring, with resumes regarded as a major contributory factor.

The best way to eliminate unconscious bias is to call it out and put a name on it so that it can be addressed at work, at home and in school, with more people having conversations about it. When we have open and honest conversations we’re able to see unconscious bias.

Tech businesses should re-evaluate hiring and promotion practices, and become vigilant and aware of how unconscious bias plays a role in decision making. That means recognising affinity bias and putting a stop to trying to find employees that are a “good fit.” The focus should instead be on finding employees that will bring diverse ideas to the table. Only by addressing these issues, will we support the next generation.

Biases start at home

We all have a part to play in breaking biases. They start when we compliment girls’ appearances and praise boys’ actions. Bias start when we encourage predetermined gender specific activities, instead of offering up everything to everyone.

Over the last 10 years, more coding camps and STEM programmes targeted at young people have been developed. This has allowed room for gender specific programmes, such as Girls Who Code or STEAM Girls, where girls can learn a new skill in an industry that is predominately run by men.

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In the meantime, what about the rest of us? 

What about the women who didn’t grow up playing Halo, and were encouraged to reach for the middle as “support staff” and who qualify using Microsoft tools as being “techy”? For many, it feels too late to retrain and be part of an industry that was just not accessible 10 or 15 years ago.

Or for some, being the one woman in the room, sick of being paraded around as a token and way of expressing “This is a safe space for women to work!”. This “token woman” problem doesn’t just happen on boards – it’s seen in every day choices such as putting women forward to speak at events and using the same person to give the appearance of diversity, when often the reality is less so.

Seek out inspirational peers

More needs to be done to support women into the industry. Companies and government still have a lot more to do to counter the perception people have of those that work in tech, and what working in tech really looks like day to day.

Acknowledge the bias, acknowledge that other people had different advantages than you, then choose what you will do with that information.

Find other inspirational women in coding groups, go to a crypto curious event, push yourself to learn something new and instead of feeling too far behind that you can’t catch up — think of it as you are learning in step with the rest of the world as we all navigate new ways of elevating women together in this male dominated industry.

Access to tech role models and forward-thinking leaders

Although it’s clear that changes are happening in the industry, there is still a long way to go. This change can be accelerated by encouraging women to participate in the tech space and a thorough re-examination of unconscious bias.

We are in a make-or-break moment for women in tech, and the choices that leaders in our industry make this year will have profound consequences for women, families, our economy, and the future of technology itself.

That’s why it’s imperative to provide platforms and forums, such as EQL: HER at London Tech Week, for forward-thinking leaders who are determined to address the under-representation of women in technology through action.

London Tech Week will be taking place on the 13 -17 June 2022 at the Queen Elizabeth II Centre, get your event pass here.

Elka Goldstein HeadshotAbout the author

Elka Goldstein is interim CEO for EQL: HER, the global network and event series addressing the gender imbalance in the technology sector. She recently moved to London after working at start-ups in Silicon Valley and launching the enterprise division for drone-maker, DJI. 

After taking on the role last year, Elka has led EQL:HER in their aim to re-balance the technology industry, securing an inclusive future across all businesses. Elka believes in real actionable change to create a more equitable world, championing those who promote gender equality and overturn tired stereotypes. 

Having worked in the tech and marketing sectors for almost 20 years, Elka’s passion for start-up began while discovering a stealth automotive company, the grew whilst working at Stanford Business School. It was in this role that she curated an exclusive global VIP speaker series, working closely with students beginning their start-up journey.