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Getting to the top in a male-dominated industry

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Article provided by Kate Newhouse, CEO, Blenheim Chalcot

Starting out in any career is daunting – and the tech industry is no different.

The change of pace is monumental: pitfalls are plentiful, and hurdles lie around every corner. It can be a minefield to navigate.

My career in tech began in the health space with Doctor Care Anywhere – an ambitious tech start-up and patient-focused app that set out to disrupt the way people engage with the health sector. I was part of the founding team and led the business through to its Series B fundraise, before moving to Blenheim Chalcot where I’m the CEO.

Throughout my journey, I’ve seen the important and valuable result of prioritising inclusion and diversity. There have been vast improvements in the tech sector – one in nine senior leaders in the tech sector, comes from black, Asian or minority ethnic backgrounds, compared to one in twelve in the FTSE 100.

But in terms of gender diversity, there is a huge amount of work still to be done. The tech sector lags behind other industries in its gender diversity, with women making up only 12.6% of board members, compared to 30% female representation achieved by FTSE 100 businesses.

As CEO I think it’s really important to be constantly innovating – and doing so requires a diverse workforce of bright minds. Diversity runs deeper than gender and true inclusion is multi-faceted, but it is reassuring to see more women breaking the glass ceiling in the tech sector.

I’m fortunate to work with a number of these bright minds, who bring a wealth of experience and backgrounds to their work. As Director of Operations, Venture Builder Services, Rachel Burnham is leading the charge and supporting transformation across the portfolio. Verity Buck at Salary Finance, Fay Miller at Fospha, and Amy Crawford at AVADO are all inspiring change across the Blenheim Chalcot portfolio.

Alexandra Darmon, the first Data Scientist hired at Blenheim Chalcot, worked with Researcher to develop AI-driven technology to help academics stay on top of the literature. Meanwhile, Dovile Hann, the CFO at Hive Learning, is transforming the way organisations train their staff and upskill their employees.

This is huge reason for optimism, and a sign the industry is moving in the right direction. But there are still many barriers, and the truth is that women are expected to overcome disproportionately steep hurdles to reach executive positions.

What steps should be taken?

It’s easier said than done, but we should never forget the value of celebrating role models whose achievements help generate waves of progress. The businesses placing diversity and inclusion at its heart, and creating products and services that solve real-world problems, acting for the betterment of society and using tech as a force for good.

But championing progress isn’t enough. We won’t get far unless we make longstanding commitments to improving inclusion that guide and shape business strategy, and that revolutionise workplace cultures to support all team members and ensure they are able to realise their potential. This goes beyond the demographics of the workforce and Board and will influence the ideas, products and legacy.If we are to effectively take on the challenges and make measurable progress then we have to start early – as business leaders, mentorship is critical in building tangible ties and beyond the education system, helping to light the path into the tech sector for all.

At Blenheim Chalcot, we are proud of the impact of our BC Build programme. An intensive six-month programme, BC Build, aims to identify the leaders of tomorrow, expand their areas of expertise and equip them for positions in leadership.

Our Director of Operations, Rachel, also set up a ‘coffee roulette’, in which every employee can be paired with a senior member of the team, in a completely random partnership. People make professional and personal ties that span not only level but also social groups and backgrounds. Clearly there are small steps that every business can begin to implement which support internal inclusion and ensure that the most talented individuals are able to realise their potential.

Tech is a rapidly evolving and expanding sector, one that is colliding with every other industry and underpinning Britain’s digital economy – from finance to healthcare. The sector needs more women, a goal to form part of a holistic view of diversity in tech. If we are to continue to produce globally significant innovation, then we need to realise the potential held within all of society.