By Karen Holden

Women in Technology: Pioneering Progress in Business & legal considerations to fund & scale your emerging technology.

In the fast-evolving landscape of technology, women are increasingly making their mark, driving innovation, and reshaping the future of business.

As the digital realm becomes increasingly integral to all sectors, from finance to healthcare, the presence and contributions of women in technology have become more pronounced, challenging traditional norms and demanding that funders and investors sit up and take note. So what do you need to consider in terms of growth, legal, seeking investment and being ready to pitch and how can we all work collaboratively to bring the balance together between women and men in tech?

There are still gender barriers, and of course, the figures are still presenting a bias toward women, scaling their businesses and seeking funding. However, there are opportunities, and funds readily available for the right business and things are slowly changing. The legal frameworks have played a crucial role in advocating for gender equality in the workplace, including the tech sector.

The Equality Act 2010 prohibits discrimination based on gender, ensuring that women have equal opportunities for employment and advancement in technology-related fields. Furthermore, initiatives such as the Gender Pay Gap Reporting Regulations require large employers to disclose gender pay disparities, shedding light on inequalities and prompting action towards closing the gap. Tapping into the Gender Index for data enables people to now truly understand the landscape of women in business and women in technology. There are lots of reports and people now shining a light to try to motivate and constructively push women forward.

Despite these advancements, women continue to be underrepresented in technology roles. According to a report by the UK Office for National Statistics, only 17.4% of tech roles are filled by women. This underrepresentation is particularly evident in emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), blockchain, and cybersecurity. But let’s focus on the positive and taking affirmative action as this is what we are all about.

Strides are being made to address the imbalance and empower women in technology

In the business world, the presence of women in technology is proving to be a catalyst for innovation and growth. Studies have shown that diverse teams, including those with gender diversity, tend to outperform male-only ones, bringing a broader range of perspectives and ideas to the table. Companies that prioritise gender diversity in their tech teams are better positioned to understand and cater to the diverse needs of their customers in an increasingly global marketplace.

Moreover, women in technology are driving the development and adoption of emerging technologies in business. From leveraging AI to enhance customer experiences to championing data privacy and cybersecurity measures, women are at the forefront of shaping how businesses utilise technology to stay competitive and relevant in the digital age.

Addressing challenges requires a concerted effort from governments, businesses, and society to dismantle systemic barriers and foster an environment where women can thrive and succeed in technology roles.

So how can we encourage more women to be involved in emergent technology in business in the UK

Early Education and Outreach:

    • Promote STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) in schools, starting from a young age, to spark interest and confidence in girls.
    • Organise workshops, coding camps, and extracurricular activities specifically targeted at girls to expose them to technology and foster their skills and passion.

Mentorship and Role Models:

    • Establish mentorship programs connecting female students and professionals with experienced women in technology roles who can provide guidance, support, and inspiration.
    • Showcase successful female leaders in technology through events, conferences, and media to provide visible role models and demonstrate diverse career paths in the tech industry.

Supportive Work Environments:

Address Bias and Stereotypes:

    • Provide unconscious bias training for hiring managers and decision-makers to mitigate biases in recruitment, promotion, and performance evaluations.
    • Challenge gender stereotypes and promote inclusive language and imagery in job postings, marketing materials, and company communications to attract and retain diverse talent
    • Culture is key but enforcing legal rights and asserting equality using the legal framework is vital

Networking and Community Building:

    • Foster networks and communities specifically for women in technology, both online and offline, to facilitate networking, knowledge-sharing, and collaboration.
    • Partner with industry organisations, universities, and professional associations to create supportive ecosystems and opportunities for women to connect and advance their careers.

Educational and Career Opportunities:

    • Offer scholarships, internships, and apprenticeship programs aimed at increasing the representation of women in technology-related fields.
    • Provide training and upskilling opportunities for women transitioning into tech roles from other disciplines, ensuring they have access to the skills and resources needed to succeed.

Advocacy and Policy:

    • Advocate for policies and initiatives that promote gender diversity and inclusion in the tech industry, such as gender pay gap reporting, parental leave policies, and workplace diversity quotas.
    • Collaborate with government agencies, industry associations, and advocacy groups to drive systemic change and address structural barriers to women’s participation in technology.

By implementing these strategies and fostering a culture of inclusivity and support, businesses and stakeholders can encourage more women to pursue and thrive in emergent technology roles in the UK, ultimately driving innovation, diversity, and economic growth in the digital age.

How can women in technology adapt a stronger negotiation position be it for a career path, salary change or for their business growth?

Know Your Worth: Research industry standards and market rates for your role and expertise. Understand the value you bring in terms of skills, experience, and contributions to projects or teams. Just stop undervaluing yourself as so often we ask for too little, and hide behind labels like imposter we need to stand up and value just how much we bring to the table.

Prepare Thoroughly: Before entering negotiations, gather relevant data and evidence of your achievements, such as successful projects, certifications, or awards. Prepare a compelling case highlighting your strengths, accomplishments, and the impact of your work on the business. It’s not natural for women to stand up and brag about themselves, but we need to be more confident asserting our strengths and achievements. This picture is important to give you credibility and understand the true experience and innovation behind the team. Knowing who is in the room; what they are looking for and their history supports female growth.

Set Clear Goals: Define your objectives and desired outcomes for the negotiation and be clear about why it is justified based on your performance and market value.

Practice Assertiveness: Cultivate confidence and assertiveness in expressing your needs and advocating for yourself during negotiations.

Emphasise Value Proposition: Focus on the value you bring and exactly what their support, money or decision will mean for you and the value it will bring.

Seek Support and Guidance: Consider enlisting the support of mentors, colleagues, or HR professionals who can provide guidance, feedback, and insights into negotiation strategies. Role-play scenarios or conduct mock negotiations to refine your approach and build confidence.

Be Willing to Walk Away: Know your bottom line and be prepared to walk away from negotiations if the terms are not favourable or do not meet your expectations. A battle must have battle lines and compromises but you know where to stop

Follow Up in Writing: After reaching an agreement, document the terms of the negotiation in writing. This helps ensure clarity and accountability for both parties.

How can women secure grant funding for their technology?

Research Funding Opportunities: Start by researching grant programmes specifically tailored to women entrepreneurs and technology initiatives. Organisations such as Innovate UK, UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), and European Union funding programs often offer grants and funding opportunities for women-led tech projects. There are opportunities to set up in Dublin  for example, therefore having a European foothold allowing you to explore European funding or Dubai where the government are actively paying you to move there

Identify Eligibility Criteria: Review the eligibility criteria for each funding opportunity to ensure your project meets the requirements. Some grants may be targeted towards specific sectors, stages of development, or areas of innovation, so it’s essential to align your project with the funding priorities.

Develop a Strong Proposal: Craft a compelling grant proposal that clearly articulates the problem you’re addressing, the innovative solution you’re proposing, and the potential impact of your technology project. Highlight your expertise, qualifications, and the unique value proposition of your project.

Seek Mentorship and Support: Leverage mentorship programs, incubators, and networking communities focused on women in technology to gain guidance, feedback, and support in developing your grant proposal. Mentors and peers can provide valuable insights and help strengthen your application.

Build Partnerships and Collaborations: Consider forming partnerships or collaborations with other organisations, universities, or research institutions to enhance the credibility and feasibility of your technology project. Collaborative proposals often have a higher chance of success and can leverage complementary expertise and resources.

Demonstrate Impact and Sustainability: Clearly outline the potential impact of your technology project, including its economic, social, and environmental benefits. Emphasise the scalability, sustainability, and long-term viability of your solution to demonstrate its potential for success and value to funders.

Prepare a Comprehensive Budget: Develop a detailed budget outlining the funding required for your technology project, including expenses such as research and development, equipment, personnel, and overhead costs. Ensure your budget is realistic, transparent, and aligned with the grant guidelines.

Submit a Strong Application: Follow the application instructions carefully and submit your grant proposal by the specified deadline. Double-check for any errors or inconsistencies, and ensure all required documentation and supporting materials are included with your application.

Engage with Funders and Reviewers: If possible, engage with funders and reviewers throughout the application process to seek feedback, clarify any questions or concerns, and demonstrate your enthusiasm and commitment to your technology project.

Be Persistent and Resilient: Grant funding can be competitive, and success may not come immediately. Be prepared to persevere, learn from feedback, and refine your approach for future funding opportunities. Celebrate small wins and milestones along the way to stay motivated and focused on your goals.

What options are available for women in technology to secure equity funding for their business right now?

Securing equity funding can take time and be an accruing process, but if done carefully and you’re prepared in advance can help inject capital into your project. Yes of course, there are always going to be barriers to market and funding, but there are so many interested parties out there, fascinated and supporting female-led businesses, particularly tech. There are so many opportunities for you to embrace.

Venture Capital (VC) Funding: Venture capital firms invest in high-growth startups with significant potential for returns. Women-led tech startups can seek funding from VC firms that have a track record of investing in diverse founders or explicitly focus on supporting women entrepreneurs. Some notable VC firms include Balderton Capital, Index Ventures, and Atomico. You will need to be diligent and be truly prepared, not only to get your foot in the door but to secure funding, have them sit on the board and drive you rapidly forward, potentially for merges or sales.

Angel Investors: Angel investors are affluent individuals who provide capital to early-stage startups in exchange for equity. Usually, the process is less rigorous than for a VC, the idea for them to open doors for you as well, as in jet capital, opens you up to a network and mentors advice you potentially. You can seek these individuals out personally through a broker, or through platforms to give you seed funding for your scale.

Crowdfunding: Crowdfunding platforms allow entrepreneurs to raise capital from a large number of individual investors through online campaigns. This does take care for consideration, but if you have a product that you want to take to the public and have mass marketing this is a real assistance to you. You need to be very careful to protect your patent and IP when following this route.

Accelerators and Incubators: Accelerator and incubator programs provide funding, mentorship, and resources to help startups grow and succeed. Women-focused accelerators and incubators will allow you to pitch for feedback and funding and will open up a network for you. Such as the female founder’s growth program may wish to work with you to help you with the roadmap to investment with advice and introductions.

Pitch Competitions and Awards: Participating in pitch competitions and applying for awards targeted at women entrepreneurs can provide visibility, credibility, and potential funding opportunities. Events like the Women in Tech Challenge, Women Startup Challenge Europe, or the TechWomen100 Awards recognise and support women-led ventures in technology.

Networking and Relationship Building: Building relationships with potential investors through networking events, industry conferences, and mentorship programs can help women entrepreneurs access equity funding opportunities. Cultivating strong connections with investors and demonstrating the value proposition of your technology business can increase your chances of securing funding.

What legal considerations does a woman in emergency technology need to consider when seeking investment and scaling their business?

When seeking investment or scaling you need to navigate several legal considerations to protect your interests and ensure compliance with relevant regulations.

Intellectual Property Protection: Protecting intellectual property (IP) rights is crucial for emergency technology businesses. You should consider securing patents, trademarks, or copyrights for their innovative technologies, processes, or branding to prevent unauthorised use or infringement by competitors.

Equity Structure and Ownership: Determining the equity structure and ownership distribution of the business is essential when seeking investment. Women founders should carefully negotiate and document equity agreements, shareholder agreements, and cap tables to define ownership rights, voting rights, and equity dilution in future funding rounds.

Regulatory Compliance: Compliance with industry-specific regulations and standards is critical for emergency technology businesses, particularly in sectors such as healthcare, cybersecurity, or disaster response. Women entrepreneurs should ensure their products or services meet legal requirements related to data privacy, security, healthcare regulations, and emergency response protocols.

Investment Agreements and Due Diligence: When negotiating investment agreements with investors, women entrepreneurs should seek legal advice to review and negotiate terms that protect their interests and align with their business goals. Conducting thorough due diligence on potential investors and understanding the terms of investment, including valuation, equity stakes, and exit strategies, is essential for mitigating risks.

Employment Law and Contracts: Hiring employees or engaging contractors for emergency technology businesses requires compliance with employment laws and regulations. Women entrepreneurs should establish clear employment contracts, non-disclosure agreements (NDAs), and non-compete agreements to protect sensitive information, intellectual property, and proprietary technology.

Data Protection and Cybersecurity: Given the sensitive nature of data in emergency technology, ensuring compliance with data protection laws such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is paramount. Women entrepreneurs should implement robust data protection measures, cybersecurity protocols, and breach response plans to safeguard customer data and mitigate legal risks.

International Expansion and Trade Regulations: If planning to expand internationally, women entrepreneurs should consider legal implications related to international trade, export controls, customs regulations, and compliance with foreign laws. Understanding the legal requirements and risks associated with conducting business across borders is essential for successful global expansion.

Dispute Resolution and Legal Counsel: Establishing mechanisms for dispute resolution, such as arbitration clauses or mediation agreements, can help resolve conflicts with investors, partners, or stakeholders efficiently. Women entrepreneurs should also retain experienced legal counsel to provide ongoing advice, support, and representation on legal matters affecting their business.

By addressing these legal considerations proactively and seeking guidance from legal professionals specialising in technology and entrepreneurship, women in emerging technology can navigate the complexities of scaling their businesses and position themselves for long-term success while protecting their legal rights and interests. We are excited and energised about the changes and opportunities we are seeing and hope more women will embrace them.

About the author

Karen Holden is the founder of A City Law Firm an innovative firm working in emerging tech, but which offers personal service. She was admitted to the role in 2005 having obtained her degree in law and her Masters from the University of Cambridge and her LPC from the College of Law. She is an entrepreneur having developed a thriving corporate firm from scratch; establishing the female founder’s growth programme to help founders get investment ready and was the winner of the Wearethecity Champion award.

Karen was given freedom of the City for her work in equality and speaks at many venues including the House of Lords and tech hubs and universities on starting, scaling and selling your business.