How are women in start-ups helping to close the gender gap?

Business advice

The Facts and Stats

Men have always outnumbered women in business, innovation and entrepreneurship, despite evidence suggesting that companies perform better when they have a gender balance.

It is common sense that in order to utilise the very best talent the UK has to offer, companies must have a diverse leadership and staff body; under-representation surely results in subjectivity and poor decision-making.

In 2011, the UK government sought to address the lack of women at the very top of corporate governance in their report Women on Boards. The document instructed that FTSE 100 boards should aim for a minimum of 25% female representation by 2015. The 2015 report revealed that female board presence had risen from 18% to 23.5%- just shy of the minimum target outlined in the report.

A more optimistic trajectory can be seen in the world of start-ups, although the initial figure is lower. According to research by The Global Start-up Ecosystem Ranking-Compass, 18% of start-ups had a female founder in 2015 compared to only 10% in 2012.

Both sets of figures show a healthy increase, yes- but there’s clearly a long way to go until we achieve gender equality across the board.

How are women in start-ups helping to close the gender gap?

Successful Female Entrepreneurs

Who are the female role models helping to pave the way to gender equality in the tech world?

In June this year, Startup compiled a list of inspiring female founders whose start-ups have flourished in less than four years.

Romi Savova is CEO and founder of PensionBee; a company that enables people to track down previous pensions and consolidate them into a new online pension plan. The company was launched in January of this year and has already proven hugely popular.

Romi recognises that low self confidence can often be a barrier to success:

“We, as women can doubt ourselves more than our male counterparts: Is my idea good enough? How will I find investors?  The important thing is to believe that you can do it and remind yourself why you are doing it every single day. I was starting a brand new pension company in a world dominated by giants, but I knew that PensionBee could change an entire industry, so it was worth trying.”

 This sentiment is reinforced by Gillian Morris, founder of successful mobile travel app, Hitlist:

Women are entrepreneurial but aren’t well represented in the tech start-up landscape due to societal expectations that are taught early on, as evidenced by this juxtaposition of covers from ‘Girls Life’ and ‘Boys Life’ magazines that went viral after Amy Schumer shared it. We need to talk about this and change it.”

If women are as inherently entrepreneurial as men and the problem lies in learnt behaviour, how are we supporting the women who do opt for a career in tech?

Companies with good numbers of women on the board outperform those with no women by 17% higher return on sales and 54% higher return on invested capital. Source

How are women in start-ups helping to close the gender gap?
Illustration by Sam Brewster

Organisations Making a Change

It’s hard to be what you can’t see.

‘Seeing more successful female entrepreneurs would encourage more women to start a business’, explains Romi. And there are many start-up organisations already out there supporting, championing and promoting women in the tech industry.

One such company is Women 2.0. Founded  in 2006, their aim is to support a future built by women and to bridge the gender gap- recognising that currently, only 30% of tech workers are female. They are the leading media brand for women in tech.

We asked entrepreneur and COO Elisa Miller what needs to change and what Women 2.0 are doing to accelerate it:

We believe the pipeline needs to be addressed from all sides: hiring, founding, investing and leading. We are taking an action-oriented, product-driven approach. We have a global media hub and are soon launching a recruiting platform in partnership with Untapt.”

Gillian of Hitlist agrees that investment should be a key focus:

There are already a number of investment groups that focus on funding female entrepreneurs, such as 37 Angels, Portfolia, Golden Seeds, and Astia, but we need more of them!” 

With role models like Gillian and Romi, focused investment and the backing of organisations like 2.0, we’ll continue to see the gender gap close and until equilibrium is reached.

After all, encouraging more women to break through the coded ceiling and get involved in start-ups will lead to more females on boards down the line.

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