This article by Kathryn Evans, part of our LACE team, introduces a series profiling five female CEOs heading up tech start-ups that partner with LACE. They include Abigail Rappoport at Emoquo, Katz Kiely at Beep, Alison Sellars at Activ Payroll, Lorraine Scroope at The Hire Lab and Alexandra Wright from Able. Watch out for the interviews of them sharing their experiences, which we’ll be releasing all throughout the month of March.
On International Women’s Day, let’s pause and consider why just 5% of start-ups are established by women.
Given that 80 new companies were born an hour in 2016, this is a shockingly low percentage. But this isn’t just a problem for new technology companies. The underrepresentation of women is endemic at the highest levels in the largest and most successful global, multi-national technology companies.
Women in the technology industry, aged under 25, earn on average 29% less than their male counterparts
Just 11% of the executive positions at Silicon Valley companies are held by women, women hold 25% of all computing jobs and gain 28% of all computer science degrees. Women in the technology industry aged under 25 earn, on average, 29% less than their male counterparts. And even past the age of 25, women receive lower salary offers than men for the same job at the same company 63% of the time.
The notoriously hostile ‘bro’ technology start-up culture is one reason women are underrepresented at the top level. Reports of sexism running unchecked and unanswered are rife at even the largest and most successful start-ups – like Uber, whose former CEO, Travis Kalanick, was recently forced to resign amid a flurry of reports of sexism and harassment at all levels of the company.
Companies with a women at the helm perform three times better than those with a male CEO
One thing I find most telling about these statistics is the results of a fortune.com report, that found that companies with a women at the helm perform three times better than those with a male CEO. A Silicon Valley UK study found that women entrepreneurs bring in 20% more revenue than men with half the money invested. Some have suggested that these findings reflect the immense struggle women face in reaching the top job at such companies, and so those who do succeed represent the very best talent.
But, what if women just aren’t interested in pursuing technology careers and that’s why we don’t see them represented at the top level in the same proportions as men?
As much as 66% of 6-12 year-old girls are interested in STEM subjects
This simply isn’t the case. A Girls Who Code study found that 66% of 6-12-year-old girls are interested in STEM subjects, and in pursuing them at a higher level. Women Who Code’s London chapter alone has nearly 5000 members, and has run over 130 events aimed at increasing the participation of women in the technology industry.
So why are there so few women in the technology industry? The American Association of University Women (AAUW) produced a study asking that very question, and found that girls and boys graduate from high school with near enough the same aptitude for science and technology, but, found that boys were more likely to take standardized tests leading to further study at university level, of STEM and computing subjects.
So, if it’s not a question of interest or ability, then what is it? I briefly mentioned the cultural hostility of even the largest and most successful technology start-up, Uber, and an Elephant in the Valley survey of women working in Silicon Valley found that Uber’s sexual harassment and sexism issues aren’t unique. They discovered that 87% of women with 10 or more years’ experience reported experiencing demeaning comments from male colleagues, 60% of women reported receiving unwanted sexual advances, and 1 in 3 reported feeling afraid for their personal safety because of work related circumstances.
There are, however, some amazing organisations working to increase the proportion of women working in tech, and to retain these women once they’re in the industry. Just like Girls Who Code, techUK Women in Tech works to balance the gender gap in the technology industry, and focus on ‘developing and supporting effective solutions to the long-standing problem of attracting, retaining and advancing more women in the technology industry’.
LACE Partners is a small HR consultancy, with a focus on technology. We pride ourselves on being fundamentally different. We’re a consultancy, but not like any others you might know. One of the things that makes us fundamentally different is our technology alliance partners. This is a group of 14 exciting, innovative technology start-ups, who we truly believe represent the very best in market leading disruptive technologies. Five of these 14 technology start-ups are run by kickass female CEOs. Abigail Rappoport at Emoquo, Katz Kiely at Beep, Alison Sellars at Activ Payroll, Lorraine Scroope at The Hire Lab and Alexandra Wright from Able, who’s here with me today to talk about her experiences.
Whilst we aren’t specifically a technology company, we do our very best to champion the women who have founded and continue to lead these partner technology companies. In supporting the next generation of female tech CEOs, we hope to inspire younger women, showing young girls that a career in technology is both viable and desirable.
I interviewed these inspiring women, asking them about their careers so far, their highs and lows, and their advice for women beginning a career in the technology industry. All five women come from different professional backgrounds and went on different journeys to becoming the tech CEOs that they are now.
They spoke similarly about their experiences, highlighting the lack of visible women in the tech industry, commenting for example, that often, they’re the only women in the room at technology events, or the only woman round the table at high profile meetings.
I wanted, however, to focus on some more of the positives that came from these interviews. Our female tech CEOs also offered some great advice for women starting out in their career, including: learn from setbacks – use them to get better and stronger; be passionate, push boundaries, don’t take no for an answer, and always, fight for what you believe in.
I think all the advice I was given is nicely summed up in two words: be brave.
Remember to keep an eye out for the forthcoming interviews with our female tech CEOs.
Kathryn Evans, LACE Associate