In 2017 only 17% of start-up companies founded by women got VC backing, while male-founded firms pulled down 79%, according to US statistics. In the UK, only 7% of A-level computer science students are female, but many initiatives are being launched to redress this balance. One such is Women in Tech, an organisation in the US and now also in the UK, which offers job advice, opportunities and initiatives to increase the numbers of women founding and working in tech companies.
Barriers and initiatives
Many factors can affect women's progress in this industry, including continuing gender bias, unequal growth opportunities, and unequal pay for the same positions. Sexist hiring practices and childhood gender roles are also suggested as causes for the lack of female input to the tech industry, as well as the lack of female role models and mentoring. This last is being directly addressed by the American initiative, Female Founder Office Hours. In a one-on-one meeting, women in business can network with female VC providers to learn more about starting up a business, fundraising, and generally strengthening the mutual community of female founders and funders.
Another relatively recent female start-up, SheEO, is committed to raising and distributing $1 billion-worth of VC funding, by women, for women to found their own companies. Then there is Women Who Tech, an American non-profit organisation that runs Startup Challenge competitions for the best female-founded tech start-ups. In London last May, ten finalists competed for a €50,000 prize at Women Startup Challenge Europe. This event, the fifth of an ongoing series, was the first to take place outside the US and was won by Alexandra Grigore's Simprints. Her UK company developed a cloud-based system and mobile app, with an inexpensive biometric scanner, which provides identity information for the billions of people lacking formal ID documents.
Shortly after the London Challenge, Business Insider UK published a list of 29 top female-founded tech start-ups, including various apps, ecommerce and journalistic ventures. Devika Wood, for example, is cofounder and chief medical officer of Vida, which now has 23 staff. This online medical matching service raised £1.7 million in VC funding, and is devoted to linking patients to caregivers, in an effort to solve the NHS "bed blocking" problem. Or there's Jessi Baker, founder of Provenance, which uses blockchain technology to prove that food and other items are ethically sourced. Jessi raised £1.2 million in VC funding and now has a staff of ten.
A similar round-up of promising 2018 ventures in the US was published on AngelList, so the word is being spread, and steps are being taken towards more gender-balanced business investment. Unilever, for example, recently made headlines with an announcement at Barcelona's Mobile World Congress, that within the next five years it would ensure that 50% of the companies with which it partners would be founded by women.
With initiatives such as these, female founders are becoming gradually more prevalent in business, presenting more successful role models for more women, and encouraging more female participation in technological development. If you'd like to talk about this topic with us please contact us anytime.