The technology sector is thriving and continuously evolving, creating many exciting career opportunities. In the UK, areas such as AI, FinTech, Life Sciences and Green Tech are growing rapidly and require a diverse workforce to accelerate innovation. With such a fantastic outlook for the sector, female entrepreneurs are on a mission to inspire others to consider a career or build a business in STEM industries.
On the 26th of October 2021, The Female Founders Forum discussed their recent ‘Female Founders Report’ findings in Parliament, to help improve diversity in Britain’s tech sector and tackle barriers facing females in the industry and education.
Many successful female entrepreneurs from across the UK attended the House of Commons in support of the report. Yorkshire based female tech entrepreneur, Zandra Moore CEO at Panintelligence who is an advocate for improving diversity and inclusion in the tech sector attended the report launch in the House of Commons.
Zandra commented: “Reading through the Female Founders Report was so re-affirming. It encompasses many things I am deeply passionate about. I’m sure with more female professionals, entrepreneurs and innovators entering STEM roles. We will build better businesses; we’ll have more innovations and we’ll help create a more prosperous and inclusive society.
“All of the issues, challenges and gender biases raised in the report are ones I’ve personally experienced as a female founder in Data Analytics and AI but the recommendations are clear and easy to implement. I’ve been lucky enough to have female role models and mentors in my life. Particularly, my mum who worked in the emerging technology sector in Leeds in the 1990s. My mum often shares how she made a lot of people rich in the technology businesses she helped grow, yet despite this, she didn’t have any shares in these businesses, and never thought to ask for any because she didn’t have any role models or peer groups to turn to for advice or support back then. Although we’ve come a long way since then, we’ve still got a lot further to go to be more diverse and inclusive to all.”
The report highlights the issues that are creating barriers for females in tech, such as discrimination facing female entrepreneurs when trying to raise equity finance. Shockingly, just 7% of equity finance raised in the UK goes to female-founded companies. The report also shines a light on gender bias in venture capital firms – showing that only 13% of decision-makers in Venture Capital (VC) firms in the UK are female and, almost half of firms don’t have any females on their investment teams at all.
Under-representation of female students in STEM subjects is still an issue for the sector. Only 17% of technology workers in the UK are currently female. This highlights that more needs to be done to represent females in STEM within education environments, such as turning to groups such as Founders For Schools to bring in female founders to share their stories.
Zandra added: “Female STEM ambassadors need to be proactive at supporting and inspiring fellow females. We need to be present at events, share our experiences and successes. We also need to be looking at enabling re-training and internship opportunities which I can vouch for, are just as beneficial to our businesses to gain new ideas and skills to build a diverse fresh-thinking, talented workforce”.
Recommendations within the report on careers services show campuses and careers fairs need to introduce more females to the vast amount of STEM career opportunities. The report shares an appalling statistic that 84% of women were never introduced to AI or machine learning careers on campus or at a careers fair. Employers also need to be doing more to adapt to the changing and more technologically advanced world by offering mid-career retraining opportunities, to improve the diversity of their tech talent quickly. Increasingly popular organisations such as North Coders are collaborating with businesses like Panintelligence to help employees re-train to become software engineers.
Along with the Female Founders Report, which is created in partnership with the Entrepreneurs Network, Barclays and Beauhurst; there is an increasing number of organisations and communities being created across the UK to inspire, educate and support people entering or working in tech, to help the sector become more diverse and inclusive, such as Women in Leeds Digital, Barclays Eagle Labs, BUILD, The No Code Lab, Investing in Women Code and many more.
Some additional ways that we, as a society can improve support and inspire females to begin careers in seemingly male-dominated industries, is by creating more female-focused and diverse networking and mentoring opportunities. Creating conversations around and highlighting the inspirational work of females in the media to publicise the role models who often get overlooked, to inspire young women to have the confidence to enter entrepreneurship, STEM and other male-dominated fields.