Women don’t know how to do tech. That’s a man’s job, right? Women as tech engineers? Pfft. Unfortunately there’s a common misconception that women just can’t hack it in the tech space, says Jo Sabin, community manager at DesignCrowd.
The gender divide is a hot topic in the tech industry. The number of females enrolling in tech subjects has dropped dramatically (23% to just 15%) over the past 10 years.
If they do make it to the tech top, they tend to find their ‘cultural’ value projected through the lens of the male gaze, ending up in asinine lists, like Complex.com’s 40 Hottest Women in Tech (which thankfully suffered much backlash).
But the question is – do you really need to be a male engineer to run a tech startup? And are startups missing out on awesome talent simply because they hire more men over women? It’s time to displace some of the myths that haunt women in technology in the startup space.
Myth 1. You need to be technical to create a tech startup
If that were the case, the low volume of women graduating with tech know-how would truly indicate a lack of female-pioneered startups. Enter Jodie Fox from Shoes of Prey. Fox launched her custom shoe company in Sydney in 2009. Her background? Finance and law. Despite her apparent lack of tech, she’s become one of the most prominent tech entrepreneurs with a business that’s nailed the startup trifecta.
Another notable non-technical entrepreneur is Catherine Prosser from StageBitz, an inventory management and marketplace for entertainment industry. The former props master brought her vision to life with technologists, recruited customers and raised capital to scale the business internationally.
Getting a business off the ground requires more than tech know-how.
Myth 2. Venture capitalists don’t invest in female-led tech startups
Think again. Three years after launching, Jodie Fox secured $3 million in investment for Shoes of Prey.
Aussie Genevieve George has also been privy to the same success. She managed to score $5 million in investment last year from recruitment agency, Programmed, for a 27.5 per cent stake in her tech startup business OneShift, which has challenged the dominance of recruitment platforms like Seek.com.au. She’s grown her business from a one-woman show to 22 call centre operators, six developers, and an expansion into the New Zealand market.
These investments aren’t just happening on home soil, either. Alexa Von Tobel was a Harvard business student before she dropped out to start LearnVest.com, a personal finance company that was originally aimed at women. To date, Von Tobel has secured over $40 million in investment.
Myth 3. Women can’t sit at the top of powerful tech companies
When a pregnant Marissa Mayer shot to the top as CEO of Yahoo in 2012, it was a win for women everywhere. Her leadership tactics, however controversial (no more working from home), have put her in a spotlight that’s helped to raise the profile of women in tech.
Alongside Mayer, you’ve also got high profile leaders like Sheryl Sandberg of Facebook, Rosalind Brewer of Sam’s Club (a division of Wal-Mart) and even Ginni Rometty, the head of IBM. Back at home, it’s happening too: Vicky Teoh of TPG was recently praised for becoming BRW’s richest self-made woman last year and women like Karen Stocks and Danielle Neale have become the top players at companies like Twitter and Bespoke, respectively.
The male to female ratio
The presence of women in tech seems undeniable when we single them out, yet in the real world, the man vs. woman ratio is still a long way off from being equal in the technology space. Google recently disclosed its diversity record, for instance, revealing that only 30% of its workforce is female. It’s a stat that reflects that in the US, 31% of women make up the IT workforce, while in Australia, that portion sits at 25%.
With that said, things might be turning around for the better as many businesses start to become more aware of the benefits of bringing women into their organisations. Dice.com’s 2013 report revealed that women in tech were on the rise and role models like Gina O’Reilly are well tuned to the advantages of having women in tech:
Recognising the sheer power and influence women have in the purchasing process should be a fundamental priority for any business that wants to tap into a market’s full potential. Simply put, a woman’s perspective shouldn’t be a nice-to-have for companies that want to be at the top of their game.
At least someone, albeit a woman, is finally getting it right.