With women making up only 20% of the tech industry, what is actually being done to make the tech space more inclusive? As part of Unwrapped London Fields, Second Home brings together a panel of female tech disrupters, to discuss the challenges and opportunities in the industry, and shine light on breaking the barriers in tech innovation. See more here.
Ahead of the event, we spoke to panelist Bethany Koby, CEO and founder of Tech Will Save Us.
Tech Will Save Us is based on a radical premise: what if kids could build the technology they use, and learn more about tech in the process? Koby says “we created our (now iconic) kits and began our mission to fill the technology skills gap by providing fun, educational, accessible experiences for kids and their engaged parents.”
What has been the biggest learning lesson starting Tech Will Save Us?
One of the most exciting, and terrifying aspects of starting your own business is not knowing if and how it will grow, evolve and succeed. Every stage is a learning curve, and a very enriching one at that. There have been so many lessons as we reach new milestones and achieve new successes. A big lesson that is not often discussed or something founders get taught anywhere is the importance of having great board that really help serve the business. Designing a board that really reflects the values of your company and has clear accountability and engagement in the good, bad and ugly of your business creates a hugely positive impact. And this does not just happen, it must be created and managed.
As a woman in the tech industry, what is the biggest hurdle?
Only 17% of startups have a female founder. When you consider that less than 3% of all venture capital goes to female CEOs, the lack of diversity is even more startling. Less than 3% of VC capital is available for 17% of total startups. We have successfully raised funding to Series A level but on our funding journey it was clear to see that there’s not enough diverse people building and getting funding for businesses full stop. This ultimately creates a homogeneous tech industry.
Do you think things are changing for women?
For the first time since the 1980s, there appears to be a constructive debate and action taking place in the world of entrepreneurship, politics and education. I do not believe the lack of females and diversity is the problem, it is a symptom of a much bigger systemic mindset that society has been conditioned to accept.
It is our job to rise above discrimination and pave the change we want to see in the world, invent new systems, business models, and ways of working that benefit diversity in business. The reality is that diversity is no longer just a numbers game, not just another politically correct workplace initiative; it’s about bridging the opportunity gaps that will continue to widen if we ignore the messages that the marketplace is clearly telling us.
It’s becoming less about defining the individual and much more about the individual defining the business. As such, enterprises must adopt diversity as a strategy for growth if they are to compete in the 21st century.
How can we encourage more women to get involved in tech?
As an industry we owe so much to pioneering women such as Radia Perlman, Hedy Lamarr, and the many female software engineers who drove coding in the 1960’s. Today, there are so many brilliant women in tech who are inspiring the next generation to follow in their footsteps. These women are all supporting and connecting other women in the industry, and encouraging young people to pursue careers in tech. Accessible role models instill self-belief and once the spark for tech learning has been ignited, forums for networking, collaboration, co-learning and skills exchange will enable them to shine.
What are your words of advice for women setting up a business in tech?
Owning your own business is full of challenges and unexpected opportunities. It’s something that you can’t plan or prepare for, you just have to bite the bullet and do it and make sure that you surround yourself with people who will support and advise you through difficult decisions.
Always remember that it’s a journey, not a destination. Make sure you surround yourself with examples, mentors, advisors that inspire you to be the kind of entrepreneur and person you want to be. Always keep learning.
Joining Koby on the panel we have;
Amy Thompson – Founder of the Moody App – a brilliant femtech app that allows women to track their hormonal cycles.
Emily Atkinson – Managing Director of DevelopHer – a non-profit community dedicated to bringing women in technology together to create both opportunities and a network of support through events, workshops, and learning.
This event is in partnership with Women of Google.