Technology has long been thought of as a boy’s club, a man’s space and landscape, especially in the world of the start-up where financially backing up the 23 year old guy, wearing a hoodie and chucks has become not only common practice, but what some consider a recipe for success. But, where are the women who could help drive many of these organizations to success? Where are the lady entrepreneurs, the women coders and the female tech CEO’s? Where are these women?
There has been a great deal of research conducted and a great amount of speculation on where this problem stems from, but one thing is not in question: the fact that the number of women in technology and in the startup community is so low that it is considered a problem.
Some have stated that women are more hesitant to study hard sciences and since the base of technology is rooted in math and science, women are less likely to be well versed in what technology is rooted in and less likely to venture out in the entrepreneur world. Researchers at Yale published a study proving that physicists, chemists, and biologists are likely to view a young male scientist more favorably than a woman with the same qualifications.
Unfortunately, these same biases are carried over to the tech world. Kathryn Tucker, founder of RedRover, an app that showcases local events for kids, found herself amidst this very dilemma. At a New York tech event, Kathryn pitched her idea to an angel investor who bluntly said he did not invest in women.
When Kathryn asked why, he told her, “I don’t like the way women think,” he said. “They haven’t mastered linear thinking.” To prove his point, he explained that his wife could never prioritize her to-do lists properly. And then, as if he was trying to applaud her, he went on to state that Tucker was different. “You are more male,” he said.
Kathryn has since been financially backed, but it’s stories like this that have become all to common in situations involving gender in the technology world. Rachel Sklar, founder of Change the Ratio, an advocacy group for women in tech, once met an investor who said he doesn’t invest in women he doesn’t find attractive. For women who have experienced this bias, the act of simply speaking about it has become taboo. And for all the stories one hears, there is an abundance of stories that have not been uttered, for fear of becoming a liability or being typecast as the woman who cried “gender discrimination.”
These stories, although unsettling, only lead to an even more alarming scenario. According to a recent report from Pitchbook, only 13 percent of venture-backed companies had at minimum one female co-founder. In the software sector, female-run businesses accounted for a measly 10 percent of all venture capital deals. This is seen as an improvement from the even more bleak years previously. Although, this is seen as an improvement, progress is slow and dismal.
It would be incorrect to say that all venture capitalists discriminate against female founders. And not all female founders deserve to be funded. As most things in life that are worth discussing, it’s not only complicated, but it’s also problematic. Not having women in a culture that is considered “cutting-edge” ultimately is going to stunt the growth of this multi-faceted industry. An industry that can credit many of its accomplishments to its diverse individuals thinking outside of the traditional box, and going beyond the status quo.
Along with speculation on where the problem stems from, there has also been an abundance of blame being placed on certain groups of people and organizations; whether it be the education system for not pushing young girls into more scientifically complex environments or investors who don’t give opportunities to women who have ventured out of the traditional. Whichever the cause, the outcome is the same: women are being held back as entrepreneurs, business owners, and scientists, and this has to change.
Luckily, there are programs designed specifically to help women achieve their business and professional goals. An example is WITI, a global network designed to create alliances and connections for women in order to provide well deserved opportunities to women all over the world. And there are women, being chronicled in media such as She Started It, that showcase young tech startups that are founded by young women. It is important that the media feature women making waves in the technology world. Slowly but surely progress is being made and we owe it to our future daughters and sisters to make sure that they have the same opportunity as their male counterparts.