More women in tech could bring UK extra £10bn a year
Getting more women into the tech industry could generate billions for the UK, says entrepreneur Debbie Wosskow OBE.
Wosskow took property swap site Love Home Swap from conception to launch in three months in 2011. The platform is now home to a quarter of a million properties.
“It’s a fantastically untapped asset class – if we can encourage more women to start businesses it will make a huge difference,” she said.
“The stat is one in ten women say they want to start a business but don’t. The other stat is that if they all did, that’s an extra £10bn per year to UK PLC.”
She went on to say that currently only 10 per cent of all capital globally is allocated to businesses with a woman in its senior leadership team.
“The Pitchbook stat for the UK in 2016 was 2.17 per cent of all capital went to businesses with a female CEO,” said Wosskow.
“On the other side of the table, only seven per cent of investors are women, yet against this slightly depressing backdrop, the data shows that women get 35 per cent better returns than men.”
Wosskow, who started her first business at 25, came up with the idea for Love Home Swap after watching film The Holiday on the flight home from a bad getaway.
Her most recent endeavour, female-focused crowdfunding platform AllBright, launched in late 2016 and aims to support female-led companies in the UK.
“A lot of what you do in life is based on what you’ve seen – so how can we get more women founding businesses and how can we invest more in women? It often means getting more female investors.
“We’re not anti-men, we’re just trying to change the conversation.”
Anne-Marie Imafidon’s social enterprise Stemettes is also addressing the industry’s lack of diversity by helping girls create technology that relates to them.
“At our recent incubator girls were able to apply technology to problems that they see around them.
“One of the girls had high-functioning autism so she built a recruitment site for high-functioning autistic people.
“Another had been in hospital so she set up a social network for young people who spend a lot of time in hospital.”
Since its launch four years ago Stemettes has helped 15,000 girls across the country.
Imafidon says that success for the industry means focusing on diversity more broadly.
“We need different people – not necessarily just women – involved in building products,” she said.
“For example, voice recognition didn’t take off until they included women’s voices. Apple’s assistant Siri still doesn’t understand Scottish people when they speak.”
Head of technology at Sky Natasha Sayce-Zelem says that businesses must change the message and focus on what tech enables rather than the skills it requires.
“People don’t know about jobs in tech – we need to signpost the different roles,” she said.
“It’s all about the messaging. It’s always ‘why we need more women who can code’ or ‘get more women in tech’ – that’s boring to me and I actually work in tech. We need to focus on better positive messaging.”
She asked the audience to compare the headlines ‘We need more women working in healthcare tech’ and ‘Want to work on projects that can save lives and make a difference?’
“Which headline would you prefer?” she asked.
“If companies focused more on what technology enables and how creative the industry is rather than the technical skills alone it would certainly attract more people to consider a career in digital.”