Where are all the women?

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Taking a closer look at the lack of women speaker representation at Web Summit Dublin 2014 and other tech conferences, and what we can do to change this.

Written by: Josephine Goube and Lora Schellenberg

Last week, we attended Web Summit Dublin, a technology conference that has grown at a dazzling pace since its inaugural event in 2010. With 20,000 attendees, hundreds of speakers on 13 stages, and media like the CNBC, Financial Times and The Guardian, a gathering like this not only impacts the tech scene in Europe, but around the world.

Of the 120 speakers on the Central Stage, where the main action of the Web Summit took place (and reserved for the biggest leaders in the tech industry), a mere 17 (15%) of the speakers were women. 8 of those 17 were actually journalists, leaving just 9 women viewed as “tech leaders”.

One of the names causing the most buzz at the conference was actress and philanthropist Eva Longoria. Another woman speaker was supermodel Lily Cole. We can’t help but wonder, was the representation of these two more about their good looks or their accomplishments?

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We are entirely aware of this issue with tech conferences all over the world, which is the reason DevelopHer and other women in tech organisations exist in the first place. We want to make sure future tech conferences have more of a gender balance in terms of leadership. We want to help organisers find the best women who are more than willing to speak.

We’ve heard all the common excuses as to why there aren’t more women representing at tech conferences. Here are a few:

  • We can’t find women who are as credible as other male speakers in terms of contributions to technology
  • Many women aren’t interested in speaking because they lack the confidence
  • Women who have families at home aren’t available to give their extra time to speaking gigs
  • We don’t know where to find these women tech leaders

We want to do our part in helping increase women leadership representation at tech conferences. If you’re a woman interested in joining a network of women speakers, simply fill out this short form. That way, when we’re approached by conference organisers to give suggestions of women speakers, we’re readily able to do our part to help.

My experience at this year’s TechCrunch Disrupt Europe

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Photo credit: Dan Taylor, Heisenberg Media

This post was written by Hannah Samano, the winner of our TechCrunch Disrupt Europe 2014: London all-access pass giveaway. 

What happens when you mix Twitter and an ancient form of Japanese poetry? For me the result was a ticket to TechCrunch Disrupt, one of the most anticipated tech conferences in the world. Girls in Tech had a ticket to give away to the finest tweeter, and so the task of producing a 140 character tour de force came about. So into the frenzied stream I sent forth what would be the most successful 17 syllables of my life so far, praise be to the ever-efficient haiku:

‘For it’s in the name –
Tech Han goes insane for this.
Help the finalist.’

A few hashtags and a couple of days later, I found myself on a train down to London from Durham, where I’m currently finishing my degree. Having worked in a Parisian tech startup last year, I knew that Disrupt was a big deal. It’s like the tech world’s most dangerous concoction of fresh startups, groundbreaking innovation and big-name speakers (with a healthy helping of VCs on the side) ready to shift the scene… which makes for one pretty exciting conference.

Amidst the sea of Macbook Airs, I sat and listened to some really inspiring talks over the two days. To name just one, Neelie Kroes, the outgoing European Commissioner for the Digital Agenda. This remarkable woman who has worked wonders for the European digital age, including making substantial progress towards creating a single European telecoms market, spoke encouragingly to the startup community, urging ‘all those youngsters who have interesting business models’ to apply for EU funding.

Another of my favourite speakers was Michael Acton Smith, the founder of kids entertainment company Mind Candy. Acton Smith could be described as the Russell Brand of the tech world, but underneath his eccentric demeanour is a serious business mogul, whose company was valued at $200 million in July 2011. That said, Acton Smith talked honestly about the difficulties his company has faced of late, with a significant drop in revenues and cuts of almost 50% to his workforce. But he insisted that being an entrepreneur is a mixed bag: ‘There are crushing lows and soaring highs… it’s exciting and terrifying, but it’s the best job in the world.’

One of Disrupt’s most famed elements is the Startup Battlefield, which sees a select few startups pitching to become Disrupt’s annual winner. It was so fun to watch small groups of motivated individuals from all over the world presenting their new ideas. To name a few, I thought Lobster seemed smart – a marketplace that allows you to buy images from social media platforms for commercial use. I also liked IO, a social concierge offering lifestyle and travel recommendations that talks to you in a messenger app (if you’ve seen the film ‘Her’, you know what I mean). But the Battlefield’s winner saw the great German guys and their brainchild, Crate.io (a service to set up big data backend servers), take away the £30,000 cheque and the Disrupt Cup.

If you’ve caught wind of HBO’s ‘Silicon Valley’, then you might already have a visual idea of what Disrupt looks like, thanks to their parody at the end of season one. I kid you not, HBO’s version isn’t too far from the truth. The buzz and the feeling that the people at the conference actually have the power to ‘disrupt’ the status quo is real. I loved every minute of the two-day whirlwind, and being amongst some of the most influential people in the tech world was an incredible opportunity for me. About 250 tweets and a train-ride later, I’m now back in my quiet university town of Durham, wondering whether it was all a dream. I met some wonderful people working on some really great projects, who I hope to get properly involved with when I graduate in June. In the meantime, it’s back to Twitter, and back to my dissertation.

Levelling The Playing Field: Women In Digital

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This post was written by Tom Channell, one of the contributors from the Social Media Week London global communications team, and originally appeared here

Social media week is all about creating conversations which enable us to become better marketers. Thursday’s first HQ event looked at one of the fundamental flaws of business, the lack of women in the working environment. I got a chance to speak with Sally and Alice from Girls in Tech London about how the landscape is changing.

What is Girls in Tech?

Girls in Tech are a global network seeking to empower women by providing them with more visibility. We were founded in 2007 by Adriana Gascoigne and have since grown to over 8,500 members worldwide.

What are your experiences of working in tech as a female?

It’s an amazing industry to work in. There’s been a steady increase in the number of women attending Social Media Week each year which shows that the landscape is really changing.

Women often have better interpersonal skills than men which is a huge advantage for client facing roles, in our Girls in Tech community we have many successful female engineers and coders who are able to create new innovative platforms and lead teams successfully matching tech and inter personal skills equally.

Do you think digital is one of the best industries to work in as a woman?

Certainly. It’s a pioneering landscape which is open to new ideas and creation regardless of gender. There used to be a perception that all people in tech are geeky guys but that’s completely changed. To be successful in digital you don’t need to be male, you need to be authentic, innovative and the courage to use your skill set confidently.

What still needs to change?

We need a meritocracy, people should get jobs based on merit not gender. You can’t control what anyone else is doing, so it’s important to focus on your own skill set and being excellent in all that you do.

Social Media Week invited us to attend the event for which we’re really grateful. As an organisation our goals are to encourage women in technology and give them more visibility. Social Media Week has sponsored former members to attend which has been great as well.

“Social Media Week has provided an insight into the world of virtual marketing, from targeting specific audiences to it’s impact on society, it’s such an amazing opportunity,” said Alice Parsons, student, blogger and content creator.

Schools also need to be more open minded when it comes to digital. I think there’s often a culture of fear that the internet is made up of trolls when in reality it’s full of opportunities for young men and women. We need to get more people coding in schools, and with new initiatives I believe it’s going to become a more essential skill set in the future. Individuals like Alice are an example of how it’s all changing.

What are your predictions for women in tech in the next 10 years?

I’m extremely excited and hopeful for the future. We’ll be looking at a different world in ten years where there’s a more level playing field. Businesses will need to collaborate more with women as they are recognised more and more as significant online consumers and influencers. I think women in tech will use their skill sets to not only to be great entrepreneurs, but also to influence social and political thought. I really do believe all things are possible.

Angela Bates: How to apply & succeed with IBM’s Global Entrepreneurship Program

Girls in Tech met with Angela Bates, the leader of IBM Global Entrepreneur and Startup programmes for the UK and Ireland, to discuss entrepreneurship and tips to successfully apply to IBM Global Entrepreneur and Startup program.

Find out more about the program and meet Angela at Girls Night Out IBM networking event this Thursday October 2nd 2014. The event is organized by IBM in partnership with three major female London tech groups together: TLA London Tech Women, Stemettes and naturally Girls in Tech!

There has been a lot of talk about women leadership recently. What does it mean for you to be a “leader” in your work? 

In my role as leader of the IBM Global Entrepreneur programme, it’s about bringing people together to do new, innovative things. I connect entrepreneurs with investors, startup organisations, clients and other IBM’ers to help build their software solutions and grow their business in partnership with IBM. It’s also important to be visible, deliver on your promises, plan your career and manage your work-life balance.

What do you perceive being the common trait of success from the members in your programme? Can you describe the moment when, after entering the programme, they start maturing and taking off with their business? Is there a common pattern? 

There are a number of criteria I look for in a technology startup, but foremost is they need a really great team. A team that understands their customers and the problem they are trying to solve and how uniquely their solution fixes those problems.They also have partnering in their DNA and actively seek to build an ecosystem around them to keep them on track. We understand that a great team sometimes needs to pivot their business a few times before they become successful, so IBM Global Entrepreneur offers a 3-year technology partnership with tech startups. During this time we explore how integration of IBM technology into the startups’ solution might opens up additional revenue streams for us both.

If you had three good pieces of advice for girls starting a company what would it be? 

Be relentlessly curious and actively seek opportunities to build your ecosystem and take advice.

Embrace change as it allows you to grow the business and help your company stay competitive

Don’t be afraid to fail – successful businesses often pivot several times before making it big

What are your tips to apply successfully to the program?

To apply for the Global Entrepreneur progamme, your business needs to be privately held and less than five years old. It also needs to be actively engaged in or will develop a software-based product or service. Think about how your software solution aligns with IBM growth initiatives, such as cloud, big data, analytics, mobile, social, and security. You should also consider what you are looking for from a technology partnership with IBM.

What are things you have learnt in your career that you wished you had known earlier?

It doesn’t matter how good you in your field, without guidance, advice, or mentorship it’s impossible to reach the top!

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Meet Angela this Thursday 2nd of October at Shoreditch Village Hall for a night of female tech networking to learn more about opportunities for Girls in the London Tech Industry as well as with IBM. Your free ticket here.

UK gets entrepreneurial boost

photo credit: opensourceway via photopin cc

photo credit: opensourceway via photopin cc

Bleak times no more. Data shows that Britain’s enterprising spirit is stronger than ever.

Many organisations, including StartUp Britain, Rockstar Youth and the government’s own Start Up Loans scheme (read our interview with the creative director) reported a raise in the applications, especially young people between 16-30. In fact, the Prince’s Trust startup helpline received +42% in 2012 alone.

Furthermore, since 2008, UK’s youngest entrepreneurs increased by a third and more than half of the new businesses were founded with less than a grand.

The internet has the potential to make entrepreneurs of us all – Annika Small, Director of Nominet Trust.

The weak economy and lack of job security, prompts more people to bet on themselves rather than seeking opportunities with bigger companies. “If you want the economy to change, we need more people to stand up, be bold and brave and create the jobs that are not there right now,” entrepreneur Kieza De Sousa, 19, told to the BBC.

And it seems that women have responded positively to the call for change. Figures highlight the growing role women are playing.

Women-led businesses annually contribute a whopping £70 billion to the British economy.

In the UK however there is a clear enterprise gap between men and women. Researches indicate that an extra 150,000 businesses would be created if female ownership levels were the same as men.

The UK ranks only sixth out of 17 countries for female entrepreneursa new study has shown, even though a recent report released by Sage UK revealed that half of young women aged 18-24 were keen to start a business, many wanting to break away from the traditional 9 to 5 to pursue their passions.

More women in the boardrooms bring positive change at a wider scale too. Bringing women into businesses creates what Michael Porter and Mark Kramer of the Harvard Business School call “shared value”—it helps companies while helping communities too. 

There is no doubt, that the increasing numbers of women in the economy has helped fuel significant growth everywhere. And economies that are making the shift more effectively and rapidly are dramatically outperforming those that have not. – Hillary Clinton

Feeling inspired yet? If you look for some more motivation, check out our Founder Talks and interviews with the top Girls In Tech. And you if you want to share your journey with us just get in touch on Twitter & Facebook.

More room for marketing mobile products to women

More Room for Marketing Mobile Products to Women

Remember last year’s “Are You Geared Up?” commercial, which pitted two men against each other in a battle for a girl, making the point that the man with the Smartwatch had a better chance of success than the man who’s constantly fumbling around with his cumbersome smartphone? While the advertisement was an obvious attempt at pushing the convenience of a wrist device, it touched on the more obvious “what a girl wants” tropes that drive a large sector of the tech market. It was also a small example of how tech companies are purposely marketing toward women, who are becoming more of a dominant presence in the tech world.

Companies are learning to go with women. The Little Miss Geek blog cites an eDigitalResearch infographic, which shows that “The rise in phone ownership saw an increase in women using them – 58% over 42% of men.” The website She-Conomy says it best: “It’s much easier to market a product your audience wants. And hearing the female voice early rather than later could mean a significant difference in your bottom line.” In a Verizon Wireless article entitled “The New Face of Tech…Is Wearing Mascara,” they used information from the Bureau of Labor Statistics to report that “the tech industry added 60,000 jobs, and more than half of those positions—60 percent to be exact—went to women.”

So, it makes perfect sense that tech companies are moving in the direction of targeting women with their products. Next month, when Samsung releases its new phone, the Galaxy S5, one of its selling points will be that it’s both dust-proof and waterproof. Some places are already finding ways to spin this feature into something that will attract women. For example, this article entitled “Samsung Designs Waterproof Galaxy S5 for the Shower” implies, in a very obvious and strange way, that the phone will become every woman’s bathroom accessory. The only problem with this is that the waterproof feature was probably added as a protective measure instead of a go-ahead to submerge the phone in water. Now, add the fact that the article in question is accompanied by a photograph of a businesswoman sitting in a portable toilet rather than taking a shower, and you have all of the workings of female-targeted story.

In Samsung’s case, marketing to women might be a great idea following some of the criticism it took last year over a television ad for the S5’s predecessor. Still, the company has been making considerable ground when it comes to reversing consumer’s brand loyalty—especially among women who used to have an allegiance to iPhones. Mobile Marketer reports that “Samsung has slowly been stealing typically brand-loyal iPhone users away as Apple loses some of its edge, which will likely continue into 2014.” It then goes on to identify women as the majority of these “vulnerable” iPhone users.

But however they’re described, there’s no denying that women are the key to growing profits. And as that same Little Miss Geek article points out, “Two 17-year-old girls from Central Foundation Girls’ School in the UK, through Apps for Good, have actually designed a gardening app that impressed private mobile investors.” So, gradually, younger generations of women are making sure that they won’t have to worry about being targeted by marketing. Instead, they’ll be the ones in charge of making and marketing the products.

About our guest blogger: Sara Upton is a newcomer in the world of online journalism. You can find her writing about a number of different topics, but her favorite is tech and how it relates to the advancement of women in the industry.