Gender Equality: a Fundamental for Tech Startup Success
© Bynd Venture Capital
On 12 May 2020, Saniye Gülser Corat, Director of the Division for Gender Equality at UNESCO, delivered a webinar on the importance of gender equality in technology startups. The webinar was organized by Bynd VC, a Portuguese venture capital firm that specializes in seed funding for technology startups. The session was part of the firm’s e-Bynd Portfolio Week – a week-long virtual fair for Bynd’s portfolio companies which included webinars on business to business and business to consumer opportunities and challenges and offered startups the opportunity to pitch their ideas to potential investors. Ana Paula Reis, Partner at Bynd VC, introduced the webinar, which had the highest attendance of any session with 33 connections.
Participants tuned in to understand why the technology sector has a hard time attracting and retaining women. They learned about the benefits of gender equality for tech corporations and were presented with real-life examples showing them what easy steps they could take to increase diversity within their own companies. It was also an opportunity for participants to hear about UNESCO’s on-going research on the digital gender divide and gender biases in artificial intelligence.
First, Ms Corat observed that women are currently missing at all levels of the technology sector: from the applicant pool, technical jobs, the C-suite and corporate boards, but also as inventors, seed-funding recipients and investors. What is more, past research has shown that women are twice as likely than men to leave the tech sector, and tend to do so by the time they reach mid-career level.
While the growing digital gender gap – the fact that women and girls too often lack access to information and communication technologies (ICTs) and lack the digital skills to use them effectively – is in part responsible for the low female pool of talent in ICT fields and for the subsequent underrepresentation of women in the tech sector, Ms Corat advised her audience not to use this so-called pipeline argument to justify their company’s gender gap. Indeed, the problem isn’t just that there are not enough women in the talent pool; it is also that tech companies fail to attract and retain female talent. The Director for Gender Equality explained that women leave tech companies in great numbers because they are often underpaid, less likely to be promoted and at times even actively discriminated against.
After presenting research supporting the idea that increasing gender diversity is a smart business decision, Ms Corat shared some insights regarding how companies could go about closing their gender gap. For example, she encouraged company leaders to take a strong stance for diversity, since they set the values and culture of their company. She reminded her audience that merely hiring a Chief Diversity Officer will not fix their company’s diversity problem if it does not come with a real company-wide determination to change how things are done.
To conclude, the Director prompted listeners to acknowledge that the underrepresentation of women is not just a problem for the tech sector itself, but a problem for society as a whole. This is because technology developed by homogenous groups of individuals - such as white and Asian males - is more likely to contain bias. Such biases can spread and reinforce harmful gender stereotypes, which may further stigmatise and marginalise women everywhere and may even offset some of the considerable progress societies have made towards gender equality in offline environments.
© LinkedIn - Bynd Venture Capital