Three persistent myths about women in tech

Start it @kbc

Wednesday 16 August 2017

Three persistent myths about women in tech

It’ll come as no surprise that Start it @kbc is a huge proponent of getting more women into technology and entrepreneurship. That’s why we greatly enjoyed being among like-minded people at the Texas SXSW a few months ago. The panel “Why women in tech matter” was jam packed as three entrepreneurial women talked about their efforts to close the gender gap. Here are a few myths they deal with on a daily basis:

 

Myth #1: Women just aren’t as good at coding and math

This persistent myth is hurting children at a very young age. When tested, children of both genders prove to be equally good at math, with girls even taking a slight lead over their male counterparts. And yet, it is a well-known “fact” that boys are good at math, and girls just aren’t. As it turns out, children are very susceptible to these stereotypes, turning this perception problem into a self-fulfilling prophecy. By the time girls hit their teens, only 14% are interested in pursuing advanced studies in a STEM field.

Thankfully, there are plenty of new initiatives that try to tackle the gender gap right where it starts. One of the SXSW panelists, for example, is Niamh Scanlon, a 14-year-old from Ireland, who took home the EU Digital Girl of the Year award in 2015. She’s been coding at the Dublin City University CoderDojo since she was 9 and has been a vocal advocate for women in tech since. Introducing girls to coding at a young age and telling them that they are, in fact, good at coding, is encouraging a whole new generation of women to pursue tech careers in later life.

 

Myth #2: Women are less ambitious and less successful

One of the classic explanations as to why there are so few women in tech and positions of power, is that women just aren’t as ambitious. They prefer to rear children and are not as dedicated as their male counterparts. Sounds plausible, but is it true? The numbers are in, and they don’t lie: On average, Fortune 500 companies led by women (only 6% in total, by the way), yield 226% greater returns than those led by men, and companies with diverse teams are 45% more likely to grow shares and 70% more likely to capture new markets. So in the end, we all win.

Women are still vastly underrepresented in leadership positions, but there are a few brave trailblazers who prove that women, indeed, excel in these top positions. We have a long way to go, without question, but it’s great to see a shift in the workplace and a strong increase in mentorship and support programs, like the ones we have at Start it @kbc.

Just a few months ago, we organized a series of webinars that specifically targeted female entrepreneurs. Organizers of the event were our very own co-founder Katrien Dewijngaert and fellow female entrepreneur Elke Jeurissen, who founded the women entrepreneurial network Straffe Madammen (Dutch for feisty women - Ed.).

These targeted workshops and Start it @kbc’s continuous support of women in tech have already yielded some great results: only last week, Small Teaser, co-founded by Ruth Janssens and supported by Start it @kbc, managed to nab a solid 800,000 euro in funding. And just earlier this year, FibriCheck (the company under co-founder Bieke Van Gorp), raised 1,5 million euro. Other examples include Scriptbook (co-founded and led by Nadira Azermai) who received 1 million euro in funding in 2016 and last but not least: iDalko (with business development manager Hilde Van Brempt), the Antwerp startup who raised 500,000 euro in January 2017!

 

Myth #3: There are no opportunities for women in tech

This last myth is a curious one. Though companies claim that they are struggling to attract female tech and leadership talent, women in those fields are saying that they are being overlooked for promotions and just can’t seem to get their foot in the door. Interestingly, Google Jobs shows fewer management positions to women than it does to men. Is the gender gap being coded into our algorithms, with most of us being none the wiser?

Once again, it boils down to a perception problem. Women are still often perceived as less ambitious or even unfit for leadership positions, and it has impacted the way we search for and assess talent. Our biggest challenges today are fixing that perception problem and attracting more young women to pursue technical studies. Because there are, in fact, great opportunities for women in tech today, says panelist Unoma Okorafor, ITU and UN Women’s 2016 GEM-TECH Award winner for her work to promote Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) education for girls. Gender balance is within reach, all we have to do is take it.

 

So dear female entrepreneurs and ladies in tech: apply for Start it @kbc before 17/9! Do you want to help push the new wave of female entrepreneurs forward? Become one of our mentors!