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Accelerating female-led start-ups

08 August 2019

Earlier this year I attended the Investing Women Conference in Edinburgh. Surrounded by female entrepreneurs and investors it struck me that this was one of the only times I had attended a conference event where the number of females outnumbered men. Reflecting on the day, I was inspired to hear so many incredible stories of successful women in business, technology and investment, particularly as a woman working in technology innovation as part of the TechX team at the Oil and Gas Technology Centre.

In the UK around 15% of technology jobs are held by women and in the oil and gas industry only 12% of engineers are female. We have experienced these disappointing statistics ourselves on the TechX programme but are in a fantastic position to take some positive action and turn these numbers around.

TechX is an award-winning programme with a world-class Pioneer offering attracting entrepreneurial talent locally, nationally and internationally.  

First launched in December 2017, the first TechX Pioneer programme received 125 applications from over 24 countries but only 6% of these applications were female. Our first chosen cohort of 10 companies had only 1 female founder. Our second cohort in 2019 had a larger application pool of 182 applications from over 35 countries but there was only a marginal improvement in gender diversity with 8% of applicants being from female founders or co-founders. Our second cohort has 1 female co-founder.

Recognising we need to use our strong brand and position of strength to improve these startling statistics, the OGTC and TechX have decided to take positive action in this space. We want to fully understand the key challenges facing female technology entrepreneurs and look at what can be done to provide more support and increase the ratio of female to male founders and co-founders coming through the programme. After engagement with a group of female executives and entrepreneurs over a cross sector of industries there are some clear and common barriers that consistently come up.

Women are still not encouraged or supported into entrepreneurship the way their male counterparts are. Add into that there is still a huge lack of female role models in entrepreneurship and the fact that women are 56% less likely to get the backing of an angel investor and the problem becomes magnified.

To put all this in perspective female led businesses receive just 9% of UK Start-up funding. This means fewer female run start-ups, fewer female start-up success stories and fewer female applicants to programmes like TechX because they don’t feel it’s achievable.

It’s not all doom and gloom, improvement is on the horizon. Forbes released a publication in January of this year showing 10 statistics to encourage investment in female-run businesses; including businesses founded by women tend to deliver higher revenue, performed better over time and grow faster than other businesses.

So while we’re seeing small changes, what can we do to accelerate this? TechX is launching their own dedicated taskforce to look at these problems and come up with a proactive approach to solving them. By putting women at the heart of the decision-making process we can achieve a real step-change in attitudes and behaviours, giving women the ability to see their potential and increasing the number of female-led technology businesses into TechX by 30% by 2021.

No more barriers, no more excuses and no more reasons why not. TechX aim to empower female entrepreneurs to bring the next generation of amazing technology businesses to industry. It’s time for female entrepreneurs to get the support they deserve and have their chance to shine.

… I look forward to sharing more about this soon!

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