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Just 1% of female jobseekers aspire to work in startups

Despite technology industry hype about diversity and inclusion, startups are still failing to attract female employees

Only 1% of female jobseekers would most like to work in a startup, compared to 8% of men, according to new research.

Startup roles are also significantly more attractive to younger jobseekers, with 8% of under-35s saying they would prefer to work in a startup, compared to a 4% average across all other age groups.

The research was conducted on behalf of Tiger Recruitment by YouGov, which carried out an online survey of more than 1,000 UK employees.

The responses indicate that startups must do more to attract female jobseekers, especially given the recent news of a record $5.1bn being invested in UK startups in 2019.

“Startups, particularly in the tech sector, have gained a reputation for being male-dominated and, as a result, it appears the majority of women don’t see themselves working in this environment,” said David Morel, CEO of Tiger Recruitment.

“One of the big issues is that ‘startup life’ is frequently seen as unstable and involving long hours, which is likely to concern those who prioritise work-life balance or have family responsibilities. Startups need to do more to counter these perceptions. By driving away 50% of the population, they are missing out on a valuable pool of talent, which could make all the difference to fulfilling their growth ambitions in the future.”

According to Debbie Forster, CEO of industry collective Tech Talent Charter and winner of Computer Weekly’s Most Influential Woman in UK Technology 2019, people need to stop thinking of inclusion as something that takes from some to give to others, and start framing it as something that is in everyone’s interest.

“I can sit in a room with white, middle-class, middle-aged CIOs and say, ‘If you’re talking to your team, and you think you have no reason to think about inclusion, that’s fine – if you’re never going to get old, have an injury, have a family member unwell, then no, you don’t need inclusion’. Inclusion is in their interest too,” Forster told Computer Weekly.

Previous research by startup equity platform Carta found that women make up just 34% of the startup workforce, with significantly fewer in leadership, founder or equity ownership positions.

But the UK tech sector is not unique in this respect – only 7% of people working in the tech industry across Europe are women, and only 4% of venture capital investment in the sector goes to companies started by all-women teams, according to the British Business Bank.

Read more about women in tech

  • Computer Weekly has announced the 2019 list of the 50 Most Influential Women in UK Tech, including this year’s winner, Debbie Forster.
  • This year’s Computer Weekly diversity in technology event focused on the importance of inclusivity in attracting and retaining diverse talent. Inclusivity can mean many things to many people, and creating an environment that makes everyone feel welcome can be easier said than done.
  • The proportion of women working in technology teams has risen only fractionally in the past year, from 21% to 22%, while the percentage of female technology leaders remains the same at just 12%.

Women’s lack of inclusion in the tech sector is also something that starts from a young age. A 2017 study by Nominet suggested that children are encouraged to follow certain paths based on their gender. 

It found that only 9% of parents would like their children to choose a career in technology, and they were much more likely to steer boys in that direction.

For example, 13% of parents said they would want their son to pursue a career as a tech entrepreneur or games developer, but these roles did not appear at all in the top five roles that parents suggested for girls.

Like the wider tech industry, startups are struggling with a skills deficit, with six out of 10 having difficulty finding the appropriate talent. By focusing more on attracting female talent, startups could plug these skill gaps.

Although more women are expected to enter the technology sector in 2020, the number of women in core technical roles has remained static at around 16% over the past decade.

More than 60% of women in tech said long-standing stereotypes about the tech sector still put men in a favourable position when it comes to leadership roles, and they feel women in the same positions are “judged by different criteria”, leading to women progressing more slowly than men.

Read more on Diversity in IT

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