Jackie Waring: Tech women are essential to economic growth

Jackie Waring: Tech women are essential to economic growth

Jackie Waring

Scotland has a thriving technology sector but there’s still a huge amount of untapped potential that could further elevate its success and bolster our economy. Women, who remain significantly underrepresented within the sector, have a major part to play in making this happen, writes Jackie Waring, CEO of Investing Women.

The Scottish Technology Ecosystem Review by Mark Logan, published earlier this year, set out how Scotland’s technology sector can contribute to the post-pandemic recovery. The review identified three key areas which were essential in supporting and nurturing Scottish tech businesses, from the early start-up phase through to full scale maturity. These include education and talent, from school to all levels of further learning, infrastructure, and funding.

Logan’s initial point on education is where we need to start in addressing the current lack of women within the sector.

According to the UK organisation Women in Tech, females account for under 17% of technology roles at present with only one in ten women in IT leadership positions. With little progress being made on these figures over the last decade, it’s clear that we need to make a concentrated effort to encourage more girls to pursue STEM subjects which can provide a solid foundation for pursuing a career in technology. We must also support initiatives to keep women interested and active in technology as well as other STEM-related industries beyond their school years.

Here in Scotland there are a number of other bodies already seeking to do this including the Royal Society of Edinburgh (RSE), an internationally renowned science-focused organisation currently run by a female CEO which has significantly increased its number of female Fellows over recent years. The Scottish Government also set up a taskforce earlier this year to tackle gender stereotyping in schools which aims to drive ‘bold and far-reaching’ actions including ensuring greater gender equality in key professions.

Organisations like ours are also seeking to affect positive change. Through our annual AccelerateHER Awards programme for female company founders, we have now introduced four STEM-focused categories, including FinTech, Data Science and Cyber Security, which is specifically aimed at female technology business founders.

Women leading these types of companies not only demonstrate the potential to thrive in these sectors, they also play an important role as inspirational mentors to younger girls who with a talent for technology.

Encouraging more established businesswomen to become investors is also important in presenting technology as a more attractive sector for female entrepreneurs. We’ve seen this phenomena in the US where females now account for more than 25% of its business angel investment community. This has created a ripple effect where a corresponding percentage of angel-backed companies are those led by a woman.

As the Logan Review has reported, technology in now essential to our economic future as it’s a sector that is most likely to create jobs and develop new, world class companies. Women in Tech has also estimated the UK economy would benefit from an extra £2.6 billion each year if we increased the number of women working in technology to fill the prevalent IT skills shortage.

As we have witnessed through our AccelerateHER Awards programme, female tech business founders are breaking through. Previous award winners including Rachel Jones of SnapDragon Monitoring, Elaine Galston of Tubular Sciences and Sheila Hogan of Biscuit Tin Planning are great examples of successful, Scottish-based technology business founders who are growing their companies and contributing to Scotland’s overall economic growth.

I would invite any female tech business founders, even those whose businesses are in the very early stages of growth, to put themselves forward and apply for next year’s awards – the deadline for entries closes this Friday 11 December.

Meanwhile, educators, governments and business must continue to ensure they keep the focus on attracting more females into the tech sector. This will not only deliver greater equality in a field where there are still far too few women, it will also help pave the way for a strong economic recovery which will be essential as we emerge from the global pandemic.

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