Tech Nation

New diversity in tech initiative aims to double the number of female and BAME founders by 2020

diversity, London, Aspiring, Early Stage

MB ChristieMB Christie, June 19, 2018

“You can’t be what you can’t see,” said Marian Wright Edelman, a life-long activist for the disadvantaged in the USA who founded the Children’s Defense Fund.

That simple phrase sums up a powerful reality that helps explain why….

  • companies with all male founding teams raise 91% of all venture capital investment in the UK, according to Beauhurst
  • women represent just 19% of the digital tech workforce in the UK, as opposed to 49% across all jobs, according to the 2018 Tech Nation Report;
  • In 2017, just 17% of companies globally had a female founder, a number that hasn’t changed in five years, according to Crunchbase.
  • new Tech Nation and Pitchbook figures reveal women entrepreneurs received £200k less than male counterparts per deal closed.   

For decades, women have not seen people like them leading tech companies, so they don’t think that is a viable option for them. If we are to succeed in remaining one of leading tech nations in the world, we can’t afford to ignore the talents of half the population. We have to build an open and inclusive tech community.  

Today, we are proud to announce that we are taking steps to shift this dynamic. We have joined a consortium, supported by JPMorgan Chase, that aims to double the number of female and ethnic minority founders in three London boroughs by 2020. If the model works, we may be able to expand it elsewhere in the country.

The consortium is led by Capital Enterprise, London’s startup experts, and includes Your Startup, Your Story (YSYS): a diverse startup community; Diversity VC: the non-profit, founded by volunteers from the tech industry, which is dedicated to promoting diversity and inclusion in venture capital; and us, Tech Nation: a government-backed organisation that aims to make the UK the best place to imagine, start and grow a digital business. The consortium will set out to address this lack of diversity in London’s tech startups and the community of investors, accelerators and incubators that support them.

Later this year, we will launch a high-profile campaign to showcase inspirational stories from under-represented tech founders to illustrate available opportunities in the UK tech startup ecosystem. We hope to inspire more women and individuals from under-represented communities to consider starting an ambitious tech startup or to seek work and training opportunities in London’s booming tech startup ecosystem. Our goal is to help address one of the top barriers to growth by creating a new pipeline of talent for tech startups.

Unlike other initiatives, this is not about creating a special “women-only” or “ethnic minority only” programme; this is about tapping into pools of talent from underrepresented groups, and supporting them to join already existing accelerators, pitch for funding, and accelerate their growth. In other words, we are aiming to give these promising leaders the support they need to succeed in UK’s tech start-up world.

These initiatives work best when we live by the values that we are promoting. So, we held a mirror up to ourselves and looked at our own gender composition and pay gap. We are delighted to report that our Tech Nation staff does not follow the industry norms – in fact, 65% of our staff are women and 35% are male, with 19% from ethnic minority backgrounds. Our median gender pay gap across the company is 8% in favour of men, much improved from the 20% pay gap we reported last October.

What’s changed? When we transformed from Tech City UK and Tech North into Tech Nation in April, we reorganised the teams, added new roles and more clearly defined others. The current executive team is now 75% women, and the “heads of” roles are 66% women. This has helped us close the gender pay gap, but we aren’t all the way there yet.

We look forward to working alongside JPMorgan Chase, Capital Enterprise, YSYS and Diversity VC to make sure more women and ethnic minorities see what they can be in the booming digital sector.