Northern Stars: a note about diversity

Esme Caulfield, November 17, 2017 2 min read

This article was originally posted on the Tech North website.

Last night we celebrated the crowning of our 10 new Northern Stars winners. However, as some people have rightly pointed out, the lineup of winners doesn’t represent the diversity we all want to see in the tech industry.

So, how did we end up with 10 male winners?

We received fully-completed applications from 107 startups. Each application is done in the name of one person at each company, usually the person who ends up pitching if they make it to the Grand Final.

Our 20 finalists were selected by an independent panel, entirely on the merit of their businesses, not who would be pitching. What’s more, some companies with female co-founders chose to field a man to pitch instead.

Inputs and outputs

When it comes to the diversity of Northern Stars, we can only influence the input, not the output. We were mindful to encourage applications from people of all backgrounds. At Tech North, we absolutely want to see a more diverse tech sector. It’s why we ran Northern Voices, a programme designed to get more women in tech visible on conference stages and in media interviews.

However, in the end it is the businesses, not the people, that win Northern Stars. Our judges selected the companies based on their business potential and the strength of their pitch. All companies had the opportunity to attend free pitch training workshops to help them prepare.

So critics are right to highlight the lack of diversity in the 10 winners. It represents the fact there’s still a lot to be done by everyone in tech to ensure it’s a welcoming and accessible industry for people of all genders and ethnicities. We will continue to promote diversity in everything we do, and we’re always looking for ways to do that better.

Reflecting on this year’s application process, we understand that we need to do more to ensure Northern Stars is inclusive. Looking ahead, this means being more proactive in engaging with under-represented groups to actively promote the benefits of being involved in Northern Stars and engaging with Tech North more widely. Please get in touch if you have suggestions for how best we can do this. You can reach me at:

And as former Northern Stars winner Elizabeth Clark of Dream Agility says in this video on LinkedIn today, if people don’t put themselves forward, we won’t see them in the winning lineup.

Northern Stars, Women in tech