It’s no secret that female business leaders are at a premium, especially in tech. Only four per cent of CEOs at SP 500 companies are women – a figure both shocking and empowering in equal measure. According to the Credit Suisse Gender 3000 report, businesses with more than 10 per cent of women at the helm had higher returns than those that aren’t gender balanced. So why is it still an issue today?
Efforts have been made across the public and private sector to stimulate change – not just for women in business today, but the next generation as well. In the UK for example, the government has pledged to ensure women represent 25 per cent of non-executive boards by the end of 2015 and has revamped the school curriculum to focus more on fostering STEM skills, especially for girls, at an early age.
However, as a female co-founder of a high-growth fintech company, I am reminded daily that it’s still very much a man’s world. A reality, you may be surprised to know, that isn’t lost on men either.
Some of my male peers in the industry joke about it, calling the consistently male dominated talks or panels ‘manels’ – recognising the distinct lack of female voices. What’s telling is that ‘manels’ are everywhere – in the boardroom, C-Suite and across the tech sector, especially finance.
According to Innovate Finance, the fintech sector is already worth £20bn in annual UK revenues. Nearly half of all European tech investment went to the fintech space last year and the industry employs 135,000 people and counting. That’s thanks to some of the most disruptive startups to break ground in the UK over the past few years including Transferwise, CurrencyCloud, RingPay and Nutmeg to name a few. While it’s exciting to know Azimo is a part of such a high-growth market, I can’t help but notice I’m amongst a select few female founders.
This permeates across all areas of the industry, including venture capital firms – a vital part of the tech startup lifecycle. Only four per cent of investors are female, with the same percentage of VC funding going to women-led businesses – a fraction of the $48 billion investment made last year.
Boris Wertz, founder of Version One Ventures, was recently quoted as stating: “Women-run private tech companies are more capital efficient and bring in a 35 percent higher return on investment (and 12 percent higher when venture backed).”
Boris isn’t alone in his thinking. First Round Capital, released a report last week highlighting that businesses with a female founder as part of their team performed 63 per cent better than their all-male counterparts. For a venture capital firm that funds some of the most recognisable brands (Uber, TaskRabbit, Mint.com), isn’t it time we sat up and took notice? The impact female founders are having on business success, talent retention and innovation around the world is real and shouldn’t be ignored.
So next time you’re faced with yet another ‘manel’, be it at a conference or in the boardroom, think about how different the conversation might be if there was a woman involved. What’s it really going to take for us to change the ratio?