‘More women needed in tech’ says head of London Tech Advocates

Russ Shaw and Sarah Luxford talk at the Tech City event. Pic: Rob Wilson Jnr

Russ Shaw and Sarah Luxford talk at the Tech City event. Pic: Rob Wilson Jnr – Fluid4Sight

London’s booming tech industry will be in decline without more female representation, tech industry mogul Russ Shaw has told Croydon’s tech entrepreneurs.

The former Vice-President and General Manager of Skype now heads London Tech Advocates and was speaking at a Croydon Tech City event at Matthews Yard on Thursday.

Shaw said: “if we don’t bring more women into tech, our tech hub in London will slowly die.”

“Tech is a very male dominated sector of our economy. By not having more women in tech we’re missing out on their thinking, their ideas, the way they approach business models”, Shaw added.

Croydon is considered London’s fastest growing tech hub with more than 1,500 tech business calling the borough home according to the Office for National Statistics.

Despite the borough’s great leaps as a tech cluster in London, it too suffers from the industry-wide dearth of female representation.

The industry workforce is thought to be around just 15-20 per cent female, while figures released earlier this year by London Tech Advocates showed 23 per cent of tech firms in the city had no women in senior positions.

Tech London Advocates has spent the last two years trying to address the issue with Shaw handpicking Croydon’s Sarah Luxley to head the organisation’s Women in Tech group.

Following Russ’ presentation in Croydon last night, Luxley agreed that without more women, the industry has no future.

“If companies don’t change now, we’re going to find ourselves in a very dire situation moving forward. We believe CEOs are sabotaging their future success by not embracing a diverse workforce”, she said.

“We hear time and time again that venture capitalists are predominately white, middle-aged, grey haired men and they will go like for like. It’s really about being able to change the venture capital world to ensure there are more female partners going into these companies to be seen as role models within that community and allow more females to apply for funds.”

Bucking the trend is Nafisa Bakkar, CEO of Amalia, a digital start-up looking to tap into the $226 billion modest fashion industry.

Nafisa Bakkar, CEO of Amalia, at Tech City. Pic: Rob Wilson Jnr - Fluid4Sight

Nafisa Bakkar, CEO of Amalia, at Tech City. Pic: Rob Wilson Jnr – Fluid4Sight

Following her presentation at Croydon Tech City last night, Bakkar said: “On paper, in theory, reality and in all the realms you can think of I should face quite a few barriers. Yes there are barriers, but instead of waiting for the whole world to realign institutions and political systems, instead of spending my time and efforts talking about those barriers, I choose to just do it.”

“I have had no privileges. It doesn’t come down to the fact I have been given different opportunities. I choose to go and get those opportunities, I choose to ignore those barriers and I choose develop myself”, Bakkar said.

Yet Bakkar remains the exception rather than the rule. With the rate of women in the industry having remained stagnant for a generation, Luxley advocates for drastic action.

“I believe in quotas”, said Luxley. “Something has to change, it hasn’t changed in 40 years. There needs to be some kind of legal issue now coming into play in order for it to effect proper change, where companies are now held accountable for that.”

“It has to come from management: from the CEOs, vice-presidents and executive management. If not, it won’t facilitate down”, she added.


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