Saturday, June 25, 2011

Mark Hales, Entrepreneur & Founder of Oxygen Accelerator: Are Women in Tech Playing Hide and Seek?

On May 9, 2011, I launched the Oxygen Accelerator programme in the hope of finding the tech stars of the future.� But very early on, it became apparent that there was something fundamentally interesting in the applications coming through ? there were simply no women applying; well, none so far anyway!

Curiosity sent me on a journey to find out where all the women are and if this is a problem in this sector?� In October 2010, The UK Resource Centre for Women in Science, Engineering and Technology (SET) revealed that only 5.3 per cent of women are employed in the SET sector ? that?s one in twenty.� If that seems reasonable to you, then compare that to a huge shift in men in the same occupation ? 31.3 per cent ? and that?s in a total of 5.5 million SET workers of men and women.�

In the UK, women account for 45.1 per cent of the workforce, but this is not emulated in the technology industry.� There are several well-established tech journalists and women tech leaders/entrepreneurs who have their opinions that women aren?t assertive enough and don?t realise the commercial value of ?PR-ing? themselves to secure funding.� I?m of the opinion that there are many astute women entrepreneurs that probably just don?t know how to.� However, as most entrepreneurs will tell you, if you?ve got passion, a great idea and a business plan to back it, everything else can fall into place, including refining the business plan to ensure investments are secured.�

But what worries me about the tech industry is that I simply do not see enough women innovators in comparison to those you find in arts/culture, retail, beauty, etc.� And what I want to know is, why?

This is not to say there aren?t any women leaders, because we can see many who are (Rashmi Sinha of SlideShare; Kaliya Hamlin of Shes Geeky; Shireen Mitchell of Digital Sistas, who wrote about her experiences after being recognized by AlwaysOn; Mary Hodder, who is working on her second startup; Irene Au of Google; Amy Jo Kim of ShuffleBrain; Heather Harde of TechCrunch; and Lynne d. Johnson, formerly of Fast Company and now with the Advertising Research Foundation), but I?m mostly interested in seeking women innovators.�

Has the tech industry unwittingly created an invisible male-only policy that has shunned the fairer sex from reining their interest in this industry? Or are the women entrepreneurs genuinely not interested in technology?

I spoke with Deb Leary, CEO Forensic Pathways Ltd & National President of the British Association of Women Entrepreneurs, who commented: ?My opinion is that there are many women entrepreneurs out there in the tech industry doing fantastic, ground breaking things, but they don?t either see the value or have the confidence to put themselves forward as ?thought leaders?.� And ?thought leaders? and role models is exactly what the industry needs.� Many believe that unless they know everything about everything they have no right to comment. I say it?s time to step up to the plate, ladies.?

Science and Technology is a powerful combination and we are very keen to help develop successful companies.� It?s statistically apparent that there are women out there who are super intelligent, successful and able to perform exceptionally well in a competitive environment.� But where are they now?

Accelerator programmes are built specifically to find talent and nurture businesses and this is the exact forum to draw more women into this industry - to create outstanding leaders of the future through good-old-fashion innovation, creativity and hard graft.� My advice to them is to stop hiding and come out and play!�

This is a guest post by Mark Hales, entrepreneur and founder of Oxygen Accelerator.

Do you agree with Mark's point of view? If you would like to respond to Mark's article, please leave a comment!

There are still 7 days left to apply for the Oxygen Accelerator,� a 13-week intensive mentor led bootcamp for technology startups. For more information, see their website and our article announcing a prize of �75,00 for the most improved start up on the programme.


Dita Von Teese Lisa Marie Deanna Russo Tamie Sheffield Alessandra Ambrosio

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