Technology has a big gender problem. It’s been well documented that men hold the majority of jobs in the industry, especially as computer scientists and developers. The gender gap doesn’t stop there – it extends to tech entrepreneurship too, where women receive far less venture capital funding for startups than men do. In fact, only 2 per cent of female founders received funding last year.
Despite positive momentum from media coverage, conferences and initiatives that are discussing this problem and working toward solutions, there are signs that real change is still yet to come. A new report from McKinsey and Pivotal Ventures found that women are underrepresented in tech at every age and stage of life, from elementary school all the way up to senior tech jobs, where women currently hold just 11 per cent of leadership positions. As technology continues to become part of the fabric of everything we do, job opportunities in the industry will only grow, making the need to close the gender gap even more critical.
I have always believed that the best way to address this issue is by empowering women and girls with opportunities to learn new tech skills and to support them in sustaining their interest in the field. That’s why the Vodafone Americas Foundation supports organisations like TechGirlz, Technovation and Girls in Tech that focus on accelerating girls and women into more opportunities in STEM and entrepreneurship.
Recently, Girls in Tech, a global non-profit focused on the engagement, education and empowerment of girls and women who are passionate about technology, held AMPLIFY, a pitch competition for female founders. Girls in Tech gives young women the opportunity to pitch their tech startups to Silicon Valley veterans and compete for seed funding.
I recently had the honor of serving as a judge for AMPLIFY and I’m excited to share that the winner was one of our past Wireless Innovation Project winners, Omnivis (formerly known as PathVis)! They put the power of the lab, in the palm of your hand with smartphone-enabled early disease outbreak detection.
Meanwhile, the AMPLIFY Audience Choice Award winner was Project Vive, which gives a voice to the voiceless through speech-generating devices.
When we create dedicated forums like this competition to celebrate women’s achievements in tech and discuss diversity and inclusion in the field, we can start to turn the tide toward equality.
June Sugiyama has been Director of the Vodafone Americas Foundation for over 10 years. She has led the Vodafone Americas Foundation’s transition towards impact through technology related programmes and developed the Vodafone Americas Foundation Wireless Innovation Project.
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