Female Tech Entrepreneurs, Scotland

Do you remember that photoshoot on the roof of TechCube that everyone made such a fuss about? It was intended to represent Technology Entrepreneurs in Scotland… but something missing… all the women.

Girl Geek Scotland, Hot Tin Roof and ScotlandIS got together to organise an alternative shoot, this time only featuring the women. As our lovely photograph image shows there are quite a few female leaders in this sector. Who knows where they were that day. I suspect that they were all at high profile meetings in  London, New York and San Francisco.

Many people dispute that women are treated at all differently at work. While overt sexism is extremely rare in this sector in Scotland, there is evidence to suggest that *everyone* (both men and women) are guilty of unconscious bias.

There have been several studies that examine this phenomenon, and one of the most compelling, though 10 years old (and a study carried out in the USA), still rings true. It is called the Howard/Heidi study.


The Heidi Howard Study

Two professors wrote up a case study about a real-life entrepreneur named Heidi Roizen, describing how she became a successful venture capitalist by relying on her outgoing personality and huge personal and professional network. The professors had a group of students read Roizen’s story with her real name attached and another group read the story with the name changed to “Howard.” Then the students rated Howard and Heidi on their accomplishments and on how appealing they seemed as colleagues.

While the students rated them equally in terms of success, they thought Howard was likeable while Heidi seemed selfish and not “the type of person you would want to hire or work for.” Sandberg’s conclusion: when a man is successful, he is well liked. When a woman does well, people like her less.


Female Tech Entrepreneurs, Scotland

For those of you who would like to know more about the technology scene in Scotland, and how women fit in, here are some facts brought courtesy of our friends  at Hot Tin Roof.

  • In Scotland around one fifth of the tech work force are women[SL1] .  Many find themselves the only women at meetings or in a team.  This can be culturally isolating and women can feel overwhelmed by a predominantly male culture.
  • There is a skills shortage in Scotland at the moment and the industry will only thrive on talent male or female.
  • It is statistically proven that companies do better with women in them.  If tech in Scotland is to flourish it must attract and retain women.
  • Women who leave the industry don’t come back.  One of the reasons for this is that tech moves so quickly that their knowledge become out of date very quickly.
  • It is not the ability of women to do the work but a pipeline problem.  Women self identify as being creative – not ‘mathematical’.  They don’t naturally gravitate towards the IT sector.
  • Actually software design is not an intrinsically mathematical process but more of a creative process.  It is all about recognizing patterns.
  •  We must make the environment supportive and encourage women to first of all come into the sector and then to stay.  Computing must be taught in a more engaging way at schools to both boys and girls.
  • The tech sector requires a range of skills and disciplines and must attract women from all backgrounds – creative, psychology, language and marketing.
  • The tech sector is not intrinsically sexist any more than journalism, the law or business.  In Scotland the industry is inclusive and supportive of women.
  • The industry is taking steps to address the issue with initiatives like Scottish Women in Technology established by IBM, Dell, HP and Cisco which supports women coming through the ranks, encouraging them to apply for senior roles and supporting return to work after maternity leave.
  • Groups like Girl Geeks – which has male and female members – have grown up to share experience and provide a support network – creating the networks that men naturally have.
  • Facebook’s COO, Sheryl Sanberg’s, book Lean In was published earlier this year looked at businesses and how businesses with women at senior levels perform better.  Heidi Roizen who is taking part in the picture on Thursday is mentioned in Lean In – she took part in a Stanford University [SL2] experiment 10 years ago looking at unconscious gender bias when her achievements were reviewed as Howard and as Heidi.


 [SL1] Stats are – around 14% of CS and software engineering students are female

about 16% of our e-placement Scotland students are female

18% of the IT professionals workforce is female – ie are software engineers, IT specialists etc