Enough is enough: it’s time for women in tech to demolish the stereotypes and make things happen.

By Katy Campbell (Global Communications Director, Lamudi) and Vera Futorjanski (Global Head of Public Relations & Communications for foodpanda/hellofood)

Now there was a time when we used to think that behind every great startup was a great man. But in these times of change, can that really still be true? So these two tech sisters are coming out of the shadows, because there’s something we want to share with you…

The Role of Women in Tech Startups

The astute among you will notice that we were having a little bit of fun with the lyrics of that tub-thumping 80s hit from Annie Lennox and Aretha Franklin – a personal favourite here in the office and indeed also in the shower!

Parking the fun for a moment, we have a serious point. There is a discussion to be had about the role of women in tech startups and what barriers and ceilings remain in this peculiar industry.

First Impressions

When people think of startups, and tech startups in particular, they tend to picture teams of geeky men headed by Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg-types. Take a look at the major tech successes of the last decade and you can appreciate how people have gained that impression. When Twitter was floated as a public company, its Board of Directors was entirely male. When Facebook was floated as a public company, its Board of Directors was entirely male. Pinterest, to this date, retains an entirely male board despite the fact that some 70% of its users are female. The biggest companies and the biggest personalities in tech are overwhelmingly male-dominated.

PR: Public Relations / Please Review

As high-flying, successful, motivated, ambitious, educated and smart public relations girls; we are tempted to diagnose this as a predominantly PR problem for the tech industry. You see, in the last few years things have been changing – Facebook brought in high-profile businesswoman Sheryl Sandberg as Chief Operating Officer and introduced a second female board member just last year, Microsoft has a powerhouse of a board member in Maria Klawe, and Google boasts a female Head of Ads and Commerce in Susan Wojcicki.

At the modest but fast-growing end of the scale, Lamudi has an over 50% female workforce worldwide; and foodpanda’s global communications, the world’s largest online food delivery platform is being managed by Vera Futorjanski, a public relations consultant with experience in working in over 10 countries.

But are these success stories the first things that spring to mind when thinking about women in influential positions in tech companies? Of course not. A lot more needs to be done to get those success stories out there – to reach female graduates who think that the tech industry offers them nothing, or the high school girls who think they will never work for an exciting global company like Facebook or Google because of the lack of visible female role models.

Proving our Worth

We would, however, be trivialising the issue to say it is purely an issue of awareness and visibility of women. The tech industry does lag behind other industries in the inclusion and promotion of women. Part of that is the structure of the industry itself – most venture capitalists who fund startups tend to be men, and startups tend to expect a lot from their workers in terms of effort and hours. The argument goes that in that situation, the cream rises to the top. A meritocracy. Perhaps true – we all have to prove ourselves. But it does sometimes seem like us women need to prove ourselves more than the rest to see any reward.

It is a mixed picture. The tech industry has come a long way but has an equally long way to go. But we suppose that our involvement in the tech industry leads us to fight its corner a little here. We have seen it ourselves – there is a place for women in tech. Tech is a viable career choice for female graduates. Women can succeed in leadership roles in tech.

Make the Change

Our message is this – get involved. Find that high-flying role model like Sheryl Sandberg, Susan Wojcicki, Maria Klawe and follow the trail that they have blazed. Before long, behind every great startup will be a great woman.

Are you a woman in tech? Does this sound familiar?