Covid and women in tech: a catalyst for change?
There is no denying that Covid-19 has fast-tracked digital adoption. The use of online platforms like Zoom and Microsoft Teams has skyrocketed, boosting the number of online resources, digital networking opportunities and online communities available to people within the tech sector.
At the same time, lockdown has seen many people try new skills and explore alternative career options. At the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, Free Code Camp saw a two million spike in signups to its online coding course after just two weeks. Similarly, Good Things Foundation, a charity focusing on digital inclusion, reported that since a significant increase in women accessing its free Learn My Way course in digital literacy. In February women made up 55 per cent of all learners; in May they made up 70 per cent.
So with easily accessible resources and a new way of working, is it possible that Covid-19 is the catalyst needed to encourage more women to consider a career in tech?
Where are we now?
Diverse thinking is not only a gender subject. Diverse thinking enables us to see problems from multiple viewpoints, creating holistic solutions and encouraging creative thinking.
The events of 2020 have dramatically changed our way of thinking and working, uprooting our priorities, and magnifying the importance of working together, helping one-another and creating a more diverse, accepted and co-operative society. We’re starting to see more inclusion generally within the tech community, with more opportunities available for women as the true need for diverse teams becomes more apparent and accepted. But we still have a long way to go.
According to WISE campaign’s Annual Core-STEM Stats Round Up: 2019-20, women account for just 17 per cent of tech roles in the UK, with the majority of women continuing to hold person-centred roles such as project management, digital marketing and human resources. If we are to see development in the digital area, we need to encourage women into the profession at a much earlier age.
A new generation
Women in the 18-25 year age group have been especially affected by Covid-19, so it’s crucial that we make them aware of the opportunities available in digital and what they can do to pursue a career in tech. The technologists among us have a duty to help those struggling during this time, providing advice, support and innovative ideas that can help them stay afloat and move into a role that is right for them.
With face-to-face meetups almost impossible right now, joining online forums and attending virtual meetups is currently the most accessible way to meet other women with a mutual interest in working in tech. Organisations like We Are Tech Women and the Woman in Tech Forum have become important pillars within the female digital community - and especially so since Covid. They are places for women to learn, share their experiences, seek advice and grow in confidence, especially in those early stages.
At a time when unemployment is at an all time high in the UK, it’s important for women to remember that you don’t need a degree in tech to be able to work in tech. Passion and a willingness to learn is what you need, and many women have this in abundance. So much of working in tech is about collaboration, listening to your team, showing empathy and respect, and demonstrating creativity. Technical skills can always be learnt.
Having been brought up in an era where gender bias was particularly prevalent, I am passionate about supporting a new generation of women who do not have their options limited by this generation's biases. I believe parents and teachers have a responsibility to ensure their girls see the full scope of what they can be, including exposure to resources, games and information that might just shape the way they view their future. Implementing the right changes now will shape gender equality in the technology industry for years to come.
2020 has presented us with many opportunities to readjust our ways of thinking and working. It has realigned our priorities to accept technology as a crucial part of a high-functioning society and made us see the true value in instilling true diversity in our towns, cities and workplaces. But I would love to see this year as a catalyst for those with a true passion for tech take the leap; unbound by their sex. I only hope that when we look back on this year in future, we’re doing so as a more equal, more accepting, and more diverse society.
Tina Howell, DevOps, AND Digital
Start-ups receive $60 billion investment, smash 2020 record
Start-ups on the continent have raised a massive 43.8 billion euros ($60.9 billion) in just the first six months of 2021, according to figures from Dealroom, surpassing the record 38.5 billion euros invested last year..
This is despite the fact that the number of venture deals signed so far is around half the amount agreed in 2020. Only about 2,700 funding rounds have been raised so far this year, compared to 5,200 last year.
Prime examples in times of change
Examples are Swedish buy-now-pay-later firm Klarna which has raised more than $1.6 billion in two financing rounds, the German stock trading app Trade Republic received $900 million in May and British payments provider Checkout.com snapped up $450 million at the start of the year.
The figures suggest that European tech firms are pulling in far larger sums of money per investment than in previous years, which defies the economic uncertainty of the pandemic and boosted online services enormously.
The CEO of Checkout.com, Guillaume Pousaz, said start-ups have often been created in times of crisis, citing the emergence of several new financial technology companies in the wake of the 2008 global financial crisis.
He added that big transformational change was often the time when there is the emergence of a lot of new start-ups, sometimes when people are losing their jobs for associated reasons.
UK leading the charge
Scale-Up Europe, a group that includes the founders of UiPath and Wise, proposed 21 recommendations to help the region build “the next generation of tech giants.” Among the suggestions are tax credits to corporates for investing in start-ups and regulatory changes that adapt to new innovations.
Sebastian Siemiatkowski, CEO of Klarna, said the U.K. leads Europe when it comes to tech policy, and that there were a number of regulatory issues needing to be addressed before the European Union can produce tech giants of its own.
Siemiatkowski highlighted EU regulation of web cookies as an example of “poor regulation.” Yet, as the number of $1 billion start-ups in Europe continues to grow, the number of exits in the continent is also increasing.
This year has already seen some notable acquisitions, including Etsy’s $1.6 billion purchase of U.K. fashion resale app Depop and JPMorgan’s takeover of London robo-advisor Nutmeg.
As for stock market listings, a number of notable debuts have taken place in London in particular, including food delivery app Deliveroo, cybersecurity firm Darktrace and reviews site Trustpilot. Money transfer giant Wise, formerly known as TransferWise, plans to go public in the U.K. capital soon.