Mind the Gender Gap

Millicent-Fawcett statue © Greater London Authority – CarolineTeo

It has been a little more than a hundred years since women were first given a voice in UK politics; yet the last couple of years have still demonstrated a real chasm in securing women’s equal footing within our society. The #metoo movement has highlighted the global vastness of sexual violence towards women and helped reopen an age-old dialogue about equality and respect. Yet, amid all of this, a nation seen as the beacon of Western values elected a president regardless of his “locker room” talk.

So how is the UK doing? Presently, 74% of UK companies still pay higher rates to their male staff and, worryingly, the number of women in Britain’s biggest company boardrooms has shrunk in 2018. The entrepreneurs building tomorrow’s products are mostly men and mostly white (I won’t lie, I’m one of them). Only 4% of Venture Capital funding to help build our future goes to women. That’s a staggering 96% of all funding to build our future going to projects founded by men, which could be due to the fact that 90% of decision makers at UK venture capital firms are men. (The creative industries are no better with 81% of decision makers being male.)

Of course, some of you will be tempted to argue that it’s because there are far fewer women entrepreneurs to fill those roles and raise that money – but this then becomes a self-perpetuating prophecy. Women won’t take the risks unless they are able to get the support and funding necessary to grow a successful company. Not only this, but it is harder for them to see themselves as capable of being in a role unless some of these roles are held by women.

Unless we’re careful, the future won’t look any better. I’ve increasingly heard gender bias would be removed with the rise of artificial intelligence. But so far, even building something as simple as a chatbot leads to big ethical questions. Should orders directed to a personal assistant be responded to in a woman’s voice? Should we be training chatbots with open data mostly generated by men (e.g. 84% of Wikipedia editors are men)? Can algorithms built, managed and funded by mostly male teams, be gender neutral – will these teams even be aware of these issues?

With the prevalence of technology in our society, and its quick rate of acceptance by new users, this is no small issue; this could lead to an even more biased society amplified by the false assumption that technology is unbiased.

We want to live in a world that serves us all, and to do so we need diversity represented across all tiers of our society. We want to do our bit in supporting any initiative which allows for rebalancing the gender bias, and support those who will help design the world of tomorrow. For all those reasons Zealous is proud to be facilitating two wonderful opportunities which aim to seed our future world with more women.

We In Social Tech – Being a female entrepreneur in the technology sector and scaling a social enterprise still remains a challenge. We in Social Tech offers three cohorts of 20 women-led businesses six months of comprehensive support, business consultancy, growth mentoring, access to industry experts, and a collaborative workspace to help you grow your business.

Mother Art Prize – An art social enterprise working towards equal representation for women working in the arts and creative industries. The organisation provides practical support and opportunities for artists, enabling them to continue producing work through pregnancy and motherhood (Please note this call takes a £15 submission fee to cover some of its costs).

Help us engineer the world of tomorrow

If you know anyone who would benefit from the support of the opportunities above, please share it with them. If you’re running a project supporting women and think we can help by streamlining your submission and selection process, get in touch with us.

Guy Armitage

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Founder and CEO of Zealous; a London-based startup matching creative talent with opportunities.Guy has been published in Forbes, and spoke at TEDx and CreativeXPO where he advocates the importance of creativity. In his spare time he's an avid stills photographer, won the Tate Modern Hackathon in partnership with Ai WeiWei, and featured (for a wooping 6 seconds) in a horror film

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