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Why are there so few women in the tech industry?

For those of you who are not in the know (and you really should be) Startup Grind is a global startup community designed to educate, inspire and bring together like minded entrepreneurs and provide a space to network in. Last night, the inspiring President and CFO of Mind Candy, Divinia Knowles, took to the stage at Google Campus, London for a fireside chat with Zomato UK CEO, Kimberly Hurd.

Divinia is one of the driving forces behind Mind Candy and along with Michael Acton Smith, guided the company from a small startup to one of the most successful tech companies, responsible for the behemoth that is Moshi Monsters. Moshi Monsters is a phenomenally successful website for 6-14 year olds with over 80 million users registered in over 150 territories worldwide. The website was so successful that a movie and mobile games have all since been released. Interestingly, Divinia hinted at the potential to move the brand onto new platforms such as Smart TV and, once they have matured, both VR and the Apple Watch Platform, so watch this space!

Although delving into what makes Mind Candy such a successful company in the early part of the night, the overarching themes of the night was celebrating female founders, and women in tech. Gender equality in tech startups and in the tech industry in general is pretty bad, with Silicon Valley being notorious for it’s sexism and perceived “boys club” and work hard/play hard ethos that is unwelcoming to women.

Typical figures for women in the technology sector are similar to those reported by Facebook and Apple at 15 to 20 per cent. These figures tend to get worse for startups, with very few checks and balances of the larger companies in place. This is down to the founders of small startups which are almost always men, to hire from within their own circles and networks.

This is a very worrying trend and is something that needs to be addressed, and was acknowledged by both Kimberley and Divinia on the stage. To point out how bad it is, Kimberley read out a couple of statistics. I was shocked to learn that only one per cent of startups in silicon valley are founded by a woman, and only 6.2 per cent are COOs of startups.

With such small numbers of women making it to the top, Kimberley then gave some more hard hitting figures, revealing that on average it takes only two years for women to lose confidence and or ambition in the work place. Commenting on this stat, Divinia seemed to fully understand the issue, calling for women to become more vocal in their company and to stand out and urging them not to silently float along at their place of work.

Continuing along the theme of the gender disparity in the tech industry, Kimberley asked Divinia what she thought of quotas put in place to try and resolve gender disparity. The question was passionately received with her strongly saying that they are “insulting” and that women should be hired for their worth and expertise, not simply to fill a role because of a quota.

From what we learnt last night, Divinia has earned her place at the top, after overcoming some difficult hurdles such as being young and unproven, gender discrimination and sexism.

I will leave you with one last little piece of advice I heard from last night. When starting up your own company, it is not about how big you make it, it is all about the mindset of that company, and that is perfectly proven by both Kimberly and Divinia.