How can we nurture female tech entrepreneurs? By Ryan Holmes Mar 6 2015

By Ryan Holmes via ‘Agenda’ World Economic Forum

Mar 6 2015 

“That women are underrepresented in the startup community is hardly news. Just 1.3% of percent of founders at privately held, venture-backed companies are women, according to a 2012 Dow Jones study titled Women at the Wheel. After all these years, the face of tech startups is still a young guy with fashionable stubble and thick black glasses.

I’d like to think my company is anything but a stodgy old boys club. As a social media company, the heart of our business is building relationships. Our employees are by and large young, progressive and open-minded.

But the numbers don’t lie. Recently, out of every 10 people interviewed for a tech position at our office, roughly nine were men. At that time, we had approximately 50 engineers and developers on our team, and fewer than 20 of them were women. (By contrast, the gender breakdown is closer to 50-50 for other departments.) Figuring out why this is and what can be done about it, however, isn’t easy.

You can point to the scarcity of female role models in tech, though thankfully high-profile leaders like Yahoo!’s Marissa Mayer and Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg are slowly changing that. Or you can blame it on the obstacles to building a culture of entrepreneurialism among women: According to a recent Global Entrepreneurship Monitor report, more than half of women doubt their abilities to start a business, while men report having a much more robust professional network for advice and inspiration. This is despite the fact that “at all levels, women are rated higher in 12 of the 16 competencies that go into outstanding leadership,” according to a 2012 report by Harvard Business Review.

But it’s hard to get around a simple reality: Computer science, the backbone of any tech startup, is still a male-dominated field. (Of course, you don’t have to be brilliant programmer to launch a startup … but it definitely helps to understand code on some level.) Women comprise fewer than 30 percent of U.S. computer science and engineering programs at the undergraduate and graduate levels, according to the National Science Foundation. Coding, in particular has traditionally been seen as a guys’ thing. But does it have to be?

Girl Dev is a pilot program started from our offices at HootSuite. Once every few weeks for several hours, groups of women interested in improving their computer coding skills meet in our building. The focus is on teaching not just the basics of HTML and CSS but more advanced topics including Javascript, PHP and app development in a supportive and non-competitive environment.”

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REFERENCE – Agenda, World Economic Forum

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