Women Who Tech part 1: the problem and the solution

I speak to the director of Women Who Tech, Justyn Hintze about the challenges facing women working in tech and what Women Who Tech is doing to help.

Go to the profile of Jen Thoroughgood
Aug 06, 2018
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As the only woman working in a tech company, I was keen to understand more about why so few of my peers are women. I spoke to Justyn Hintze, director of nonprofit Women Who Tech about the scale of the problem and how her organisation offers solutions.

The solutions include the fantastic Women Startup Challenge - (for which Charles, our CEO is a mentor and judge) - and podcast competition.

If you are a female entrepreneur, it's not too late to enter the Startup Challenge: the entry deadline is tomorrow, August 7!

If you are a developer - but especially a female developer - please check out our job vacancy here.

P.S. We split the video in two, due to some sound issues towards the end of our chat. So, apologies for the abrupt end and look out for part two soon!

  • 00:00
  • [Jen Thoroughgood] So, hi I'm here talking to 00:01
  • Justyn Hintze who's from From Women Who Tech 00:03
  • who we've been working with a little bit recently. 00:07
  • Charles, our CEO, has been a mentor 00:10
  • and a judge for the Women's Startup Challenge. 00:12
  • And she's been giving us some great advice 00:19
  • as has her colleague, Allyson, 00:22
  • on how to recruit in our difficult search 00:24
  • that we're having for a female developer. 00:27
  • And this really sort of got me thinking about 00:29
  • why this is such a problem, you know 00:33
  • why we're finding it hard to 00:34
  • get women to apply for our developer role 00:37
  • and what it means to be a woman working in tech 00:40
  • and as a woman who's recently joined the tech world 00:43
  • I was really keen to understand 00:48
  • more about what the challenges are. 00:49
  • Yeah, Justyn. 00:54
  • What is Women Who Tech and why is it needed 00:56
  • I guess is the most important question. 00:59
  • Yeah, thank you Jen. 01:01
  • So I'm Justyn. I'm the director of 01:02
  • Women Who Tech and Women Who Tech 01:04
  • was founded about eight years ago now 01:07
  • to really address the lack of women representation 01:09
  • in - on panels at tech conferences 01:12
  • and as keynote speakers. 01:17
  • Allyson Kaplin, the founder, kept seeing 01:19
  • all men panels, all men keynotes at conferences, 01:22
  • and so through Women Who Tech, 01:26
  • the Women Who Tech TeleSummit 01:31
  • was actually founded 01:33
  • and that is really just a panel of 01:34
  • people coming together being able to 01:36
  • talk about different topics within the tech sector 01:38
  • from women's perspectives. 01:42
  • We also had men participate 01:44
  • and it was a really amazing conversation 01:45
  • that could be joined from anywhere in the world. 01:47
  • And when we really saw that women were speaking 01:50
  • more at conferences and as keynotes, 01:54
  • we started looking to where else 01:57
  • we could address some of these issues 01:58
  • and where other gaps were 02:00
  • because we knew there were a lot more gaps. 02:02
  • And so we really saw there was a funding gap. 02:06
  • So, women-led startups weren't getting funded 02:09
  • nearly as much as startups led by men. 02:11
  • We actually even right now - 02:15
  • so, the numbers really haven't budged 02:17
  • in the years we've been working on this. 02:19
  • Only 1.9% of venture capital or VC funding 02:23
  • went to women-led startups in 2017. 02:27
  • And, I mean, that's for women generally. 02:30
  • If we're looking at women of colour 02:33
  • that number is far, far worse 02:35
  • and .0006% of VC funding has gone to 02:36
  • black women and women of colour-led startups 02:42
  • since 2009. 02:45
  • Wow. 02:48
  • Yeah, so... 02:49
  • And it's sort of coming from, you know 02:50
  • how far back is that problem starting 02:54
  • do you think? 02:56
  • You know, is it women sort of being 02:57
  • stopped from even being entrepreneurs 02:58
  • or once they are 03:01
  • that it's just harder to get in front of 03:02
  • the right people 03:05
  • to make those connections? 03:05
  • You know, it's a really great question. 03:07
  • So, it's really all along the way. 03:10
  • We actually had an intern a few years ago 03:12
  • who was helping us with our Women's Startup Challenges 03:16
  • and she was one of the only women 03:18
  • in her undergrad programme 03:21
  • within the tech - different type of programmes 03:24
  • she was in 03:27
  • and she actually ended up leaving 03:28
  • because she did not feel supported 03:31
  • within the programme. 03:33
  • She didn't have - 03:35
  • really support 03:38
  • from her colleagues in the class 03:39
  • and she felt really ostracized. 03:40
  • That is not all women's experience 03:43
  • starting there but it really 03:45
  • is, just if you look along the way, 03:46
  • it's going to happen at different points 03:48
  • and that's because there isn't a culture 03:50
  • that's been built that's inclusive 03:52
  • and we have what we call a 'mirror-tocracy" 03:54
  • where people are just hiring people 03:58
  • who look like them 03:59
  • and working with people who 04:00
  • look like them 04:01
  • and bringing them on as interns 04:02
  • or bringing them on to do practicums. 04:04
  • And so, it's really difficult when we see this 04:07
  • 'brogrammer' culture and 04:10
  • women aren't being supported. 04:13
  • Yeah, I know, it really resonates actually 04:16
  • and I know this has been backed up 04:19
  • as well by some more recent research 04:20
  • into workplace culture. 04:23
  • Yeah, so we actually conducted 04:28
  • a workplace culture survey 04:32
  • because we started the Women's Startup Challenge. 04:33
  • We've done six so far. 04:37
  • We're actually working on our seventh 04:38
  • to really address that gap in funding 04:41
  • and over the course of the different 04:43
  • Women's Startup challenges, 04:46
  • we really were listening to the stories 04:47
  • from the different founders 04:51
  • and hearing what was happening 04:52
  • and we're like "what's off here?". 04:54
  • Like - what is it that isn't exactly lining up 04:56
  • that people are having such horrible 04:58
  • experiences as founders, as tech employees 05:01
  • when they're women? 05:03
  • Like - what's going on? 05:05
  • So, we really dug in and we surveyed 05:06
  • nine hundred and fifty people in tech 05:10
  • of all genders and asked - just - 05:13
  • their different experiences 05:17
  • with working in the sector, 05:18
  • how long they've been in, 05:20
  • and what was happening 05:21
  • and we found that there's definitely - 05:23
  • definitely some problems 05:25
  • as we already suspected 05:27
  • but this just really confirmed it. 05:29
  • And we were really talking to employees, founders, 05:31
  • and investors because we 05:33
  • wanted to see this experience 05:34
  • since very little data has even been gathered 05:37
  • about it and we found that 41% 05:40
  • of women surveyed have experienced harassment in tech. 05:42
  • Shocking. 05:48
  • And of the founders specifically, that's 44% 05:49
  • and that's nearly half. 05:52
  • And that's a huge, huge number. 05:54
  • And I mean when we break it down further, 05:56
  • it's more than a third of women 05:59
  • who were sexually harassed were 06:01
  • propositioned for sex 06:02
  • and many of those were 06:04
  • propositioned for sex in exchange for funding. 06:05
  • 0% of men had had that experience. 06:09
  • Wow. 06:12
  • I mean it's just mind-boggling figures 06:14
  • and yeah, I guess I'm lucky being a woman 06:16
  • working in a tech company 06:21
  • who hasn't experienced any of that 06:22
  • but at the same time I am the only woman. 06:24
  • You know, I work with seven guys 06:26
  • and we're trying to redress that balance 06:28
  • but it's difficult and it does change the culture. 06:31
  • You know, it's a different vibe 06:33
  • from when I worked in the media 06:37
  • which is more balanced and 06:38
  • particularly where - places where I've worked 06:39
  • have actually been more female-dominated. 06:42
  • But we'll circle back to that a bit 06:45
  • because I'm really interested to understand 06:46
  • for our customers 06:49
  • how the learnings that you've got 06:51
  • in the tech sector 06:53
  • could be applied more widely 06:54
  • because unfortunately this isn't, 06:55
  • you know, just specific to tech. But 06:58
  • what are you doing specifically 06:59
  • in your sector to try and fight 07:01
  • the cause of it? 07:03
  • I know there's a lot going on. 07:04
  • Yeah, so I know I mentioned the 07:05
  • Women's Startup Challenge but didn't really 07:06
  • explain what it is. 07:08
  • So, we started the Women's Startup Challenge 07:09
  • to address that funding gap 07:11
  • and what it is is a pitch competition 07:12
  • where we get applicants - or people apply 07:15
  • and we have a panel of judges 07:18
  • (Charles being one of our jurors 07:21
  • both for the past startup challenge, 07:24
  • the 2017 Europe one based in London 07:25
  • and our upcoming one in Paris 07:27
  • at City Hall.) 07:30
  • The panel of jurors actually reads through 07:32
  • hundreds of applications, gives feedback, scores them. 07:33
  • And Allyson and myself 07:37
  • look at the final 10, 07:40
  • the top scoring, and they're selected 07:43
  • as finalists to pitch. 07:46
  • And so what that means is that 07:48
  • we work with them from the moment 07:51
  • they're selected as a finalist 07:52
  • even, honestly, before that 07:54
  • because we read their applications 07:56
  • and provide feedback ahead of time 07:57
  • because we don't feel that's something 07:59
  • that women founders often get. 08:00
  • Or really founders in general. 08:03
  • There's not that early-stage feedback 08:04
  • if you're not accepted into the programme. 08:06
  • Right, so, we get some feedback and then 08:08
  • once they're selected as finalist 08:10
  • we work with them for pitch-coaching. 08:12
  • So, we work with the pitch-coach, Donna Griffit 08:14
  • and she will give them steps and tips 08:17
  • to really pitch investors well. 08:20
  • And then Allyson and myself will work 08:22
  • with them one-on-one to make sure 08:25
  • that they really hone in on that pitch 08:26
  • and that they feel super confident 08:28
  • because that's what's going to make them 08:30
  • do their best is when they feel confident 08:31
  • about what they have to say. 08:34
  • And I think it's because it can seem kind of 08:36
  • for some people, especially, if they've 08:39
  • never pitched before, just overwhelming 08:40
  • to stand in front of a room of ambassadors 08:42
  • who are judging them and the general public 08:44
  • who's attending. 08:46
  • So, just practice, practice, practice 08:47
  • and getting that down. 08:48
  • And then we also, so, 08:51
  • that leads up to the pitch competition 08:53
  • and then the ten finalists will pitch on stage 08:55
  • at our venue and we partnered with Google 08:58
  • and LinkedIn, Microsoft, 09:01
  • we're partnering now with Paris - 09:04
  • the mayor's office of Paris 09:06
  • at City Hall. 09:08
  • Our last one was with the mayor Sadiq Khan in London. 09:10
  • So, it was really fantastic to just see - 09:13
  • see all of the support that they brought in as well. 09:17
  • So, we'll host it at the venue, 09:20
  • they'll pitch on stage, and then 09:21
  • the panel of jurors 09:24
  • who are made up of ambassadors 09:25
  • will judge the startups and choose a winner. 09:28
  • Typically, we've given away 50,000 dollars 09:32
  • to the winning startup. 09:35
  • This year, we actually are giving away 09:36
  • more money than ever so we're very excited. 09:38
  • We'll be giving away a 35,000 dollar grand prize 09:40
  • and then Mozilla is going to 09:44
  • be awarding a 25,000 dollar prize to 09:45
  • the startup who has best built privacy 09:48
  • and transparency into their products 09:51
  • and their startup. 09:54
  • Okay, that's really interesting. 09:56
  • I know, that's what we were thinking. 09:59
  • And so actually, it's really cool because 10:00
  • it doesn't just stop there 10:02
  • so we don't just provide money and leave forever. 10:03
  • We feel like there needs to be 10:07
  • more infrastructure there 10:08
  • to really make sure the support is there 10:09
  • and then networking and so we host 10:10
  • a networking reception that is 10:12
  • open to the public after the startup challenge. 10:14
  • It's usually before - we're going to do it after Paris. 10:16
  • A little different this time. 10:18
  • And then, the day after we actually do 10:20
  • one-on-one mentoring and 10:23
  • Charles is actually a mentor as well 10:25
  • then the startups get to meet one-on-one with 10:27
  • the different investors and tech executives 10:29
  • and get feedback on their startups, 10:32
  • answer specific questions, 10:34
  • and really foster the communication 10:36
  • and really bridge the gap between 10:38
  • founders and ambassadors there. 10:42
  • Amazing. 10:45
  • You know, it's, I mean, you know 10:46
  • knowing how difficult all of this is 10:47
  • in a startup, you know, with 10:50
  • quite an experienced team 10:52
  • run by competent guys. 10:53
  • I can only imagine 10:57
  • how much the women involved in this 10:59
  • get from it and 11:01
  • how much it does as well 11:03
  • for innovation more broadly. 11:05
  • You know, we're probably hearing about 11:07
  • companies, about tech, that never would've 11:09
  • raised above the surface 11:12
  • if it weren't for things like this. 11:14
  • Exactly, and we hear people again and again 11:16
  • say like, oh well, there's a funding gap because 11:19
  • there's a pipeline problem. 11:21
  • There's not enough women-led startups. 11:22
  • There's not enough women of colour running startups 11:24
  • and that just isn't true. 11:27
  • And we can prove that because we've had over 11:29
  • two thousand startups already apply for a challenge. 11:31
  • And we're not reaching every single startup. 11:34
  • We would love to but that's not realistically 11:35
  • happening right now 11:37
  • and when we have only been doing this for a few years 11:38
  • and have already had that quantity 11:42
  • come through, we know it's not a pipeline problem. 11:44
  • We have tons and tons of incredible startups. 11:47
  • If someone wants - someone's going to say 11:50
  • "oh, we don't actually have women's founders 11:52
  • in our network", we'll happily give them to you. 11:54
  • We have plenty. 11:57
  • Please, take your pick. 11:59
  • Yeah, having, you know 12:00
  • some of the contenders - you know 12:02
  • some of the applications. 12:05
  • to give them a bit of feedback. 12:09
  • Yeah, I mean it's, you know, 12:12
  • it's seriously impressive stuff 12:15
  • and depressing to think that these things 12:17
  • might not have another outlet for reaching funding 12:19
  • or even getting exposure and support. 12:23
  • Yeah, we actually just 12:26
  • in the midst of planning this next in-person startup 12:30
  • challenge, we hosted a Women's Startup Challenge podcast 12:32
  • which was pretty cool because we were able to 12:37
  • do that more globally so we had startups 12:39
  • in our final ten from five countries 12:41
  • and four continents 12:44
  • and they all pitched to investors on the podcast 12:45
  • The Women's Startup Challenge podcast - 12:48
  • and the winner, Yask, was from Colombia 12:50
  • and she was talking about how there just isn't 12:54
  • that many funding opportunities and how 12:56
  • we give away 5,000 dollars as the grand prize 12:58
  • and how that 5,000 dollars is going to go 13:01
  • so much further. 13:03
  • Yeah, yeah, I imagine. 13:06
  • Well, I mean, it's, you know 13:07
  • I'm sure there's so many people 13:09
  • who are going to be listening to us 13:10
  • who will want to find out more 13:12
  • so we'll put some links in the video 13:13
  • about the podcast and about how 13:15
  • to get involved in the Startup Challenge. 13:16
Go to the profile of Jen Thoroughgood

Jen Thoroughgood

Chief Product Officer, Zapnito

For nearly 20 years, I've worked in the digital media sector, with hands-on experience in editorial, marketing, sales and R&D. I'm passionate about engaging and understanding customers to develop great content and products. I'm here to help you get the most from Zapnito and would love to hear from you.

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