The last couple of weeks in global politics proves that the average woman still has to fight for her right to be heard. Hundreds and thousands of women marched against the increasing legal infringements on women's rights in the USA - the bastion of democracy and freedom - but to what avail? What can be done to make sure this international show of unity from women is not a 'snowflake'? Answer: invest in tech.
Technology is already so integrated into all of our lives and some of the most influential people in the world made their name in technology, be it Zuckerburg or Elon Musk. It is clear that the impact of technology is only set to grow, however, as with many sectors, there are appallingly few women in leading roles. The way to ensure we will never again see an image of a room of men making decisions that principally affect women is to get more women in leadership - and where better to focus than on the fastest growing and most impactful industry, technology.
This seems like the most obvious of solutions. Yet, time and time again, we see no real investment. Whilst there is an increased effort by start-ups and VC's to push for women, what needs to happen is to bring girls at a school-age closer to technology and programming. The lack of female engineers is a cultural phenomenon which can only change if we focus on our education system. Coding, is a language, that you can only really hope to master with time. Imagine what the next generation could create, what solutions they could find if we invested in getting all kids to code. Not only this, but making a concerted effort to push aside the harmful gender stereotyping that boys can do maths and tech, while girls are better at the 'softer' more 'creative' subjects. Schools have to introduce technology and emphasise its universality, because as adults the power and influence of tech is universal.
While we are waiting for the curriculum too catch-up, there are groups aimed at women taking action on teaching girls to be leaders in the work place. I'm extremely impressed with groups like FutureGirlCorp which has been set up by Sharmadean Reid and takes the approach of "bringing hard business skills to a female audience" not just helping them reach 100K followers on Instagram.
This doesn't mean that it is a lost cause for women who have already left education. Mentoring is an invaluable tool in the progress of women, and played a large role in my journey to becoming MD of Trouva. Not only do mentors help open up networks they are also fantastic at boosting confidence (something girls start losing from as young as six years old) and generally give the sense that someone is looking out for you in a system that all too often feels geared towards men and their boys' clubs. Recently, I have been accepted onto the ALT (Ambitious Ladies in Tech) programme by LocalGlobe (you can read more about it here). I cannot wait to contribute and one day be able to give my support in return to another woman in the tech industry.
Another invaluable benefit of mentorship schemes is that it helps normalise the idea of a woman in a leadership position. Female success in any industry should not be seen as a rare achievement that only a few privileged girls can aspire to, but a tangible dream. As part of this, an important next step is to change the way the media cover representation of women in the work place. It's not breaking news anymore that women experience sexism and lower pay. The point should be about proving (over and over again until it starts to resonate) that there are strong, inspiring women out there in senior roles to inspire other women.
By getting girls interested in a male dominated industry at school, by partnering them with successful role models or mentors and fighting stereotypes in the day to day, we can help raise a generation that finds the idea of tech being a male dominated industry odd and antiquated.