Are startups the answer to gender diversity in IT?

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A number of different traits have seen tech startups gain international recognition, but beyond the disruptive products, headline-making office layouts and meteoric rises in value is one much more relatable feature: Freedom. 

While not every tech entrepreneur will be excited by the prospect of an office filled with bean bags and pool tables, the opportunity to make a living free from the constraints some feel working in larger companies can be tough to resist.  More importantly, in an industry that is rapidly trying to reverse a number of gender stereotypes, startups are the perfect environment for women to tackle diversity issues head on. 

How startups are making IT more diverse

Deloitte's 2016 Digital Pulse Report found just 28 per cent of employees in the ICT industry are women. However, when the industry is expanded to Information Media and Telecommunications as it was in a report published by the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA), that number grows to 45 per cent. It's a figure that led the WGEA to declare the industry one that is "mixed" with regards to gender, as opposed to those such as construction which are considered male-dominated and haven't changed in the past 20 years. 

Australian women are finding success in tech startups.

The reason for the change, argues the Huffington Post, is in part due to the number of women finding success in tech startup companies and using that to appeal to the next generation. Lana Hopkins, founder of fashion tech startup Mon Purse, believes current consumer trends give women an advantage, as most household buying power lies with them in Australia. 

"Understanding the DNA of your customer has never been more relevant than today," she began. "The ability to relate to women and know exactly what they want is key to success so this ability to relate will likely change the current scenario."

Organisations aim for change

Startup incubators aren't just for solving the financial challenges that come with launching a new business. An organisation called SheStarts is aiming to specifically fund 10 female-led startup businesses. SheStarts noted some of the challenging statistics it'll be looking to alter with its campaigns, such as only 24 per cent of current startup founders being women and just 4 per cent attracting investment from venture capitalists. 

Startups are bring people together across the IT industry.Startups are bringing people together across the IT industry.

SheStarts believes the organisation will affect much more than just the 10 businesses it originally funds. As the startups it supports grow, they'll have to potential to bring in more talent and prove to a wider range of people that creating a diverse industry is an achievable goal. 

By Simon Moss