Tech beats FTSE for female bosses (but there's still work to do)

Lynsey Barber
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Women eyeing top jobs would fare better in tech than FTSE firms (Source: Getty)

Technology businesses are beating the FTSE when it comes to the number of female bosses, as the startup sector sets an example to the rest of the business world for gender equality.

A fifth of tech firms in the UK are run by women, compared to just five per cent of FTSE 100 companies and only four per cent of FTSE 250 businesses.

However, women still remain underrepresented in the senior management ranks of tech companies, according to the new research from Tech London Advocates as London Technology Week kicks off on Monday.

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A fifth of London tech companies still lack a single woman at board level, the annual Women in Tech Leadership Index found.

Just one in four senior teams at London's tech startups represent the gender split of the capital's population, while women hold less than a quarter of the top roles at almost half of them.

More than half of the Tech London Advocate members surveyed believe the sector doesn't represent the diversity of London, while the same proportion, 60 per cent, said they had actively taken steps to increase diversity when recruiting.

“Technology’s gender problem has not gone away," said Tech London Advocates founder Russ Shaw.

"Female chief executives have been instrumental to the rise of London’s tech sector, creating some of the city’s most exciting businesses, but the lack of wider representation for women at senior levels is shameful," he said, adding that fail to address the issue was bad for business.

For London Technology Week, baroness Oona King and Dame Judith Mayhew Jonas - a former chairman of the New West End Company and London and Partners as well as a former executive adviser to Barclays and Merrill Lynch - will open the London Stock Exchange on Monday morning and debate the issue.

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"We can't afford not to increase inclusion, and a bigger talent pool means more creativity and economic growth for years to come," said Baroness King.

"Time and again we see companies flourish when they embrace diverse workforces. London Technology Week brings together inspiring leaders to show how it's done. It's not about ticking the box, it's about thinking outside the box."

One of London's strongest tech sectors - fintech - is falling to keep up with the broader trend, however. Analysis by Dow Jones' Financial News found that across Europe's top 50 fintech firms, less than five per cent of executive positions were held by women and there was just a single female chief executive.

"Failing to engage women in technology careers undermines the open, diverse outlook of the digital industry," said Sarah Luxford, director at Nexec Leaders and head of Tech London Advocates Women in Tech group, which is organising the event.

"With such a requirement for tech professionals, harnessing the potential of 50 per cent of the population is the solution to long-term growth," she added.

Maggie Philbin, the technology broadcaster and co-founder of TeenTech, a group getting teenagers into science technology and engineering careers, believes it's "entrepreneurs educators and corporates" which need to do more to "inspire and inform females of all ages about the opportunities offered within the digital sector".

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