Where are all the women angels to go with our Tims?

You’ll have heard that there are more men named David than women CEOs in the FTSE 100.


At NorthInvest we have more Angels named Tim than women.


Hello to our Tims! We’re delighted to have you on board helping us to grow the Northern tech economy. We need more Tims, Johns, Davids and Andys however we know that having more women angels will accelerate our impact and effectiveness.


There have been many elements of my new role at NorthInvest which have excited, inspired and humbled me. The number of applications we’ve received since we became fully operational in September 2017 – over 90 and the steady stream of amazing angels who’ve signed up to NorthInvest. We’ve held our first sector-led event; a Fintech Summit in November 2017 which was attended by over 70 people and has morphed into a meaningful Fintech Steering Group for the region.


Only two statistics are disappointing. Of the 90 entrepreneurs who’ve approached us only 3 have been women and the number of women angels – just two.


Why having more women tech founders and Angels will accelerate the growth of the Northern Economy


I don’t want to get preachy here however extensive research shows that women are suited to tech leadership. They’re good at empathy – sensing the thoughts and feelings of others and responding in an appropriate way. In a decreasingly hierarchical world that favours leadership based on the skills of personal interaction rather than on authority, the stats say that women have a head start.


The results of a Nominet survey back this up saying that improved communication skills, innovative ideas and boosted morale are the most likely benefits to come from having women in the tech sector, and who wouldn’t want more of those!


Most importantly Forbes have identified that women are generally more successful in start-ups. In their 2014 survey, they found that women-led start-ups had a 35% higher ROI when venture-backed than men and generated 13% more revenue with 50% less investment.


So women bring unique and complementary skills, plus they are more likely to bring in the results.


I know from my experience on the Management Board of a FTSE 200 media company that having more women on a team helps increase the success rate; ensuring that ideas and feedback from staff and customers are heard and responded to. Yet too often I was the lone women in meetings which made it very difficult to get cut through. Having two or more women on your Board or in your tech start-up will give you a competitive advantage.


My work journey started in the late ’80’s when the world was very different. The women in our media tele-sales team had to make tea for all the men on the team, and when it came to promotion opportunities they were limited by the organisation’s belief that field sales people had to be men. It took moving to another media business to convince the company I first joined that it was time to include women in their mobile sales team. Later I was told that women wearing trousers was a no no, and on the day I gave birth to my beautiful daughter Cleo my boss called me at the hospital to ask me to come in for an interview in two days time. Yes really.


Whilst many of the limiting practices of the ’80’s and 90’s are now way behind us the number of women in senior leadership positions in tech has stagnated. In a world where tech is coming at us like a meteor shower, it’s becoming increasingly urgent to have more women. This is not a tomorrow issue it’s one for today.


Why are there too few female tech founders and Angels?


In my coaching practice lack of confidence is a reoccurring theme among the women I see and it’s no surprise that in 2016 Deloitteidentified this as being a significant factor for women in tech. Their insights showed that the main issues impacting on the number of women in tech are;


  1. A lower level of self-belief and lower appetite for risk compared to equivalent male entrepreneurs
  2. Self-perceptions by women that they lack key business experience
  3. Limited access to role models and professional networks.


AllBright have set out to change the model by providing access to investment connections for female entrepreneurs. In preparation they surveyed 500 women-led start-ups and found that 75% needed funding now, 22% had experienced difficulty in accessing funds and felt they were not being heard. Sound familiar?


That’s not to say that there are not some very energetic and successful women out there forging their way in the Northern tech sector. Zandra Moore, Sarah Tulip, Simone Roche, Amy de Balsi, Jordan Dargue and our own NorthInvest women Sara Parker and Shelley Langan, to name a few, are all actively engaged in increasing the opportunities for women in tech in our region.


We need more Zandra’s Sarah’s and Simone’s; dynamic, passionate, successful female role models to come forward. We also need more guys to champion the cause as hitting the self-belief button in women is something which either gender can do equally well.


When I reflect back on my career the people who cheered me on included successful women and some great blokes too. Margaret Hilton played a significant role in shaping my career but there were also some great guys who pushed me forward even when I didn’t feel ready.


It’s going to take leaders from both genders working together to change this one.


3 things you can do today to make a difference


  1. Raise the profile of the successful women leaders of now and the potential women leaders of tomorrow via social media, personal recommendation and at events. Make it a regular habit to do something which promotes the dynamic women you know.


  1. Hit the self-belief button in the women you know. Make it a regular habit to cheer on the women you work with – and maybe offer them access to coaching when appropriate. I may know someone who could help with that!


  1. Promote the activities of the many excellent groups who encourage women in tech in the North. Here are some of the many around: Lean In Leeds, Girls Who Code, Northern PowerWomen, WISE.


NorthInvest is a dynamic, approachable, politically neutral, straight talking and friendly not for profit business which provides access to early-stage tech funding. It exists to grow the Northern tech economy and ensure that the North achieves its potential.

NorthInvest will be announcing an exciting programme of events for Women founders and Angels in February 2018. Let me know if you want to get involved.

This piece was written by NorthInvest Board Director Helen Oldham.

To keep up with what’s happening at NorthInvest, you can follow us on Twitter @NorthInvestUK