Equality, Diversity and Innovation in Female-Driven Startups and the Tech Sector – 1 June 2022

From left to right: Ambassador Megan Anderson, Peace Mitchell, Elle Likopoulos, Stephenie Rodriguez, Sineth Sareth Sar, Jessica Tucker and Asha Ramanathan.

The Australian Embassy, in partnership with AFBA, organised the ‘Women in Technology’ panel discussion on the 1st June 2022, as part of the ‘Australia now’ initiative. The speakers were also delegates at the ‘Women in Tech Global Summit’ held in Paris from the 30th–31st May 2022. The theme of this conference was “Equality, diversity and innovation in female-driven startups and the tech sector”.

The panel was hosted and moderated by Megan Anderson, Australia’s Ambassador to the UNESCO and Deputy Ambassador to France. Asha Ramanathan from AFBA assisted with the proceedings.

Panellists included Stephenie Rodriguez, Sineth Sareth Sar, Jessica Tucker, Peace Mitchell and Elle Likopoulos.

Several pertinent questions were raised by Ambassador Anderson, including:

  • What are the reasons for the obvious gender gap in funding start-ups and why is this gap getting wider?
  • Can entrepreneurship represent a pathway to economic independence for the women who are not able to participate in traditional work structures given that the onus of raising children / family responsibilities continue to rest on women, given that women currently comprise only 26.1% of full-time workers in Australia?
  • How do we encourage girls and women into STEM fields given that businesses that innovate are twice as likely to use STEM skills?

Some of the key learnings from the ensuing discussions are summarised below:

  • Education about good business practices, developing entrepreneurial and networking skills, advocating professions as gender-less, and education in technical/STEM fields should ideally start at the primary school level, made mandatory to all students.
  • Companies of all sizes should invest more in on-site child care facilities for their staff and allow for more flexible home/office working conditions to all staff regardless of gender, particular in this post-pandemic era.
  • The start-up funding industry needs more female venture capitalists (currently a minority) who have traditionally supported and funded female-driven start-ups.
  • Both female and male role models play a key role in shaping the bright young minds of the future, whether it be fathers supporting their wives in sharing parenting and household responsibilities at home, or senior career women mentoring younger women keen to pursue their careers / build their start-ups in the tech industry. 

Attended by a full house, guests included ambassadors from the diplomatic community, members of Women in Tech, members of AFBA and Austrade as well as several owners of start-up companies in the Tech industry worldwide.

A truly inspirational, engaging and informative discussion, well appreciated by all in attendance!

Author: Asha Ramanathan