#INWED20 - Why is gender diversity important?

24 Jun 2020

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International Women in Engineering Day (INWED) is an annual awareness campaign on 23 June, to celebrate and raise the profile of women within engineering. To continue on with the celebrations, we’re raising awareness of the benefits of gender diversity. The gender disparity in the engineering and tech sector is well documented – findings have found women make up only 12% of UK’s engineering workforce and only 5% of leadership positions in tech. At the Enterprise Hub we believe that if we are to make fast progress on solving the world’s problems, gender diversity is key for innovation. Why? We asked our Hub Members for their thoughts and words of encouragement:

Why should more women consider becoming an engineering entrepreneur?

Lise Honsinger, CFO of Notpla: Women have loads of brilliant ideas but often lack the confidence to back themselves, so if you are unsure just go for it! Women also tend to have good empathy and insights into people, which is not only useful for team dynamics, but is also massively important in product design and opportunity brainstorming. The best way to achieve change is to lead by example, so if you think about it, you could be that role model!

Dr Katerina Spranger, CEO of Oxford Heartbeat: We operate at the crossover of two traditionally male-dominated industries — surgery and tech — where female presence has always been scarce. I have found that being a woman in this industry can be an asset: we are different, we stand out and are able to bring in unique perspectives beyond the norm. For example, key requirements that we had in mind for our product were that it had to be both intuitive and beautifully designed to support surgeons in a high-risk, high-stress environment. Neither of these considerations is common in the development of medical software.

Dr Florence Gschwend, CEO of Lixea: “The challenges we are facing as a society in terms of environmental and social sustainability are simply too big to only have half of the talent working on it. To me it is imperative to use all the talent available if we're supposed to have a chance to tackle problems such as climate change and environmental destruction. As a woman CEO, I can also make changes inside my own organisation that attracts more talented women.”

Dr Ifeyinwa Rita Kanu, CEO of IntelliDigest: “Ergonomics, a core of creative design and engineering focused on understanding how a product, workplace or system can be designed to suit the people who need to use it has highlighted the need for diversity in engineering innovation. As male and female are biologically different, the knowledge and personal experience they bring to engineering innovations are different. Harnessing these differences in creativity and engineering design is vital”

Dr Cristina Blanco Adujar, CTO of Medisieve: “It is impossible to improve what you are not aware of, and it is due to the representation of different perspectives and experiences that helps us gain this awareness. New solutions require innovation and diversity is key for innovation. As a woman in engineering, it is not uncommon to find yourself as the only woman in the room... however, you need to get out of your comfort zone, let yourself be seen, network and interact. It is only by taking this step that one day that scene will be part of the past.”

If we are to facilitate positive change for diversity in the engineering and startup sphere, we believe it is important to include men in the conversation. The male Hub Members we support are founders of a range of companies, spanning deeptech to greentech, and value the benefits of gender diversity within their organisations:

Dr Richard Ahlfeld, CEO and Founder of AI startup Monolith AI: “Gender diversity in tech startups is a topic that's talked about a lot, but I've seen little action. So, when I started Monolith AI I wanted to put everything I'd heard into action: my first hire was a woman. Working closely with her, as a non-technical woman, taught me the gender-bias she's up against within the industry and how much more work we all still have to do. Talk is great, but action is better.”

Oluwaseyi Sosanya, CEO OF VR startup Gravity Sketch: "I deeply value having gender diversity at every level of our company from my co-founder to the management team to engineering and design. We develop a more solid product with superior usability compared to our competitors. I strongly believe this is due to the empathy our team has for one another as well as our customers… We look to employ more women to help balance gender in our company.”

Dmitro Khroma, CTO of e-bike startup Swytch Technologies: “A gender diverse team brings more perspectives when it comes to discussion on strategy and policy. For example, when we were thinking of the best way to present our product to customers, the combined perspectives of our whole team allowed us to shape our marketing to appeal all types of cyclists.” 

Dr Amrit Chandan, CEO of renewable battery startup Aceleron: “Problems are typically perceived differently by women and men which can lead to different solutions to the challenges being faced thus, the team as a whole can benefit. At Aceleron we promote diversity as a whole, including gender diversity, as our experiences have taught us that the more diverse viewpoints and thinking we can bring to the challenges we face, the stronger we will be for it!”

Dr George Frodsham, CEO of medtech startup Medisieve: “If we surround ourselves with people who share the same gender, background, and belief systems, we deprive ourselves of the opportunity to shed light on blind spots, and close ourselves off to new ideas and ways of thinking. That is why diversity is so important: it enables all of us to see situations from different points of view, leading to ideas and insights which would otherwise be missed.”

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