Claudia Cavalluzzo: Men have had it their own way for long enough so let’s push women forward

While it might seem that women in tech are slowly coming into parity with men, the numbers tell a different story.

Claudia Cavalluzzo, Director, Converge.

Polly Purvis, CEO of Scotland IS, was recently interviewed by Radio ­Scotland. She commented that the numbers are far from showing ­gender balance in this sector. So why might this be the case?

For example, this might be due to the violent nature of certain computer games or the ‘geeky’ stereotype associated with people working in the tech sector, as mentioned in the interview.

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In fact, the real question needs to be, ‘Are we doing better or worse than we were 20 years ago’? In my view, the answer is no. Before ­computers became popular, the tech sector showed a more balanced female/male ratio. PCs became ubiquitous in every household, also thanks to strong marketing campaigns that often portrayed a man bonding with his son through the console.

A similar analysis can be transferred to the more generic lack of women in leadership positions. Only 13 per cent of the global ­Fortune 500 CEOs are women! This is a staggering statistic.

However, according to the ­Scottish Government, the country has achieved gender balance on all public sector boards, which is very encouraging news indeed and could not have been achieved without the bold campaign 50/50 by 2020.

Organisations like Women’s ­Enterprise Scotland are doing some incredible work across the country ensuring that this issue remains on the national agenda.

The organisation, under the ­leadership of two incredible ­women, Carolyn Currie and Lynne ­Cadenhead, is making a real ­difference in how women in ­business are supported and encouraged in Scotland.

A few months ago, I came across an interesting book titled The ­Confidence Code. This type of book speaks very well to my scientific nature. The Confidence Code ­analyses the scientific research ­covering the difference between men and women. Many will think that we are wired differently, but we are not.

The relatively small difference in our brains is not sufficient to justify different behaviours and different levels of confidence. So, what is the reason behind the low numbers of female CEOs?

I personally agree that the real ­difference lies in upbringing, in how girls are rewarded for being ­studious and respectful, while boys are encouraged to be strong-willed and assertive.

This naturally takes us to the ­question – quotas or no quotas? This debate is far from being over and there isn’t a simple answer to this.

However, if we want to see a ­significant step change, a significant improvement in the society we live in and the economy that we live on, we need to change the ­narrative. Closing the gender gap in the ­entrepreneurship space alone could generate as much as £250 billion for the United Kingdom.

The government-commissioned Rose Review examines the barriers women in business face and what can be done to overcome them.

The report found that on average, female-led businesses are only 44 per cent of the size of male-led ones, in relation to economic contribution. This is simply not good enough.

Bucking that trend, at Converge, the national company creation ­programme for Scotland’s ­academic community, we are ­seeing very encouraging results.

Nearly half of this year’s Converge cohort are ­women, with technology and ­engineering and the creative industries some of the most represented sectors. At our latest Ready, Steady, Pitch! event held last month, three ambitious women were awarded Best Pitch prizes at a series of fast-paced pitching competitions. That shows confidence!

Our job is not done; we have ­thousands of years of male ­dominance to counterbalance and an economy to boost.

If we want Scotland to be an ­entrepreneurial, inclusive and fair nation, we need to keep gender ­balance, equality and inclusion at the top of our agenda.

Of course, this will not happen ­overnight. As we have seen with ­Converge, academia is playing a prominent role in bridging the ­gender gap, but there is still a long way to go in winning the hearts and minds of other industry sectors, where greater encouragement is widely needed to mould and shape the workplace into a true gender-balanced ­environment.

Claudia Cavalluzzo, director, Converge.