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“Female innovators must stay in the game and keep fighting”

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The shortage of women in tech is not breaking news. But the gender data gap is just too big to ignore anymore, says entrepreneur and women’s health advocate Tess Cosad…

Whether it’s founders, investors or LPs, women are vastly underrepresented at all levels of the tech and health tech industry.

The hard truth is that equality in the sector is an uphill battle, one which is being fought by companies set up especially to fight gender inequality in the workplace. 

Leeds firm WISE exists for the sole purpose of getting more women into STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics), and states that the sector is still only 24% female. 

According to their figures, less than one in three board members in the sector are women, and only 8% opt for level 4+ qualifications in the area. 

“Major” gender data gap 

Tess Cosad, who founded and runs home fertility company Béa Fertility, says that men remain “wildly overrepresented” in VC-backed tech startups, and that real change “needs to come from investors.”

Speaking with Health Tech World, she said: “Research data isn’t being gender disaggregated, clinical trials aren’t involving women as much as they should be, and there’s nowhere near enough funding going into treatments or solutions for conditions that affect women. 

“Health is universal and women are half the population; this isn’t good enough. More investment in health tech and women’s health in general is sorely needed and will have positive outcomes for all.”

“It’s tough out there”

The number of female tech CEOs as well as other leaders has declined over the past five years, and we may be looking at a further drop in the coming years. 

“It’s tough out there,” Tess continued.

“It’s hard for anyone to raise and grow a company, and women face additional barriers. 

“And, in the current financial climate, it’s getting even harder. In tough or uncertain times, we revert back to old behaviour patterns that we are familiar with. 

Investors choose “safer” investments

“The same is true of investors: in uncertain markets, many will choose ‘safer’ investments, and for some this can often mean male-founded companies. 

“We often see women and minority founders receiving less capital than usual in turbulent markets, and we’re seeing it today. But women who have good ideas, passion to make a change, and the drive to push forward shouldn’t lose heart.”

She added: “We need female innovators to stay in the game and keep fighting.”

Gender gap in tech – where does it start?

When asked whether or not gender inequality starts in schools, Tess commented: “Gender inequality is baked into the seams of our societal fabric; conditioning starts way before school. 

“Everyone has a role to play in resisting gender stereotypes as well as overt sexism: parents, teachers, peers, partners, friends. Men and women benefit when inequality dissipates, so it’s in all our interests to champion a fairer society with a more level playing field.”

Getting more women into tech leadership: Tips from Tess:

1 – The first thing we need to do to overcome barriers is to offer women a seat at the table in tech-led sectors. Currently, there aren’t enough women on boards, in C-Suites or in VC firms. When women are placed in decision making-positions in VCs, more investments in female-founded companies follow. 

2 – Women need to be included in conversations about tech from the very beginning, to ensure new products being brought to market include women’s perspectives. When we are involved in tech from conception through to launch (and beyond), we can set an example, lead from the front and build products that work for everyone. 

3 – We can also start to normalise the presence of women in tech-led sectors – whether it’s femtech, fintech, hardware or software – setting a precedent and creating role models to inspire other women to enter the sector. I often think of the expression ‘you cannot be what you cannot see’, and I feel so lucky to have women a few steps ahead like Tessa Clarke, Tania Boler, Lubomila Jordanova and so many others. 

More about Tess Cosad

Founder Tess says she’s always enjoyed building businesses and supporting founders, starting in 2014 when she founded Emberson Ventures, a B2B marketing agency specialising in launching new products and producing creative campaigns in technology-led sectors. 

In 2018, she created Hers By Design, a female-led, female focused FemTech brand, and later that year was the first woman to lead a digital marketing accelerator program in Saudi Arabia, on behalf of the Growth Velocity Academy.

This passion for women-focused solutions led her towards founding Béa Fertility – which is now building the first at-home fertility treatment of its kind in the UK. 

Incredible women in health tech | the 2022 longlist 

Tess’s success landed her on the Health Tech World 2022 longlist for the most incredible women in health tech. Read more about it here.

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