London has the best startup scene in Europe, with one third of European venture capital investment consistently going to UK startups.

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The startup industry is booming and, even with events like Brexit causing havoc with businesses in the UK, proceeds to grow relatively unabated.

Tech as a ‘boys’ club’

Startups are often linked with the tech industry, due to the fact that many tech companies began life as startups. It’s also the case that a great number of startups specialise in trading technology goods and services.

This presents a problem for women entering both industries. Many of the stereotypes plaguing women in tech, such as the view that women are somehow not suited for this kind of work, afflict the startup industry as well.

Many people think that women are less suited to this competitive, high-risk industry. But this is a stereotype that masks the true picture.

Girls can be put off even considering entering the startup industry through its basic image problem, often due to lack of role models, which suggests it is a masculine industry.

Why women are being held back

Despite its many positive aspects, one challenge the startup scene has been struggling to overcome is the perception that it has become a bit of a boys’ club.

Many of the stereotypes plaguing women in tech, such as the view that women are somehow not suited for this kind of work, afflict the startup industry as well.

Tales of networking over beers in the evening, masculine work culture that excludes women, not to mention the image of the ‘brogrammer’ (male nerd programmer) can at times dominate the startup scene.

There is also a perception that the startup scene is incredibly hard to break into, and for good reason. It requires long days (and nights), exhausting levels of effort, and many extended periods of seeing no return on investment. And that’s not to mention the high rate of failure for startups.

Women can struggle to obtain funding for their startups from venture capitalists, which can partly be explained by venture capital being an incredibly male-dominated industry, and something of an old boys’ club.

This is a shame, given the evidence that female-led startups perform very well compared to male-led startups.

What does the evidence say?

All of this goes against the evidence. For example, McKinsey reports that companies in the top quartile for gender or racial and ethnic diversity are more likely to have financial returns above their national industry medians. One study found that diverse teams have the potential to increase revenue generation by 41%.

These natural leadership skills translate well to the startup industry, where the cult surrounding ‘founders’ means that a strong personality is essential to the success of a startup.

There is evidence to show that women are seen as better leaders than men, in traditionally ‘feminine’ areas such as nurturing and developing others, but also in stereotypically ‘masculine’ areas, including driving results and communicating powerfully.

Women are also usually seen as having smaller egos than men, due to the pressure on them to take on a more passive social role. Arguably, smaller egos are going to be beneficial for a startup founder, as this will enable you to make the tough decisions for your business, regardless of personal interests.

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What the future holds for the startup sector

There are incredible opportunities for women to make their mark in startups outside of the traditional corporate structure.

Anyone can get involved in the startup industry, and there are many initiatives supporting female founders. Startups have the potential to help transform the tech industry by increasing diversity from the ground upwards.

There are incredible opportunities for women to make their mark in startups outside of the traditional corporate structure.

And the picture is definitely improving.

Since 2009, when data was first collected, the number of female founders has doubled, from nine percent to 15% in 2014. We need to keep going, and better education at school level is one strategy that has the potential to dramatically increase the number of women in tech.

Next Tech Girls helps to provide access to work experience for girls considering jobs in tech, giving them valuable exposure to the industry and the chance to build up valuable skills to include on their CVs.

This post was written by Catherine Heath, a B2B freelance tech blogger and content writer. She has a thing for psychology, diversity, tech and startups, and is learning to code. She gives valuable insights into the women in tech scene on her website, Away with Words, and shares tips for success and self-development.

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