Women are much less likely than men to be called on as experts in the media. The Women’s Room site (http://thewomensroom.org.uk/), set up to help promote women in the media, says that, while women are present in the media - for example we represent 79% of victims - three-quarters of the media's “experts” are men.
The BBC have launched a hugely successful series of “Expert Women Days” where they take women working in science and technology and teach them how to get behind a camera. The only issue is the ratio of applicants to places – for some events up to 8000 women applied for just 20 slots.
I was one of the 7980 women not accepted. Luckily I got another chance when science and technology production company Screenhouse decided that they too would do their bit for expert women with an Inspiration and Communication Masterclass hosted by space scientist Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock.
A wide range of women took part in the course at Imperial College. Most were active research scientists, working in fields as diverse as nuclear fusion and molecular biology. Some were tech startup bods like me, and there was even a science lawyer thrown in for good measure.
There was one standout fact for me for the day. Every single woman who stood up to present thought that she came across worse than she did. After three training sessions in front of the camera, every single woman was delivering a fascinating and concise account of their research, in plain English. Yet almost all bowed their heads as they had finished and slinked back to their seats, nervously registering the positive feedback from science producers and voice coaches. I hope that the feedback will encourage them to do more.
True to Screenhouse’s aims, I was inspired by the day. It was very emotionally challenging, but it was great to pick up new presenting tips in an encouraging and nurturing environment. Most of all I was inspired by the other women who were speaking. I was so engrossed in thinking about speaking technique I had to listen to Jo Flanagan (from CCFE)’s talk twice before I registered that she was part of a team actually building a nuclear fusion engine. O. M. G. !
Screenhouse hopes to run more of these events, and inspire more women into the media. Sign up to hear when more dates are released at http://www.screenhouse.co.uk/inspiration.html.
And yes, Maggie Aderin-Pocock is as lovely as she looks on the TV.
I’ve written before on the lack of women in technology roles. There are many many articles that talk about the small number of women in top positions in large corporates. The modestly targeted 30% club is still a long way from its goal to get just 30% of board positions filled with females.
Yet compared with the number of women acting as angel investors, these areas are awash with women. It’s not easy to tie down the statistics on angel investing as a lot of it happens informally – a chap knows a chap and lends him a couple of hundred thousand. However what statistics exist show a dearth of women. The UK Business Angels Association do an annual survey of their members and have found that a mere 5% of angel investors are female.
Sarah Turner set up Angel Academe in 2012 to help to redress the balance. She believes that in technology the proportion of women investing is even lower than 5%. “What's clear to me is that there's opportunity and demand: both for an angel group focussed on tech but designed to appeal to women (women control nearly 50% of the net wealth in this country!), and from founders (both men and women) who would like to pitch to us.”
Like most people who work in tech, I have long had a fascination with both investment and entrepreneurship, yet on my own I would never have taken the plunge to become an investor. It’s hard to analyse the reasons for this. Confidence plays a part, but I’m hardly a shrinking violet when it comes to business and my career. So I was delighted when, after a chance introduction to Sarah last year followed by an invitation to join the group, I took part in the Angel Academe salons where the panel of angel investors listen to pitches and question the founders.
As a novice investor, I am really honoured to be part of this group, which includes women from very senior roles including operational, marketing, tech and corporate finance roles as well as successful entrepreneurs – who better to trust with your money? It was also reassuring to see that my instincts on what was a good deal or not matched the rest of the group. Six months on, I have just signed my first deal to invest in social music platform Buddybounce.
Set up by entrepreneurs Emma Obanye and Giulia Piu, responsible for tech and product respectively, Buddybounce is a platform for 16-24 year olds to earn points by sharing information about and digital assets from their favourite artist. For example I might get recognised for following One Direction on twitter, and gain even more points if I tweet their new video. This pool of dedicated fans provides an easily monetisable service to record label and artists. As we start to tire of being advertised to, this kind of marketing is almost priceless.
And perhaps there are more far reaching benefits to supporting women founders. Sarah says “If you want to look at the bigger picture, I also think entrepreneurship is the best opportunity we have for advancing women - the number of women at the top of large corporations has remained the same for many years. Far better to support new businesses who can create their own culture.”
Managing Director of Softwire, technology and backgammon presenter. Plus a little bit of new music radio.