Corporate Citizenship

Austrade’s Women In Tech Pitch

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Author: Kylie McLean, Chief Digital Officer, IBM Digital Business Group, A/NZ

Kylie McLean It’s no secret that the technology sector has a shortage of women, and the statistics of women founders are especially frightful. A recent Access Economics study found that women make up just 27.8 per cent of the IT workforce [1]  – throw entrepreneurship into the mix, and the situation worsens.

According to a recent TechCrunch article –female-founded start-ups in the US received just 2.2 per cent of VC funding in 2018 [2], the situation is not much better on our fair shores. According to the Wade Institute, in 20 years, the number of female-led businesses has increased by just three per cent, and only 29 per cent of funded start-ups have at least one female co-founder.

This is not a unilateral challenge. To build a globally competitive, innovative national economy, that:

  • Delivers high growth
  • Develops technologies that are ethical and inclusive

We will need to collectively address this gender disparity.

What I witnessed at the recent Austrade’s ‘Women in Tech Pitch Event‘ was a glimpse of a promising future. A future where female-led technology companies are causing a ruckus and creating real impact.

At the event, there were eleven incredibly passionate women pitching their start-ups, encompassing industries as diverse as finance, education, construction, human resources, health services and agriculture. The technologies employed were everything from AI, machine learning, IoT, blockchain and cloud software.

All of the companies represented are well on their way to making a mark globally. The ultimate winner of the competition was Annie Slattery, the co-founder and CEO of ConX a platform for construction contractors to find and win work with a simple and affordable suite of tools.

IBM was proud to be a part of this event and sponsor the first prize – an IBM Garage Engagement for Annie’s company.  The engagement will help Annie and her team shore up their engineering practice to scale globally using IBM’s design thinking methodology to understand their customers better. We were in great company – with organisations such as CSIRO and Alibaba, both throwing weight behind the movement. A special mention to the Grace Hopper Celebration which was the catalyst and the inspiration for this event

I’ve always been super proud of the amazing work my sister does and the difference she makes running a shelter for victims of domestic violence. Her efforts have inspired me to think about better utilising the platform I have available to me.

My experience at Austrade’s Women in Tech Event reinforced that I, through my role at IBM, can play a critical role in supporting and helping to break down barriers for women in technology. At stake is Australia’s future in the global economic landscape. If we don’t address this issue, we will end up with a one-sided, vanilla environment, where technology maintains the status quo and doesn’t truly solve the world’s problems.

We need to progress to a world where capable, creative women do not need to fight to contribute to solutions that are helping our communities. That’s a future we should all strive to stand for. I am proud to support and heartened to see Austrade making a real difference for women and technology leadership in Australia.

I encourage you to all take a look at the submissions of the eleven finalists here.

[1] Women in technology – why aren’t there more?

[2] Female founders have brought in just 2.2% of US VC this year (yes, again)


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