The Rise of Girl Power in Tech

Day 2 of DTS 2017 was dominated by two things, George or RoboThespian the interactive Robot and ‘Girl Power’  

Walking around Dublin’s convention centre, it is easy to forget worrying statistics about women in tech or holding positions of power in business. Over the two day summit, there was a huge emphasis and indeed celebration for women working in tech and business, and though that may not be the reality, for two days DTS was a beautiful example for the rest of the world to follow. For its part, DTS gave out over €200,000 worth of complimentary tickets specifically to women working in tech to bridge the gender gap and taking those first tentative steps towards equality.

Colette Ballou, Founder and President of Ballou PR, kicked things off with some helpful tips for those interested in becoming an angel investor, particularly women. With the caveat that  “the money you invest in a startup, you will probably not see again.” It was a short but sweet, appetiser before the main course that began with Anne Ravanona, CEO Global Invest Her, opening with an exciting and engaging talk on how “together, we can smash the funding ceiling for women.”

The CEO began with some bleak and frankly depressing figures about the harsh reality that the “funding gap between men and women is 300 billion dollars” or that “a woman raises 77 million dollars for every 100 million raised by a man.”

Despite the harsh reality, Anne thinks that her insights and ability to use “the funding game,” as she calls it, can be learned like anything else. The most important thing for women is the importance of, maintaining a clear, confident mindset and belief that “we are equal to our- mostly male investors.” Colette Ballou joined Ann on stage, together with Charlotte Fereday of Code First: Girls, for a panel discussion with Kerrie Finch, Founder & CEO of FinchFactor, moderating. Following on from Anne’s sentiments in the previous talk, the highly qualified group of Female Leaders spoke about the obstacles faced in “breaking down antiquated barriers,” and leading the way for other women in tech and business.

Charlotte Fereday, from Code First: Girls, maintains that tech companies can certainly play a much larger role to help demystify and indeed encourage a career in tech for women and girls. Companies need to re-think their strategy when it comes to hiring practices, by creating targets or quotas for potential female workers, giving way for accountability, in the words of European Commissioner Viviane Reding, “I don’t like quotas, but I like what quotas do.”

Anne Ravanona identified one of the biggest reasons for the funding and pay gap is that, “women do a lot more unpaid work, such a child rearing or caring for relatives than men.” A role that they will be penalised for professionally later in life. Now, this is not secret, nor is it a surprise but a fundamental societal problem, that unfortunately gives rise to gender stereotyping beginning in children as young as six. To put that in perspective, she cited a fascinating study from the world economic forum which found that the current economic gap is widening, and under these conditions, it will take 170 years for women to be equal to men.”

Angel investor, Colette Ballou believes that women leaders must “be the change that you want to see” and find ways combat this. Ballou’s company offers excellent maternity leave cover for females within the company, meaning they don’t have to choose between a successful career or raising a family.

If you are not already familiar with Cindy Gallop you may have been forgiven for being taken slightly aback by her robust and energetic entrance, which was a real treat for the audience and stood out as one of the best talks over the two days. After she explained the term ‘SexTech’, defining it as “any technology or business that focuses on human sexuality or experience.” Gallop strongly believes it is, “the single biggest billion dollar idea not being explored.”

Whether you agree with her or not, she’s right about one thing; “Everyone has sex, but no one talks about it.” Her company ‘MakeLoveNotPorn’ is a social media site with the primary aim of “socializing sex” and fostering a healthier attitude towards the act itself. Created in reaction to the exploitative and frankly, unrealistic standards set by the porn industry. So far, Gallop has been unsuccessful in securing the kind of funding that she needs, largely due to the adult content. Furthermore, she knows that to create a truly “world changing startup,” she must “modify the world to fit it, not the other way around” knowing that “women challenge the status quo because we are never it.”

Always up for a challenge, and the sheer embodiment of ‘girl power’ Cindy Gallop maintains the importance and of investing in women like herself, because “there is an enormous amount of money to be made by taking women seriously.” Urging any Irish investors listening to, sit up and take notice and ultimately to be brave enough to turn Dublin into the next “SexTech capital of Europe!”

Watch Cindy’s keynote and other #DTS PRISM keynotes, panels and Q&As on our YouTube page.


Hannah Rochford