Tech City is often equated with modernity and innovation, so to band it with an outdated sexism seems paradoxical. Yet for some of Silicon Roundabout’s most outspoken women, workplace misogyny is the biggest obstacle to successful business.
On 8 March, in celebration of International Women’s Day, creative company Poke London hosted a showcase of 28 of Tech City’s pioneering females.
Women in Tech City, organised by Becky Stewart of Codesign, Natasha Carolan, of Makielabs, Ana Brady of Shoreditch Works and Alexandra Deschamps-Sonsino founder of the Goodnight Lamp, welcomed over 100 guests.
The event aimed to kickstart a revival for women who often feel unde rrepresented and discriminated against in Hackney’s thriving industry.
Deschamps-Sonsino said: “I’m tired of the negative rhetoric that’s around women in technology so we invited all the people we know to come together, show their work and be proud of what we do.”
Composer, performer and digital musician Sarah Angliss, a qualified engineer, exemplifies the under-valued businesswoman.
“When I walk into a room people always assume that I have less knowledge than I do. I’ve come up with a few tricks to get around it: early on in the conversation I’ll ask a difficult question.
“It’s like being a left handed tennis player,” she added. “A lot of businesses aren’t used to working with a technically minded woman, but that’s the way I’ve always operated.”
PricewaterhouseCoopers revealed that British women are less likely to be in work, experience worse job security and greater pay inequality than those in other developed countries.
Their Women in Work index ranked the UK 18th out of 27 OEDC countries on five indicators of female economic empowerment including equality of earnings and the unemployment rate.
Yet for other women at the evening, asking whether sexism was alive in the workplace was as antiquated as the attitude itself.
Georgina Voss, a researcher in social technology for Brighton University, argued that the sexism debate is making redundant assumptions about gendered roles.
“I’m curious about how gender comes into design,” the academic said. “Technology is generally geared toward a default male consumer.
“What someone can bring to business depends on the person, man or woman. They’re complex groups. There’s no massive monolith of women.
“Men can be caring, nurturing and intuitive; women can be blunt and careless.”
The issue is further complicated by the different attitudes toward women across the sectors. Throughout the evening it emerged that traditionally male dominated sectors, such as engineering and design are the bastions of sexism.
Unlike engineer Anglis, Georgina Mill, market manager at Moving Brands, thinks the glass ceiling is a thing of history.
“I’m lucky,” she said. “In the marketing sector you see a lot of successful females branching out. I feel very optimistic that workplace misogyny is a thing of the past – or soon to be.”
Sarah Bentley is project co-ordinator at Made in Hackney, a social enterprise that that teaches cookery skills to the local community. For her, as for many other exhibitors, women can bring compassion to business.
She said: “You meet a lot of other women working in the social enterprise sector.
“Instead of asking: how can this make more money? A feminine approach asks: how can this more positively impact the world in which our business exists? It’s a more positive aim than chasing numbers.”
As the hubbub dispersed into the Shoreditch night, Deschamps-Sonsino reflected: “We’ve had a really fun time, there’s been a great vibe. If only it could be everyday and not just International Women’s Day.”