The co-founder of Melbourne-based incubator AngelCube says he makes a conscious effort to recruit female mentors, but believes more can be done to entice women into the industry.
AngelCube, founded by Andrew Birt, Adrian Stone and Nathan Sampimon, recently closed applications for its next round of start-ups.
For this round, AngelCube has recruited six women as part of its mentor network, which normally consists of 40 to 50 mentors.
Birt says some of AnglCube’s most influential mentors are female, but the incubator makes a conscious effort to recruit them. According to Birt, there are several reasons for this.
“We do keep an eye out for female mentors because a [gender-balanced] dynamic is so important. We’re certainly conscious of the boys’ club mentality,” he says.
However, Birt also believes women are less inclined to approach incubators, particularly when it comes to offering their services as a mentor, so the incubators have to seek them out.
“You could assume more guys are interested or you could assume we haven’t created the right environment,” he says.
Birt’s comments come after a controversial tweet posted earlier this week by a staff member at the York Butter Factory raised concerns about hostility towards women in the tech sector.
In a bid to entice more women into the sector, Birt says AngelCube would consider running a recruitment campaign, but disagrees with the idea of gender quotas.
“We don’t cast the net too wide – we’re pretty selective about who we invite… It’s about who Adam [Stone] and I think will be a great fit,” he says.
“I think it’s crucial [for female entrepreneurs to have female role models]. Someone like Naomi Simson is a brilliant role model.”
“I haven’t heard Naomi Simson complain it’s a man’s world. She just gets on with it.”
“I guess we could say, ‘AngelCube is looking to encourage at least 10 new female mentors.’ Maybe there’s something specific we could do like that.”
“I think we could do that. It would need the backing of someone like Kate [Kendall]. I might look a bit strange if I did that solo.”
Meanwhile, Pollenizer co-founder Mick Liubinskas estimates that out of Pollenizer’s pool of around 100 mentors, approximately 20 to 30 are female.
Speaking alongside Liubinskas, female entrepreneur Tristen Langley describes women in the tech scene as a “movement that’s coming”.
Langley serves as a venture partner with Southern Cross Venture Partners, and is the former business development and marketing manager at Skype Technologies for North America.
According to Langley, there is a “bunch of stuff going on” with regard to women in tech, insisting the increased involvement and visibility of female mentors is extremely important.
“What needs to happen is you’ve got to break preconceptions… I think [female mentors] are all there. They’re just not being invited [to become mentors],” Langley says.
But Jocelyn Hunter, of public relations agency Bench PR, which specialises in the business-to-business and technology markets, says there is still a marked absence of women in the sector.
“Having been to York Butter events, Silicon Beach drinks and a few of the tech start-up events, they are male-dominated, but then tech has always been that way,” Hunter says.
“I’ve worked for the large tech companies and the smaller ones… Women are few and far between.”