Where are the women in tech?

Cities love startups: they bring in new ideas, talent, bright young people from other countries and investors’ money. But…. where are the women? Even in the Netherlands, which sees itself as progressive, women are a tiny minority in the tech world. Only 17 percent of the Dutch startups are run by women. What’s wrong? Journalist at Investico Daphné Dupont-Nivet looked into it for the magazine De Groene Amsterdammer, and we’ll be talking about it in the live talkshow Stadsleven: ‘Start up, ‘Fall down’ on Nov. 26th in Pakhuis de Zwijger.

By Daphné Dupont-Nivet

Women in tech are paid less than men, are taken less seriously and have a harder time getting investors to fund their businesses. And then there is the issue of sexual harassment of women in the workplace. Facebook, Google, Tesla, Tinder, Uber – all of them have been taken to court, leading to settlements and the forced departures of the perpetrators.

In its annual analysis State of European Tech for 2018, the international investor Atomico states that even though investments in tech in Europe grew enormously that year, 93% of all the capital went to startups with all-male teams. ‘Women and minorities are underrepresented in every part of the ecosystem’, according to the report. In the Netherlands, in the past eight years startups run by women received only 1.6% of all the venture capital – partly because only 17% of Dutch startups are run by women.


One of them is Maayke Damen, founder of the startup Excess Material Exchange (“a dating site for secondary materials”) and one of the Duurzaam Jong 100 this year. She wants to create a market for all sorts of companies that deal with waste, so that this sector can become more sustainable. Her company uses data, artifical intelligence and blockchain technology. ‘Then people think it’s even weirder tha there is a woman at the top.’ At events she stands next to her co-founder, a man, ‘and people think I’m his girlfriend. Or a waitress.’

Progressive though the Netherlands are in many ways, the situation is worse here than in many other countries. With less than 15% women in ICT, the Netherlands dangles at the bottom of the European ranking. For reasons no one really understands, the preconception that women are not good at technical professions is still strong here. In Bulgaria, Rumania and India almost a third of the ICT’ers are women, in Malaysia over half.

The lack of women is bad for business. According to the Harvard Business Review, companies with relatively more women – and more diversity all round – make more profit and are better at developing innovative products. In Holland there is now a national expertise center for girls and women in technical professions; there are investment funds such as Female Ventures; there are innovation summits by TheNextWomen, where at the fifth edition Queen Máxima gave the opening keynote; there are incubators such as YES!Delft that actively try to bring in more women.

But there is still a long way to go. Also in the Netherlands.

This is an abridged version of an article I wrote for the Dutch magazine De Groene Amsterdammer. Read the complete story (in Dutch) here: https://www.groene.nl/artikel/groepsfoto-zonder-dame