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Web Summit Survey Shows Women in Tech Continue to Grow, Although Not on the Board

By Gina Clarke

A recent survey taken at one of the largest tech events in the world, Web Summit, has shown that the gap between women and men in technology is narrowing. In a poll of 600 women the results showed that 42%, almost half, believe that gender ratios have improved over the last year. However, this was yet to translate to the boardroom, as a third were ‘unsure’ if representation was better.

This comes after multiple allegations of sexism at large tech firms such as Facebook, and walkouts by employees at Google over inequality and sexual misconduct claims. 

At the conference itself, female attendees have jumped from 25% in 2013 to 46% this year, though to have been boosted by ticket discounts. Around 70,000 people attend the four day event in Lisbon, Portugal each year. 

Winnie Lee, the Chief Operator Officer at Taiwanese AI startup Appier said, “It’s great to hear that women in tech feel that they are becoming better represented.” She added that both men and women needed to be involved in AI to make sure that the technology is applied in the most creative way to benefit society.

However, other women have voiced concern that greater efforts are still to be made. Laurel Toby of Supernode, a venture capital fund based in New York said, “Yes there are more women in tech, but until women are around the table making decisions, it really doesn’t matter that there are more of us.

“When you have 30% representation by women, women start to feel comfortable enough to make themselves heard and to express their opinions. In tech we definitely haven’t hit that percentage yet.”

Issues of women in power, particularly in the tech sector, have been commented on in both industry reports and by global organisations such as the United Nations. They criticised the sector for a lack of representation by women in STEM based subjects. 

And a report from McKinsey in 2016 showed that women make up only one in four senior management roles. Although four in 10 women at Web Summit agreed that, “Many women are offered leadership roles just to fill quotas.”

In terms of salary there do seem to have been improvements from a similar straw poll taken last year, as almost half of the respondents agreed that their salaries were in line with male colleagues, compared to 37% previously.

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