Last week some colleagues and I were invited to attend the final of the 5050tech Challenge, hosted by Sage UK and Martha Lane Fox's new digital organisation doteveryone.
The challenge sought to address the alarming gender imbalance in the tech industry - at present only 17% of tech jobs in the UK are held by women.
The event itself raised some interesting questions - Martha Lane Fox talked about the aspirations she held when she launched Lastminute.com in 1997, and how she believed the internet was going to create a level playing field for a diverse set of voices: that in a new industry women would have an equal role.
Almost 20 years later, it seems that Baroness Lane-Fox was wrong. While digital industries are growing, so too is the gender imbalance.
Sage CEO Stephen Kelly put it succinctly when he questioned how a 'new' industry like digital, ended up recreating the archaic structures once seen in industries like ship-building and mining.
If the digital industry is going to benefit from a diverse workforce, more needs to be done to encourage women (and school-age girls) to consider careers in tech - be it identifying role models, backing female founders, or more events like the 5050tech Challenge.
Baroness Lane-Fox, who is one of the youngest members of the House of Lords, was in Newcastle to visit Sage UK and host the final of the 5050tech Challenge, a Dragon’s Den-style competition for women-led start-ups. She said: “I’m starting doteveryone. It’s a major new social organisation to help rebuild the UK for the digital age and make us brilliant at all things digital, one plank of which is to redress the absolutely shocking gender balance in the technology sector. Sage CEO Stephen Kelly said: “As an industry we failed to [get it right] and a lot of people are calling that out. As an industry we need a greater awareness, more support through the mentoring programme for entrepreneurs, more role models and access to capital. This is a strategic issue for Britain.”