Glass ceiling is breaking for startup founders but not employees

Elizabeth Barry 10 February 2017

business woman

A new report by Startup Muster shows the number of female founders is slowly increasing but full-time female startup employee numbers are still low.

The annual report from Startup Muster has shed light on the startup ecosystem in 2016, including the state of the innovation industry's notorious glass ceiling. The survey found that the number of female employees has slowly been increasing since 2014 and is expected to continue on an upwards curve next year. However, despite the startups having an average of 4.12 employees, nearly half (47.5%) have no full-time female employees.

Danielle Szetho, CEO of industry association Fintech Australia says that the numbers still don't hit the mark.

"Any increase is welcome but obviously 23.5% is still not enough. We need to be aiming for 50%," she said. "But the fact that the figure is going up is something small to celebrate."

The good news is that the survey revealed is the increasing number of female startup founders there are. In 2014, female founders made up only 16.1% of respondents. In 2015 this increased to 17.4% and stands at almost one-quarter (23.5%) in 2016. The projection of future founders in 2016 is for females to represent nearly one-third (31%).

Increasing our number of female founders means that we are better utilising our available talent pool

The recent Fintech Census conducted by EY and Fintech Australia found that nearly 9 in 10 fintech leaders were male, a number that was surprising to Szetho.

"I was actually positively surprised, as I thought it would be lower," she said of the results. "There are not many females in technology, and even less in financial services, so you'd think within the overlap there'd be even less!"

When it comes to improving the number of female founders and employees in startups, Szetho believes the community needs to come together to combat the issue.

"We are seeking to do more on this issue this year, including by highlighting and rewarding startups that have addressed gender diversity as part of our 2017 Finnies awards which are currently open for applications."

"We're also really supportive of initiatives our community organises already, like Stone & Chalk Women in FinTech and Tyro's FemTech Leaders Meetup.

"Increasing our number of female founders means that we are better utilising our available talent pool, which should lead to a stronger startup industry (including fintech)."

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