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Tech consortium aims to double women and BAME-founded startups

JP Morgan Chase backs London initiative to boost access to investment for diverse tech entrepreneurs

A new initiative plans to double the diversity of people founding London startups over the next two years.

Led by Capital Enterprise, the consortium including Tech Nation also aims to raise a total of 15.1 million of investment for new companies.

It is hoped this will create 300 new tech jobs by working with more than 50 venture capital firms and tech accelerators across the capital, following on from PwC's Tech She Can initiative, launched in February.

Alison Partridge, Capital Enterprise's programme architect for the initiative, said: "The lack of diversity costs the tech industry dearly in untapped potential, talent and growth. Even the best performing tech accelerators and investment readiness programmes in London only have around 10% women and 20% BAME founders in their cohorts.

"This gives us an opportunity to hack into the tech entrepreneurship ecosystem and test an innovative approach which integrates supply, demand and culture change. We believe this will deliver more impact than simply adding new female or BAME-only programmes to the mix."

It hopes to double the number of female-founded and BAME-founded startups by 2020, working with VCs and tech accelerators to raise the cash and help them understand why diversity is necessary, and how they can change their selection criteria to recruit or invest in more diverse startups.

Peter Scher, head of corporate responsibility at JP Morgan Chase, added: "The technology sector is critical to London's economy, but we must improve the diversity of the entrepreneurs that support it.

"Fostering diversity can drive technology innovation, creativity and productivity and create inclusive economic growth. Our investment with Capital Enterprise will give minority and female technology founders, especially in East London, a chance to move up the economic ladder as they start and grow their businesses."

The technology sector is slowly waking up to its diversity problem with initiatives like the Tech Talent Charter helping to highlight the issue and offer opportunities for women in the industry.

The initiative is backed by the UK government, which recently awarded a grant of 97,000 with which the Tech Talent Charter will seek to commit 500 companies to improve their gender diversity.

However, the next generation of girls still have some obstacles in their way after a recent report from the University of Roehampton suggested that phasing out ICT subjects in favour of Computer Science will lead to fewer students studying computing in the UK, with an expected reduction in girls and poorer pupils taking the subject.

Girls comprise only 20% of Computer Science entries at GCSE, and 10% at A-Level, with 30,000 fewer girls taking any computing qualification at GCSE or above now compared to 2014, the report showed.

Despite the growing influence of the TTC, the report highlights concerns that a reduction in the number of girls taking up computing studies will lead to a smaller female tech workforce.

Picture: Shutterstock

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