European Business: Four years ago you assumed the leadership of StartHer. What were your main goals at the time and what is your current record?
Joanna Kirk: Our main goal is to encourage a more inclusive approach on technology through concrete actions such as the StartHer Academy – digital introduction program for middle school students (mixed classes) [education]; our Barometer on fundraising of start-up tech led by women [data]; our list of 10 women to follow in tech and our thematic events [community and role models]. We have also created a job board and are developing a think tank on talent & recruitment.
A few years ago, we were only a small group that expressed the importance of women being better represented in tech. Today, actions are plenty and we continue to move forward and collaborate (partnerships, conferences, etc.) with the whole community to get things done. StartHer today is a community of about 30,000 people throughout our networks, more than100 organized events organized, small monthly lunches, the 5th edition of the aforementioned barometer and 6th for 10 women.
StartHer is an inclusive association. We highlight women in tech, organize events and analyze data (barometer). But we believe that men are also part of the solution and that it is important to move forward together. Joanna Kirk
European Business: Why is an organization like StartHer so important? How can it better support women than a mixed-gender organization?
Joanna Kirk: StartHer is an inclusive association. We highlight women in tech, organize events and analyze data (barometer). But we believe that men are also part of the solution and that it is important to move forward together. They are also invited to our events or can be part of the team for example. The StartHer Academy offers mixed classes, interventions are made by women. An organization like StartHer is important to raise awareness, mobilize, exchange and advance on these topics.
European Business: What are the differences between female tech entrepreneurs and their male colleagues? What obstacles do women still have to overcome more than men?
Joanna Kirk: There is a work on awareness and reflection to be done to invent, or re-invent a more inclusive and welcoming environment for all. Because there is only a small number of women in tech, let alone in some areas / types of positions, there are fewer role models and certainly some biases that need to be explored and confronted together. [smiles]
European Business: In recent years, you have issued the StartHer Awards, but there are no prizes. What are the reasons?
Joanna Kirk: After several years organizing the StartHer Awards (the biggest European competition for startups co-directed by women); we decided to support new initiatives of this type that are developing and to focus our work on important projects (education, talent & recruitment, a growing barometer, etc.).
There is a work on awareness and reflection to be done to invent, or re-invent a more inclusive and welcoming environment for all. Joanna Kirk
European Business: What are the most important projects of StartHer in the months and years to come?
Joanna Kirk: Without the slightest doubt education and exchange are very important, parallel to the program of the StartHer Academy in colleges and thematic meetings that we organize. These are precious moments of exchange and awareness. We also seek to develop concrete actions to work on the astpects that emerge in the StartHer barometer.
Interview: Stina Bebenroth | Pictures: StartHer