Lack of gender diversity remains an issue in the tech sector. TechBBQ wants to help change that
Lack of gender diversity remains an issue in the tech sector. TechBBQ wants to help change that

Companies who have leaders from diverse backgrounds perform better. Yet, this is far from the norm in the tech community. TechBBQ’s gender diversity agenda seeks to change that.

Companies who have leaders from diverse backgrounds perform better. Yet, this is far from the norm in the tech community. TechBBQ’s gender diversity agenda seeks to change that.

In just 7 years, TechBBQ has grown from 100 people gathered around a barbeque to Scandinavia’s largest technology, startup, and innovation summit. This year will see 7,500+ attendees (and a few robots).

Since its inception, the summit has pushed boundaries and expectations about discussion topics, in addition to norms, trends, and practices in the community. This year, TechBBQ has taken steps to diversify the startup community’s agenda.

Avnit Singh, CEO of TechBBQ, explained: “We believe in accountability, and, in pursuit of this, we want to openly share our strategies and initiatives around diversity. This serves a dual purpose – accountability for us and inspiration and guidance for other events and stakeholders in the technology and entrepreneurship sector. We need to take the initiative when it comes to improving gender diversity in tech.”

Research findings show that diversity and inclusion are good for society at large, and it is becoming increasingly acknowledged that these values positively impact companies and organizations. Companies with diverse leadership teams have been shown to outperform those with less diverse leadership, in terms of profit margins, return on equity, and revenues generated.

Yet, according to Dansk Industri (DI), of the Danish companies that have more than 50 employees, only 12 percent of them are led by female CEOs.

Diversity matters

Despite the Nordic region’s tradition as a global front-runner in gender equality, we are not as egalitarian as we would like to think. Based on a report by Gender Diversity Roundtable Denmark: “Current cultural norms, social expectations, stereotypes, and unconscious bias are part of our everyday life and all contribute to a skewed gender balance in leadership in Danish society.”

According to Klaus Nyengaard – chairman of TechBBQ’s steering group and CEO and co-founder of LetsBuild – it is virtually impossible for TechBBQ, in its capacity as an influential stakeholder in the Nordic tech and startup ecosystem, to ignore this agenda.

In his own words: “If we wish to fulfil our goals of creating a future where Denmark and the Nordics are at the forefront of tech and innovation, we have to focus on gender diversity. TechBBQ is a small association, so we have to start small but think big. For 2019, we are mainly focusing on gender. We are well aware that diversity goes beyond gender, but it is a good place to start and hopefully it can lead to TechBBQ being a more diverse and inclusive summit.”

A long way to go

In collaboration with diversity strategist and innovator, Marie Valentin Beck (of Bureau M), TechBBQ has put initiatives in place that aim to build strategic processes that can improve the diversity of the summit’s program.

Leading the diversity process, Katrine Arevad – head of communication for TechBBQ – explained: “As a conference, our first and most natural step has been to curate talks and workshops about the subject so that we share relevant knowledge, experiences, and advice. We will have 5 different talks on our stages and 3 open workshops on how and why companies can work to implement greater diversity of gender identities and other lived experiences.”

Even though great progress has been made through these efforts, there is still a long way to go. 

According to Rene Munk, COO of TechBBQ: “This year we have not been able to perform as well as we wanted to in regards to the representation of women on the stage program, which is, in part, because there have not been any strategies or guidelines in place internally to guide the selection process. However, the percentage has increased from 25 last year to 29 this year; this is really good, but not good enough. It is clear that we need to step up our game for 2020, and we will.”

TechBBQ gender initiatives at this year’s summit:

For the first time in TechBBQ history, there will be 6 talks on stage and 3 workshops around gender diversity and inclusion in tech. 

TechBBQ hosted a round-table discussion on June 30 (2019) for founders and representatives from organisations like Women in Tech Denmark, Wondertech Summit, Daregender, Goodtalks, Potential.co, Mind & Bodylab, Innovator Q, Ladies First, and Bureau M. There, the group shared thoughts, knowledge, and advice for how TechBBQ can better tackle this issue. These insights fed into TechBBQ’s strategic process.

TechBBQ struck a TechBBQ Diversity Advisory Board to assist in the development of guidelines and strategies for planning future TechBBQ’s.

TechBBQ donated tickets to organisations working with women in tech and reached out to women in the tech ecosystem, encouraging them to participate and nominate other women. This was in an effort to attract female talent and ensure more female role models are visible and present in the ecosystem.

One of the founders behind the #movingforward initiative, Ginny Fahs will speak at TechBBQ. This new, open source platform helps entrepreneurs find up-to-date information on venture fund initiatives and policies related to diversity, inclusion, and harassment. The team behind TechBBQ Nordic Investor Day have campaigned and sent out a call to join the movement to 1,000 Nordic Venture Capital funds.

During TechBBQ there will be a women in tech pub crawl, hosted by Women Techmakers Copenhagen in collaboration with Mikkeller.

There will be 3 workshops on ‘How to get started working with diversity’ facilitated by Helene Aagaard, diversity expert and co-founder of GoGetty.

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