This study investigates whether tech hubs are broadening women’s participation in the ICT workforce or reproducing existing gender gaps.
There is a stark gender gap in ICT entrepreneurship, with women significantly less likely than men to start businesses in the ICT sector (Kelley et al., 2017), women constituting only 6% of ICT entrepreneurs in the US (Gompers, Wang, 2017) and women comprising only 23% of ICT entrepreneurs in Europe (Quiros et al., 2018). OECD data suggests that women may have less access than men to the trainings for ICT and entrpreneurial skills crucial to starting a business. Women are also less likely to have access to the funding from venture capitalists that enables the growth of start-ups, with only 5.3% of startups funded in Africa in 2017 having a female co-founder (Chandrasekhar, 2018).
Over the last decade, there has been an enormous rise in venture capital funding for start-ups in developing contexts, in particular, in Africa and Southeast Asia (Bayen, & Giuliani, 2018). With this rise in investment has come an increase in the number of “technology hubs”, often designed to be incubators for start-ups, with 442 African tech hubs across 50 countries recorded in 2018, an increase of 50% from 2016 (Bayen, & Giuliani, 2018). The rhetoric around tech hubs presents them as inclusive environments for innovation, a level playing ground for anyone who wants to learn ICT skills or found a start-up (Burgess, 2015). If this rhetoric is true, then the rise in tech hubs on the African continent and elsewhere could provide women in these locations with more equal opportunities to access the training, networking, and investment crucial to successful digital entrepreneurship. However, if these new models for ICT education simply reproduce the same “old boys’ network” that led to existing gender gaps in entrepreneurship, then the rise in tech hubs will not live up to the promise of the open, inclusive innovation environments.
Are tech hubs broadening women’s participation in the ICT workforce or are they reproducing existing gender digital gaps?
This research question is further broken down into four parts focusing on the state of and relationships amongst participation, perceptions, inclusion efforts and organizational structure: