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IWD 2024: Young women can build amazing businesses
Fri, 8th Mar 2024

We all know that tech is a male-dominated field. Women can be few and far between, particularly in positions of leadership. Less than a third of start-ups (28%) have a female founder, according to Women in Technology.

Yet women have proven time and again that we can build incredible businesses. There are countless examples of the amazing ventures that women have built - including Canva, EventBrite, Bumble and Starling Bank. Young women entering the sector need to know, without a doubt, that women can create exciting, successful businesses that can change the world.

I’m one of the 28% - I co-founded Antavo with three male colleagues straight out of university. Despite this meaning that Antavo ticks the box for having a female co-founder, there was still a clear gender imbalance from day one; women accounted for one-quarter of our four-person workforce.

That was more than 10 years ago. Today, our gender balance is better (though there’s still a way to go). The Antavo workforce is one third female, but as we progress in seniority that figure improves. Half of the leadership team and half of the management team are women, and the growth team (running strategy, partnerships, marketing, product development and so on) is entirely women-led.

I’m thrilled to have been able to build a feminist business that employs so many fabulous women and supports our diverse workforce to work and live better. I have made it my mission to focus on supporting women in the business because I know just how much of an impact women can have on the sector.

But what I really want is to see more young women launching new tech businesses.

I want young women to know, without a doubt, that they can build something amazing. That their idea is worthy of pursuing. That they can change the world.

It takes guts to take the leap and set up a business. It was one of the scariest times of my life - but also the most exhilarating. I set up Antavo straight from university after writing the business plan as part of my dissertation. I’d spotted a gap in the market, and I was still young and idealistic enough to take the plunge and go for it.

Being an entrepreneur has gifted me the most amazing life experiences. There’s a sense of ownership of my professional journey and of my own time and destiny that I would never have experienced in traditional employment. I’m free from the confines of the 9-5, and I can take whatever path I choose. It’s an incredible thing, and it’s something that more young women should aspire to have.

How often are we told that women can have it all? We hear it all the time, but it’s rarely that simple. Running your own business can be more draining, exhausting and challenging than having a traditional 9-5 job. But once you reach a tipping point, it gets better. There is more flexibility, more potential and more opportunity to define your own measures of success.

I desperately want young women today to understand that employment is not the only path open to them -  there are other ways, too. I did not know this growing up; taking a non-traditional route to work never crossed my mind.

The start of a career is a unique place to be. There’s no fear about the unknown, there’s no past failure to frighten you, and there’s no limit to what can be done. Later in life, it’s harder to take a big leap - there are mortgages to pay and children to raise, and it becomes more of a risk to start a new enterprise.

Young women can build amazing businesses. We need the creativity and insight that they’re able to bring to the table.

So, my advice to young women this International Women’s Day is this: if you are willing to go for it, I encourage you to find a way because it's worth it!