• Thursday, June 13, 2024
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Aurora Tech Award: Bridging the gender gap in tech startups

Aurora Tech Award: Bridging the gender gap in tech startups

Technology startups are fast changing the narrative for young entrepreneurs and putting them on the world stage.

Startups have indeed become not only the engine of growth but key drivers of fast-paced development in critical sectors of the global economy.

They are the engine of growth itself.
They solve problems no other sector is addressing with innovative thinking, thus pushing society forward, creating jobs, stimulating the economy, and attracting foreign investment.

In today’s evolving economic landscape, technological innovation is seen as a tool that is moving the needle in every sector of the economy: from education, transportation, maritime, technology has continued to be a major driver helping to create different opportunities and new industries for the people.

Many developing economies, including Nigeria are catching up to build an innovation-driven economy as governments have become fully involved in the establishment of tech hubs across their countries. In Nigeria alone, tech hubs have become success stories, especially with the emergence of companies such as Flutterwave, Andela among others which sprang up from its creation.

Despite the increasing rise of startup innovators, many women in the rank have become disadvantaged and at best neglected not only in terms of support but also in recognition. This situation has led to the dearth of many businesses which hold the prospect of becoming great enterprises. This trend has elicited concerns that it might well be true that there is a deliberate attempt to deny women the opportunity to fly as they strive to.

For more than a decade now, there has been a deliberate shift in focus from women in tech startups. This is largely due to a number of factors that include bias, stereotypes and low representation of women role models in tech-related fields. A research conducted by a leading mobile app, inDrive in three countries- Nigeria, Brazil and Malaysia revealed the same bias against women.

Though the research showed that the percentage of girls in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM)-related education in Brazil, Malaysia, and Nigeria, is the same as the percentage of boys, there is still a significant gap between the number of startups founded by men and women.

According to statistics, Venture Capital funding to female startups is not more than one percent, a clear demonstration of a huge funding gap between men and women in the information technology (IT) space. Obviously, the number of female-founded startups is significantly less than male in all countries.

As if that is not enough, other statistics obtained by Crunchbase, a company that provides information about businesses, their investment and funding, revealed that only 2.3 percent of venture funding goes to women-led startups.

In a move aimed at changing the status quo, inDrive, a mobility app that provides passengers and drivers a fair deal across 45 countries, has come up with an initiative – Aurora Tech Award, to assist and encourage women in tech startups. Until the institution of the Aurora Tech Award in 2020, many women in innovation entrepreneurship have had to fall by the wayside due to a number of factors, including discrimination and difficulty accessing finance. The award, which is targeted at providing seed funds for women-led start-ups, was established with a view to helping women unleash their power of innovation.

The Aurora Tech Award 2024, received an unprecedented 694 applications from 102 countries this year, underscoring the global impact of women in technology and innovation.

In addition to the prestigious recognition, the winners of the Aurora Tech Award received cash prizes of $30,000, $20,000, and $10,000 for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place, respectively, along with access to an inDrive mentorship programme. Through the award, inDrive hopes to set new and fair standards in the venture world.

The Aurora Tech Award, an annual global prize for women founders of tech startups, is targeted at breaking down barriers and promoting equality in tech entrepreneurship.

Over the last three years, the award has continued to be a veritable platform in identifying and supporting women in tech startups who are committed to making desired changes and solving problems in the society.

Speaking on the rationale behind the award, Lineo Thakhisi, the public relations manager, inDrive, noted that the company conceptualised the award to raise role models that can go ahead to motivate a lot of women in entrepreneurship particularly in a field that is considered male dominated.

“We believe that local role models play a vital role in shaping the narrative of female entrepreneurship. Their impact extends beyond individual success stories, influencing the broader entrepreneurial ecosystem by fostering diversity, breaking down barriers, and contributing to the creation of a more inclusive and supportive environment for aspiring female founders. For that reason, initiatives such as the Aurora Tech Award, aimed at the creation of local role models, are crucial for women’s empowerment,” Thaksi said.

She further stated that the company is committed to changing the status quo and defying unfair barriers by supporting innovations.
This year, a Nigerian, Folake Owodunni, with a ground-breaking startup, Emergency Response Africa, won the prestigious award. The innovative startup tagged ‘Emergency Response Africa’, according to Owodunni, is dedicated to making healthcare accessible in Africa by providing sustainable and scalable emergency medical services that address critical needs in the Africa region.

Ekaterina Smirnova, head of Aurora Tech Award, described the milestone achievement of Owodunni as a demonstration of the immense capacity of women all over the world to inspire change and foster innovation through their creative prowess.

Smirnova explained that the ground-breaking feat would serve as great motivation for more women to keep at their creative ingenuity so as to help solve the world ‘s innumerable challenges.

“We celebrate the remarkable achievements of Folake Owodunni, Hannah Töpler, and Sarah Phiri-Molema. Their ground-breaking startups not only address critical needs in their communities but also serve as local role models, inspiring change and fostering innovation. These awards play a vital role in providing much-needed recognition to women in the tech industry, amplifying their contributions, and paving the way for greater gender equality and diversity in innovation,” she said.

The triumph of Owodunni, no doubt, will become a beacon of inspiration for aspiring women entrepreneurs worldwide, highlighting the transformative power of innovation and determination in driving positive change.

It is interesting to note that a Nigerian is being recognised for taking the lead to revolutionise healthcare with her innovative thinking. Some of the winners of past editions of the award include co-founder and CEO, Tazar, Ainura Sayn, founder and director, ‘Gwiji for Women’, Elizabeth Mwangi