Portugal’s booming start-up scene is now one of the best places across the European Union for women in technology to work. According to technology job-platform, Honeypot, Portugal has the smallest difference between the gender pay gap in the tech industry and the overall gender pay gap in within the national economy. This makes choosing a career in technology economically less risky for women in Portugal than it would be in other countries.
Honeypot co-founder, Emma Tracey, said “the [study’s] results reveal the countries which have the most to offer women looking to progress in the tech industry, with Portugal, The United States and Latvia highlighted as the top three nations that have taken positive steps towards gender parity in the technology field in terms of fairer wages.”
Honeypot’s announcement coincided with the publication of its 2018 Women in Tech Index. The data collected for this index has shone a light on how gender inequality impacts the technology landscape. The index also ranked Portugal 5th out of 41 countries for the smallest pay gap between men and women in tech, ahead of the US, the UK, and France.
Achieving gender parity isn’t simply an issue of optics. In fact, there are real economic benefits to be derived from greater equity in the workforce. For example, McKinsey Consulting Firm estimates that advancing women’s equality could add as much as $12 trillion to the global economy by 2025.
Moreover, the EU has found that start-ups owned by women tend to outperform those headed by men. Nevertheless, women make up only 30% of start-up entrepreneurs across Europe. In terms of the tech sector specifically, there are more than three men for every woman working in the field. This suggests that there’s a supply of female talent that Portugal is well positioned to tap into.
Part of realising this change starts at the source, by supporting female entrepreneurs who are ultimately more likely to than their male counterparts to hire technologically savvy women. Portugal’s government has introduced several policies that could help facilitate this. For instance, at the Web Summit 2016, Portuguese Prime Minister António Costa announced that his government would provide €200 million to support the country’s emerging start-up ecosystem and attract international investment.
Start-Up Portugal, another government initiative, provides both financial and logistical support for entrepreneurs. It offers mentoring, tech support and monthly funding for 18-35-year olds with promising business ideas. The programme helps start-ups gain access to incubators, venture capital, and global markets.
While these initiatives are undoubtedly helpful, access to finance is not the number one barrier to women seeking a career in technology. In a 2017 survey conducted by the Information Systems Audit and Control Association (ISAC) on female representation in the global technology workforce, 48% of women said a lack of mentorship was a major career impediment.
Actors in the Portuguese private sector have stepped up to fill this particular gap. The latest example is a repeat collaboration between the Lisbon Web Summit and Booking.com, both of whom agreed in April to jointly sponsor the Women in Tech mentorship programme for the second year in a row. Last year, the programme attracted more than 200 participants and 60 successful female mentors. These sorts of events provide women with invaluable access to a network of high-profile female figures in an industry where connections are often key to securing funding and access to new markets.
Another area of untapped support for women entrepreneurs in Portugal is crowdfunding, a fundraising strategy widely used by start-ups to attract small amounts of money from a wide array of people across the globe. While it’s promising in theory, these projects often come with setbacks, predominantly a lack of transparency and protection for would-be investors. In order to counter this, Lisbon enacted legislation in 2015 that provided a legal framework for crowdfunding platforms to operate.
Interestingly, a PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) report found that while women entrepreneurs use crowdfunding less than men, they are actually more successful at it than their male peers. Portugal’s proactive approach to crowdfunding should open up new opportunities for women in tech. However, there are still cultural hurdles that make attracting capital through crowdfunding difficult. PwC’s report specifically recommends that crowdfunding is embedded into academic curriculums and business support systems, and that governments do more to promote the crowdfunding for female-led start-ups.
Over the past decade, Portugal’s start-up scene has blossomed. Today, almost half all new jobs in Portugal are created by start-ups that are less than five years old. By fostering an environment that supports women in tech, Portugal has given this burgeoning industry a leg up, and its economy a big boost.