by Lexi Willetts


We're talking X Chromosomes and Tech

Whilst summer in London has been underwhelming in the last days, it’s been a scorcher of week for the topic of women in tech…


Only in the last 24hrs has national and international press been flooded by news of Google’s booting of its infamous engineer James Damore. Company code of conduct is seemingly broken when you perpetuate gender stereotype and suggest that females just aren’t biologically programmed for tech. Delete, delete, DELETE!


So are we? Let’s debate. 

I’m a relative newbie to the world of tech – having typed on industry keys for just over 2.5years. Having only traversed Silicon Valley the once (literally, road trip 2015) and never having worked there, I can’t speak for the techie motherland first hand. But as I sit here just off Charlotte Street in Tottenham Court Road (London) I spy plenty of us lady likes, all founding new enterprises and creating solid tech-based ventures.

In Mortimer Street I see Ruuby App owner Venetia Archer delivering us beauty treatments at the touch of a button; in Old Street I find Stefanie Phair who recently joined the C-suite of FarFetch to lead strategy. All the while, Westfield winks to the legacy of Nathalie Massenet founder of luxury e-commence giant Net-a-Porter, who disrupted the luxury retail landscape before exiting in 2015. 

A look through the trans-Atlantic telescope sees the uber glamorous (groan!) and former Apple executive Bozoma Saint Jean sitting at her desk in Uber HQ, assuming her new role as CBO. Meanwhile presenter Poppy Jamie is in LA accelerating Happy Not Perfect wellness tech, releasing her first app later this year. Across to Hollywood and super models are diversifying – you’ll find Kendall Jenner and Naomi Campbell supporting will.i.am’s fashion tech venture i.am+, and camps for teenage girl coders sponsored by entrepreneur Karley Kloss #KodewithKlossy.

The list is growing.

(BTW It’s a sample list, a biased list, certainly not exhaustive and a cursory snapshot of the fashion tech world that I occasionally nose into).

But many of the above aren’t engineers. They’re business leaders, visionaries, tenacious talents, hardworking gals, aesthetic appreciators and daring damsels.  Code is often an unknown. 

Oddly, the forward-thinking tech behemoths aren’t dazzling us with diversity.  In amongst the sexism shames, Uber have rapidly tried to redress the male to female diversity balance; July 2017 they reported 22% of leadership roles were filled by woman, while their tech engineering roles amounted to only 15% female - a percentage that is slowly dropping. At the same time, Google’s leadership team is 75% weighted male, with a mere 20% of its engineering team being female. 

I recently chatted with a leading professor of computer science at the State University of New York at Buffalo, during which we conversed on the topic of his current student demographics – very few of his students were US home grown talent, even fewer were women. His explanation: “maths” - or rather the lack of love for it. No one want to buckle down to the hard slog of engineering. Currently its en vogue to work in online marketing, e-commerce, branding and graphic design – but the realities of concentred coding are less appealing.


In my humble view, our behaviours, our talents, our abilities, our life choices are a combined product of our upbringing - schooling, inspirational teachers, hobbies, mad uncles/aunts who excited us, all mixed with our genetics, our ongoing experiencing and evolving interests. We need to keep making noise about the diversity gap in tech, then learn from Karlie and make coding cool. Push the maths and computer science agenda from early ages. Make it relevant, send it #trending.  

My advice (as the eccentric godmother), the biggest obstacles in our life are those in our mind. Believe you can do whatever you want. Be brave. Do what brings the best out of you.  Whether this helps redress the diversity problems faced by the industry, I doubt it. But then LIFE is rarely this programmed…



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