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April 28, 2015

Salesforce rallies Stemettes call for girls in tech

Outbox Incubator launched at Salesforce Tower.

By Ellie Burns

A widely talked about issue within the IT and technology industry is that of the lack of women. It has long been recognised that here is a problem with getting girls into tech, an issue which was today targeted at the Salesforce Tower in London.

The Salesforce Foundation hosted the launch of Outbox Incubator today, an initiative by the Stemettes which aims to support girls under 22 years old who have business ideas rooted in STEM.

Introduced with aplomb by Salesforce Area Vice President, Melissa Di Donato, she kick-started the event by saying:

"Why I love stem is because is because of a recent statistic I heard when I was speaking at a local school here in London; 1 in every 3 girls that study stem have been made fun of for being in a boys area of study. Being the mother of a 15 month old daughter that worries me and makes me take pause as to why that is."

Di Donato went on to highlight shocking statistics which made the mainly female audience sit up and take notice. 75% of UK women go into a ‘C’ career (catering, carer, cashier, clerical etc), while less than 3% of women start technology companies.

Di Donato pointed to the fact that less than 7% of females are CEO’s of technology companies, while a mere 1.5% of those women are founders of those companies.

The crowd-pleasing stat came when Di Donato stated that women who are at a c-level position in privately held companies show a 12% greater return than their male counterparts.

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Although the stats produced by Di Donanto highlighted the issue well, the young women who then presented to the assembled audience hit home the fact that it is vital intelligent, talented, STEM-minded women are supported, encouraged and nurtured in the industry.

Two girls took to the stage to launch their company Germinaid Innovation, an initiative to tackle food insecurity and solve the future problem of having to feed 9 billion people by 2050.

The young women set out to see if a natural, nitrogen-fixing bacteria could be used to increase crop productivity, a project which spanned three years and saw them looking at 12,000 seeds over 130,000 times. They did this when they were 14 years old.

Four years later they have picked up a $50,000 prize from Google and been featured in Time Magazine’s Top 25 most influential teenagers in the world. It is young girls like these which the Outbox Incubator is targeting.

The Stemmettes, founded by Anne-Marie Imafidon in 2013, will give teenage girls the funding and support to launch their own science or tech-based businesses. The program is in partnership with WISE whose patron is HRH The Princess Royal and is funded by the Salesforce Foundation.

As part of the programme, 45 girls aged 11-22 will spend six weeks learning and living together under one roof in the Outbox Incubator house. There they will be joined by experienced mentors to find out about running a business, developing a product and getting funding to take their ideas to market.

Nominated girls will then get the opportunity to present their ideas to HRH The Princess Royal, patron of Stemettes’ partner organisation WISE, and to industry partners, pitching for mentors and funding from industry and showcasing the great tech talent we have in our teenage girls.

The Stemettes Outbox Incubator programme will run for six weeks from 27th July to 5th September 2015. It starts with a three-week ‘Germination’ period, followed by a public ‘Demo Day’ on 15th August and culminates with a three-week ‘Incubation’ period. The demo day will see angels and mentors pledging money, time and support to girls on the programme.

Stemettes founder, Anne-Marie Imafidon, commented: "I am incredibly excited about this partnership and this programme. We are changing the course of history with this generation of girls.’



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