What contribution is Gender Diversity making to the scientific super-cluster?

A new companion paper to Oxfordshire’s Innovation Engine 2023 looks at gender participation in technology and IP driven businesses

The Oxfordshire Innovation Engine report, Realising the Growth Potential, was published in the autumn of 2013. It was followed two and a half years later by an ‘Update Report’ in 2016. These reports did not look at equality, diversity or inclusion issues. Ten years on, Advanced Oxford has taken stock of the dynamics of the region’s innovation economy, culminating in the report ‘Oxfordshire’s Innovation Engine 2023 (OIE 2023)’ where the opportunity to look at one measure of diversity – gender – has been seized.

Written in collaboration with Oxford Brookes University, this paper is presented as a companion to Oxfordshire’s Innovation Engine 2023 and looks at what contribution Gender Diversity is making to the scientific super-cluster.

In 2021 Oxford Brookes University in collaboration with Advanced Oxford looked at a sample of 110 innovation and knowledge based companies within Oxfordshire to investigate women’s participation as founders and leaders of these companies. This analysis revealed that only 13.6% of the companies examined have at least one female founder.

This new paper expands upon that investigation to examine all Oxfordshire companies in the Technology/IP-based businesses sector, which are tracked by data platform Beauhurst.

It compares gender diversity in the Oxfordshire innovation ecosystem to the national picture. Oxfordshire’s Innovation Engine 2023 identifies the stock of knowledge-based companies as being 2,950, with a sub-set of these, around 1,500, being the most innovation and R&D focused.  This new analysis looks at a sub-set of just under 500 companies registered in Oxfordshire.

The region has a good record on starting and retaining science and technology-focused businesses, but they still tend to be male dominated, in both their formation and leadership. If there is still a long way to go on gender equality, it seems likely that other diversity characteristics also need attention and action.

Our investigation revealed the following:

  • When looking at all data from each stage of company evolution combined, only 18% of companies have at least one female founder in Oxfordshire. This is poor, and only marginally better than the national average, which is 17%.
  • In established growth companies, only 6% of the national average have at least one Female founder, and the Oxfordshire region is even lower, with only 2% of companies having at least one Female founder.
  • Looking at Seed-stage companies, we found that only 9% of the national average of companies had all female founders, and Oxfordshire’s averages are even lower at 6%.
  • In Venture-stage companies, Oxfordshire has 4% more companies with female founders at 24%, compared to the national average at 20%.

While we had hoped the results would be much better both in Oxfordshire and nationally, Advanced Oxford and Oxford Brookes University are committed to shining a light on the poor levels of female representation in founding and leadership teams. This commitment is cemented in our collaboration on research, through a PhD studentship, into the issue.

The findings from this PhD research will be communicated and taken forward in the autumn of 2023 and into 2024. In the meantime, this paper identifies gender diversity as a key challenge, to be addressed alongside the other actions set out in OIE  2023.

Read the full Gender Diversity Analysis here Gender diversity companion paper

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