Alex Depledge is co-founder and ex-CEO of domestic cleaning start-up Hassle.com and said there were “systemic reasons” why there aren’t more women in traditional male industries such as digital and tech.
“Women are the primary carers, get more maternity leave than men and have changing tables in their public toilets,” she said.
“Until we give men the opportunity to become the primary care giver and remove the stigma, we won’t get rid of that.
“If someone is hiring either a man or a woman and they’re the same age and equally qualified, it’s easy for them to think the man is the safer bet because the woman might have a kid soon.If men get equal paternity rights, that question goes away. If you both have to return to work after a four-month period, you neutralise the issue.“
Depledge said she analysed the gender breakdown of jobs carried out at Hassle and found that male cleaners were 70 per cent more likely to be deselected from a cleaning search by men AND women than women were.
“Men and women don’t want a man cleaning their house,” she said.
“It’s like reverse sexism – men are not seen as being able to do the caring activities like looking after children, cleaning homes or being a nurse.
“Women really care what people think – I think that’s an inhibitor. A lot of girls qualify their points by saying things like: ‘I’m really sorry, but…’ When they ask for advice I tell them that when they walk into an intimidating environment, pretty much everyone in the room is pretending – no one really knows what they’re talking about.
“My mum taught me that when I was really little: we’re all suffering from imposter syndrome.
“It makes them a little bit more confident. Confidence can be faked so there’s no reason why it should be holding women back.
“I don’t really have role models – I take a bit of different people and put them in a role model mosaic, and that’s who I aspire to be.
“I’m inspired by everyday people – so many of our heroes are unsung. Does Cosmopolitan put Dame Stephanie Shirley on the front of its magazine?
“No, because she’s not 17, size four with blonde hair and big boobs.
“Women grow up thinking they have to look like Barbies and care about fashion and bodyweight because magazines perpetrate that.
“We don’t see curvaceous women in magazines, we don’t see elderly women who have a story to tell. Young and impressionable 12- and 13-year-olds are constantly comparing themselves to the cover girls on Cosmo, 17 and Glamour.
“Tech is the perfect job for a woman. It’s something you can do when your kids are napping – pick it up and put it down.
“Working remotely is a great way to create a flexible working environment around children or elderly parents- and that’s not been exploited yet.”