The tech industry must rebrand its job offers in order to attract more women, says House of Coco founder Laura Bartlett.
Bartlett, 31, was speaking at the ‘In Our Own Words: the changing perception of women in tech’ event at UKFast yesterday to coincide with International Women’s Day.
She told the 100-strong audience how she initially launched a fashion publication called Urban Coco and tried unsuccessfully to get funding from Dragons’ Den before focusing on the luxury travel brand House of Coco.
Bartlett says the key to getting more women into tech is the way employers recruit for tech positions.
“Tech sounds boring,” she told BusinessCloud following the event.
“Like Ruth [Badger] was saying onstage it sounds like it’s all about selling kits and she didn’t understand it was innovation.“If they package it up in the right way people will apply.
“If you make the job descriptions more sexy women are going to apply but everything’s quite mundane and women think ‘tech’s not for me, it’s too boring’.”
Bartlett’s all-female team flies all over the world to cover travel stories for the magazine.
While the magazine is predominantly print-focussed the team uses technology to work smarter which – like any mobile workforce – is crucial to its success.
“I’ve got a new head of marketing who spent 15 years at Harrods and is now working from home for me,” she said.
“We don’t have an office, we live the laptop lifestyle. We communicate through Facebook, upload content through Google Drive where our designer accesses it, then we send it to the printer and sign off the proofs online.
“We don’t have all these offices and overheads and stuff we don’t need.”
Part of this ethos is the culture that Bartlett strives to create, which is all about empowering her team.
“The more people you help get what they want the more likely you’ll be to get what you want,” she said.
“I realised I’ve got all these amazing women in my team and they’re all powerhouses in their own right. Leaders create leaders.
“If I can help them be what they want to be but still within the realms of my company then everyone’s a winner.”
House of Coco is currently sold in the likes of Harrods and Selfridges in London with plans to expand to different cities around the world over the next year.
“I want to open a northern hub at the end of the year where we can provide opportunities for local people to get involved in the creative industries and internships,” said Bartlett.
“I assume more tech will be involved in that because it will be central hub for all the things we produce around the world.”
The entrepreneur also wants to launch ‘Coco Gangs’ in every city across the country where gang leaders will host exclusive monthly events.
Despite the challenges she’s faced – including some people conning her when she was just starting out – Bartlett says she finds the strength to keep going for one reason.
“The fear of having to work for someone else is why I’ve picked myself up every time,” she said.
“You get so many people trying to bring you down but I keep going because I don’t really know how to do anything else.”
The event attracted 4 million impressions on Twitter and was co-hosted by Kristina McGuirk, marketing director at UKFast, and Patricia Keating, project lead of Tech Manchester.
Other speakers at the event included Elizabeth Clark, Dream Agility; Richard Gregory, Tech North & Sascon; Gail Jones, joint MD and co-founder, UKFast; Naomi Timperley, Tech North Advocates; Aleksander Binder, Legista; Jo Scott, Peel Ports; Helen and Lisa Tse, Sweet Mandarin; Aaron Saxton, UKFast; Emma Sheldon MBE; Ruth Badger, The Ruth Badger Consultancy.