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Naomi Simson awards entrepreneur

As I shared late last week with my LinkedIn community. I found myself sitting in the auditorium of the NSW Parliament Building to participate in the Pearcey Foundation’s 2013 Technology Entrepreneur of the Year awards. (I was there to be honored by being named the 2013 winner).

The Tech industry is a place that I have spent nearly all of my career – before being an entrepreneur I had roles at IBM, Apple and a number of other IT entities. In fact RedBalloon made the Deloitte Tech Fast 50 six years in a row from 2006. But being acknowledged by your peers for your contribution to an entire industry is truly humbling. This Pearcey award – voted by the previous winners – is very special.

As I got up to speak, I noted that the audience looked vastly different to the ‘League of Extraordinary Women that I presented to just five days earlier. That audience was all women, and very colourful. The Pearcey audience, by comparison, was nearly all men – with not much colour at all.

At the women’s event I had asked for a show of hands to find out how many of those female business owners were in the tech space. Only three of the 350 women present put up their hands. I asked them to put up both hands so that it appeared to be more than was actually there. But there was no fooling anyone.

Last week I was at a tech entrepreneur dinner – of the 25 guests present, there were only two women. And last night at Parliament house? Well the photo speaks for itself really.

Where are the women in IT? Where are the women in tech entrepreneurship?

I implored the women at their event to ‘get out of their comfort zone; scale their businesses; reach broad global markets’. Technology will need to be a part of how they bring their product or service to the world.

The reality is that we live in a global village – but the only way to access this market cost-effectively is through technology. So why so few women when technology is now in the centre of pretty much every startup.

I had great role models. My mother worked on the first computers in Australia in the Maths department at Monash University in the 1960s. She went on to have a fulfilling career for more than 30 years in IT. She worked for a great Australian tech entrepreneur for the last 15 years of her career. (And my mother would say of Lyndsey, ‘If she can do it you can do it’). Lyndsey Cattermole AM founded Aspect Computing when I was in primary school.

Here is the point – I had great role models! I thought it was normal for a woman to enter the technology space. I had no fear of it as it was familiar to me.

This award allows me to be that for others – to be a role model who women can look to and say “if she can do it, I can do it.” And ladies, I urge you to embrace technology. To learn, listen and discover. Quite simply, it is the future – and if we ever want to have a 50 per cent voice in board rooms we better start by giving up our fear of technology.

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