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Profile: Áine Mulloy, co-founder of GirlCrew

How to succeed in tech: Áine Mulloy gives her tips

Gabriela Motroc
diversity
© Shutterstock /Lamina2014

Women are underrepresented in the tech sector —myth or reality? Last year, we launched a diversity series aimed at bringing the most inspirational and powerful women in the tech scene to your attention. Today, we’d like you to meet Áine Mulloy, co-founder of GirlCrew.

A research study by The National Center for Women & Information Technology showed that “gender diversity has specific benefits in technology settings,” which could explain why tech companies have started to invest in initiatives that aim to boost the number of female applicants, recruit them in a more effective way, retain them for longer, and give them the opportunity to advance. But is it enough?

Last year, we launched a diversity series aimed at bringing the most inspirational and powerful women in the tech scene to your attention. Today, we’d like you to meet Áine Mulloy, co-founder of GirlCrew, an international social network for women.

Áine Mulloy, co-founder of GirlCrew

Áine Mulloy is the co-founder of GirlCrew, an international social network for women. A community builder and TEDx speaker, Áine is an advocate for diversity and female empowerment. With a background int he humanities, she worked in publishing before making the move to tech.

Follow her on Twitter: @AineMulloy

What got you interested in technology?

Honestly, I don’t know if I’ve ever been “interested in” technology. What I like are communities. The apps and technologies that I like most fall into a couple of camps – easy ways to communicate, useful, or purpose driven. GirlCrew is a perfect fit for me as it covers all these bases and then some.

Technology has so many uses, but oftentimes the human element is left to last in the drive to make everything more efficient and leaner. But for what purpose? More companies need to look at helping in ways that are truly beneficial to society. And I don’t just mean in a practical way. Art is useful, beauty, and humour, and the utterly mundane can all be useful but as finite resources are being pumped into products there is a responsibility to think about the impact we are making. Do we want to be working towards a fairer and more equal world? I do. Do I think technology can help achieve this? Yes. So in that sense, I’m interested in tech, but I’m more interested in the concepts and impact than the inner workings. I like the big picture.

I started off doing a MA in Literature and Publishing, before working in an educational publishing company. While I had envisioned working in publishing, I found myself falling into the tech space. When you go from being an employee in a team with a structured hierarchy to being the co-founder there are some things you need to adjust to. Not only the practicalities of running a business, but also being able to lead a team effectively. Particularly when that team, and company is young. The building of structures, and processes is important but these things can often get sidelined in the rush to get things done. It’s important to take a step back, prioritise what needs to be done and tackle problems head on.

A strong support system

My friends and family have been a huge emotional support. They have definitely championed me. There are so many amazing women that I know and have learned of in recent years that I’m not sure I could even list them all. If I had to select some, I’d pick Pat McGrath and Ann O’Dea. While totally different from each other, both of these women have broken barriers in various ways. What I admire most of them is they are unapologetically themselves and champion diversity and inclusion, while building amazing organisations.

My family have always been very academic and learning focused. I love learning new things and finding new information. It’s important to keep learning and advancing otherwise things just stagnate. Fortunately, our entire team have the same outlook.

A day in Áine’s life

As the co-founder and CMO of GirlCrew, I drive the branding, marketing, PR, and partnership efforts of the company. While there are tasks that need to be performed every day, I’m fortunate in that no two days are identical. It could be researching new markets, testing landing pages, working with clients and partners, hosting events, developing campaign strategies and managing the team. At this stage, everyone chips in with ideas and we’ve worked hard to create a space where people can collaborate. The best ideas are always the ones where the whole team has pulled together to make a vision come to life.

I was invited to join a roundtable with the Duke and Duchess of Sussex – otherwise known as Meghan Markle, and Prince Harry – during their state visit to Ireland. The Duchess had specifically requested to meet various tech leaders to talk through the challenges facing women and girls in STEM. The barriers to entry and so forth. It was an incredible experience as not only was I selected as one of eight Irish industry leaders, but we had the chance to workshop the problems facing women beforehand. It was an incredible experience.

Why aren’t there more women in tech?

Considering the barriers facing many women, it’s almost a miracle that there are as many of us. But really it boils down to two things; education and confidence. The current systems are not designed for women, they are designed for men. And that’s not just in the workplace, the same is true of educational environments, household structures, and societal pressures etc.

We need education to start at home with parents, that tech roles are viable options for everyone regardless of gender.  Secondly, schools need changing to encourage girls to learn subjects that have traditionally been male-dominated. Especially when you consider that this gender imbalance is often the result of lack of training and resources going back generations. As girls get older, they need to be shown that they can excel at maths. And this support system should continue into college and beyond through a network of mentorship and sponsorship.

As we move into considering women in the workplace, there needs to be greater flexibility in working hours and practices. VCs need to fund more female-led startups and consider female companies as real contenders.

I think it’ll be some time before we reach any sort of parity but it’s great that the [diversity] conversations are being had. I think at this stage we really need to start moving beyond talk and into action. There’s no reason why some of the action points coming out of the research can’t be accelerated and real change brought to the fore sooner rather than later.

Women in STEM

We know that when women are trained and in gainful employment it’s one of the easiest ways to lift families out of poverty. Women also drive consumer spending so if that sector of society has access to greater amounts of disposable income local communities and economies can flourish. Research also shows that companies with more women in decision making roles tend to hire a bigger proportion of women than those with all men in similar roles. Seeing relatable role models encourages others to get involved in STEM too so younger generations begin to see STEM as a viable choice.

The impact of women accessing jobs reaches far beyond any one industry. The reality is that women have always been involved in STEM and at all levels, while previously their achievement has gone undocumented, stolen, or just not made visible today it’s much harder to do that. By encouraging more and more women to get involved that community base widens and the knowledge sharing that encourages will have an incredibly positive cultural impact.

Obstacles

Isolation is commonly cited. There’s a feeling that women will be on the only female person in their peer group which is always challenging as it can mean oftentimes women aren’t heard. The continual lack of funding is another huge barrier. In the EU, female-led startups achieve 12% of funding, and in the US in 2017, female-led companies got just 2% of VC dollars. This is a problem.

Tips & tricks

Put your head down and plow on. It’s often a case of listening to your gut and going with your instinct. There are many obstacles that litter your path but it’s important to believe in yourself. We all suffer from imposter syndrome and bouts of insecurity but you need to be your own biggest champion. Find what your passionate about and work towards creating that for yourself and others.

 

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Author
Gabriela Motroc
Gabriela Motroc is editor of JAXenter.com and JAX Magazine. Before working at Software & Support Media Group, she studied International Communication Management at the Hague University of Applied Sciences.

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