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Happy International Women’s Day

Oxford Innovation - International Womens Day

As Oxford Innovation’s first female Managing Director, I’m a strong advocate for International Women’s Day and this year’s #EachForEqual campaign.  Gender equality is important on many levels, including the development of our community and the economy.

The #EachForEqual campaign highlights the difference we can make as individuals along with focussing on areas that truly resonate with the support offered by Oxford Innovation including:

  • Championing women forging tech innovation
  • Forging inclusive workplaces so women thrive
  • Supporting women to earn on their own terms

I’m extremely proud to say that we are leading by example. Our ‘promote from within’ culture has shaped Oxford Innovation to ensure women have an equal presence at senior management level. I’m evidence of that, having first joined the team 20 years ago! Since then, Oxford Innovation has grown to become the leading provider of innovation centres across the UK.

Our talented team of Innovation Directors is 50% women. They are all experienced business people who work with start-ups and growing businesses to help them along their journey to success.

If we take Oxfordshire as an example, Innovation Director, Wendy Tindsley, is doing a fantastic job at supporting science and technology businesses. She is driven by her passion to create a learning community where companies share ideas & experiences and benefit from being in a diverse and innovative environment.

Female-led GeneFirst – a molecular diagnostics company working in the fields of infectious disease, cancer diagnostics and personalised medicine – recently said the inclusive workspace at Culham Innovation Centre has been key to early stage collaboration discussions with another company based at the centre. There are many examples of similar occurrences at our other centres across the UK.

However, it is no secret that female entrepreneurs are in the minority. Oxford Innovation supports over 1,000 businesses across our 26 centres and approximately 16% are female-led.  This number is definitely on the up, but I would like to see this increase further.  I’m pleased to say our business incubator Grassroots, in Oxford, currently has 42% of female-led businesses.

Just this week, I met inspirational CEO, Helen Wollaston who heads up WISE Campaign, an organisation that encourages the participation, contribution and success of women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).  WISE has recently conducted research in conjunction with Amazon to build a case for business diversity.  The report reveals that just a 10% increase in female representation of women innovators would generate £3bn for UK businesses*.

Access to funding can present a barrier for women looking to start-up a business with a perceived bias that male entrepreneurs have greater success.  The WISE-Amazon report underlines this harsh reality, revealing that 80% of VC funding is being awarded to all male teams, yet investment focussed on women-led businesses such as L&G GIRL, outperformed the UK average and FTSE 350.

Working with our 120 strong innovation centre team – 75% are women – along with Oxford Innovation Services and our investment networks through OION, we are in a strong position to collectively encourage and support more women to put trust in their entrepreneurial talent.

I’d like to thank the team for working hard to host International Women’s Day events across the UK and for embracing the #EachForEqual campaign. Look out for their photos on social media!

Individuals really can make a difference. Businesses can make a difference. Let’s work together beyond International Women’s Day 2020 to support gender equality. #EachForEqual


Jo Stevens – Managing Director
Oxford Innovation Ltd

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