Lightning Lab targets women with XX accelerator

Achieving fair, equitable diversity in the workplace is something we’ve covered in Idealog before.

Last week Idealog reported on the case for diversity in management and we’ve talked about issues around gender diversity in STEM subjects as well.

Well striking another blow for the cause is business acceleration programme Lightning Lab, which is launching an accelerator aimed specifically at women.

Lightning Lab XX is about providing a solution to gender imbalance in business management, an issue prevalent throughout the Lightning Lab accelerator programmes according to programme director Laura Reitel.

“Across the last three programmes we’ve run only, 10 out of 83 founders have been women. We would like to see more balanced cohorts go through our accelerator, hence the reason why we've decided to run Lightning Lab XX.”


Image: Lightning Lab programme director, Laura Reitel (via Ministry of Awesome)

Selected to take part must have at least one female co-founder serving in an executive role. So far there have been 81 applications.

“This alone is a pretty amazing result for us, and clearly shows that there are plenty of women out there who are looking to start businesses.”

A recent McKinsey report suggests that women perceive an uneven playing field in the workplace. It found women are almost four times more likely than men to think they have fewer opportunities to advance because of their gender and they are twice as likely to think their gender will make it harder for them to advance in the future.

Reitel says there’s also the question of workplace culture.

“Women often walk a tightrope between being liked and being respected whereas men do not. This bias creates a double bind for women that should be acknowledged and fixed.”

To combat these issues, the accelerator seeks to help female founders navigate the challenging period of getting a company off the ground, offering support from role models, coaches and mentors.

“We make entrepreneurship accessible by opening doors to capital, mentorship, business development, customer acquisition and leadership skills so teams can successfully prove, build and launch their ideas into market,” says Reitel.

Anna Guenther, PledgeMe CEO, will be a mentor for the accelerator and recently shared her views with Idealog on the gender imbalance in New Zealand companies.

“The lack of women in business, tech, and governance worries me. There’s an insidious unconscious bias that ‘we’re just hiring the most skilled candidate’ when the preconceived notion of skilled is often stale, pale, and male. We need to reshape how we hire, how we work, and what we value, if we’re going to have a more equitable country and more supportive ecosystem.

“Traditionally women have found it hard to access funding to grow their companies, although interestingly, at PledgeMe, we’re seeing about half our campaigns led by women.”

Applications for Lightning Lab XX are open until December 18 and the programme kicks off on March 8 next year coinciding with International Women’s day.