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Europe's tech scene has diversity problem: Atomico survey

Brussels

THE European tech sector is still far from addressing its lack of diversity.

Around half of all women who responded to Atomico's survey reported experiencing discrimination, according to a report by the London-based venture capital firm published on Tuesday. In addition, of all the funds raised by European VC-backed companies this year, 93 per cent went to all-male founding teams, the report said.

"We see that Europe has a problem when it comes to diversity and inclusion" in the tech sector, said Tom Wehmeier, Atomico's head of research, who authored the report with tech law firm Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe and the Slush technology conference in Helsinki, Finland. "Those numbers are alarming," he said in an interview.

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The survey, conducted between September and October this year, yielded 5,000 responses from founders, investors, policymakers and others involved in the tech sector.

The report finds that among those self-defined as black, African or of Caribbean ethnicity who are working in the European tech ecosystem, around 55 per cent say they have experienced discrimination.

The findings come as some of the largest US tech companies have recently been hit with a wave of accusations of bias, pay discrimination, sexual harassment and criticism over lack of diversity.

Former Google workers have filed various lawsuits against the Alphabet Inc unit, from accusations of pay discrimination against women to alleged hostility to conservative thought. A former Facebook employee recently complained that black workers at the company routinely see their ideas dismissed or curtailed.

In Europe's tech sector, almost all respondents agree that having a diverse team brings benefits to company performance and around three-fourths of respondents say the culture at their startup is inclusive, according to the Atomico report. Still, diversity and inclusion doesn't appear to play out in practice.

The share of women in executive or leadership positions at selected European series A and B venture-backed companies falls under 10 per cent, despite women accounting for around one-fourth of the European tech community, according to the report.

The diversity challenges in the report primarily focus on gender differences because, Atomico says, it can be difficult to quantify other aspects of diversity, including socio-economic backgrounds, physical abilities and ethnicities. At Atomico, out of 37 associates, partners and executives, 11 are women, according to the company's website.

Atomico also published a separate guide on Tuesday for entrepreneurs and how to incorporate diversity into their companies, which advised founders to remove biased wording from job descriptions like "competitive" and "determined", and questions the attitude of founders who focus only on fast growth in the early stages of building a company, thinking they'll deal with diversity issues at a later stage. BLOOMBERG