Business accelerator Startmate is looking to funnel 300 women into tech startup jobs by the end of 2021 via its women-focused Fellowship program and has enlisted help from businesses such as AWS Startups, SafetyCulture, and Secure Code Warrior to help

The partners will enable Startmate’s Fellowship initiative to scale its mission of addressing gender inequality in Australian tech startups. A 2018 report showed the female share of total technology workers was sitting at just 29 per cent.

According to Startmate chief executive Michael Batko,  partnerships with some of Australia’s most innovative and forward-thinking female leaders will help grow the women-only Fellowship into maturity, ensuring it can have greater impact on the local startup community and set a precedent for broader change.

“Having such a formidable partnership team will help us take the Fellowship to new audiences and tap into a wider talent pool. We’re excited to have the support of these leaders as we work to get 300 women in Australian tech startups within the next 18 months. Their involvement means we have an opportunity to create tangible change on a bigger scale,” says Batko.

The announcement comes as Startmate launches its first Liminal* Conference in partnership with leading venture capital fund Blackbird. Held between 27–31 July, the free virtual summit promises attendees the opportunity to hear first-hand accounts of career defining moves and meet like minded people.

Speakers include Jodie Auster, Regional GM for APAC at Uber Eats; Roli Saxena, CCO at Brex; May Salami, CEO High Resolves; Laura Chambers, CEO of Willow; and Michelle McHargue, COP at Costanoa. Liminal* aims to provide an entry point for women interested in applying to Startmate’s Fellowship program.

Startmate offers two Fellowship rounds a year, alongside its accelerator programs. The program, which runs for three months and is open Australia-wide, offers accepted candidates intimate access to some of Australia’s best founders and top VCs, first-hand insights, optional internships, and 1:1 sessions with start-ups including unicorn design software company Canva and workplace safety provider SafetyCulture.

Since its launch in 2019, the Fellowship program has seen 700+ applicants whittled into three cohorts resulting in 40 alumni—most of which have found positions with a range of the country’s leading start-ups, from unicorns such as Canva, to early-stage companies including Eucalyptus and Dovetail.

In February 2020, the organisatiom made the decision to make its Fellowship program open to women only, with the goal of increasing the number of women in top positions with the country’s brightest tech startups. The first women-only Fellowship saw a 2x increase in applications on the previous Fellowship program, illustrating enthusiasm for pathways that provide greater employment opportunities for women in tech.

Along with sponsoring the Fellowship program, leaders at AWS Startups, SafetyCulture and Secure Code Warrior will offer their time as mentors to the Fellows in the upcoming spring cohort, which will be run virtually in line with social distanding requirements.

“SafetyCulture is excited to be a part of the next fellowship. We see this as a great opportunity to give back to the tech community that we love, plus support women of diverse backgrounds who may not have access to the type of support networks that would allow them to truly shine,” says Anna Wenngren, VP People & Culture at SafetyCulture.

Startmate’s community lead Sophia Witherington said the commitment to run women-only Fellowship programs directly addresses the need for Australian tech startups to improve gender equality by providing access to diverse skill sets from a range of demographics and cohorts.

“Startups exist and thrive due to their higher risk appetite, speed of experimentation, and believing in a better solution. We have created this program with the understanding that gender equality can only move forward with intersectionality at the forefront. We invite women of all ages, races, cultural backgrounds and LGBTQIA+ identifying women to apply,” she says.

The criteria for acceptance into the Fellowship program is built on a strong understanding of the needs of both employees and founders, according to Batko.

“We know that one of the biggest challenges start-ups face is finding excellent hires. The Startmate Fellowship works to create pathways for talented women to find their sweet spot in a rocketship startup. It does this by providing access to leading mentors who help train Fellows to become exceptional candidates who can thrive in a fast-paced start-up atmosphere,” says Batko.

Carrie Gray completed Startmate’s first women-only Fellowship at the end of May, successfully landing the Executive Assistant role to the Chief Experience Officer and the Head of Craft Practices & Learning at Atlassian. Gray applied to the program to expand her local network as she returned to Australia from time spent overseas as a growth-focused operations leader.

“After 12 years abroad working in London, Jakarta and Singapore, the Fellowship was a space to explore and unlock my fit into the Australian startup / scale up tech ecosystem. From engaging and insightful conversations with a diverse group of mentors I was able to identify which industry, company and career path aligns best with what I am great at,” says Gray.

“As long as you have a willingness to share, learn and be open to feedback, the fellowship can suit all: from rising stars, senior executives, expats returning to Australia and people wanting to return to work after a career break. In essence, the more of yourself you give in the fellowship the more you’ll get out of it,” she continues.

The announcement of the Fellowship partners and first Liminal* Conference comes as Startmate confirms over 40 percent of applications for its Melbourne 2020 and New Zealand’s 2020 accelerator cohorts come from companies co-founded by women, up from 28 percent from the previous cohort. Five out of 11 companies in the upcoming MEL20 cohort, and four out of five in the upcoming NZ20 cohort, are co-founded by women.

Applications for Startmate’s next Fellowship open from 20 July 2020. Registration for Liminal* is now open.

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