Why it’s time to action Diversity in LegalTech by Lisa Dowie

Automatic Summary

Advocating for Diversity in Legal Tech: Time for Action

Hi, I'm Lisa Dowie, Chief Customer Officer at PEXA. Today, I'd like to extend a warm welcome to this session where we discuss the importance of diversity in the legal tech industry, a topic of paramount importance to me personally and professionally.

Acknowledging the Traditional Owners of the Land

As part of acknowledging the traditional owners of the land where I'm speaking from in Melbourne, I pay respects to the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin nation, to their elders past and present.

A Bit About Me

Having spent the majority of my career in technology, I've gained significant experience working on transformational technology projects both here in Australia and the UK. With PEXA, I've embarked on a mission to revolutionize the way we exchange property to ensure a secure transaction experience for homeowners. Additionally, my passion for tech data, innovation, and customer engagement makes me a devoted advocate for diversity in tech.

The Critical Need for Diversity in Legal Tech

While many may understand the benefits of diversity, I believe it's essential to remind ourselves why it holds paramount importance, particularly in the legal tech industry. Diverse organizations attract new talent and retain their existing talent, hence fuelling continuous growth. Furthermore, a diverse workforce resonates with a diverse customer base, sparking more innovation, solving complex problems, and expanding the organization's customer base.

Shining a Light on Female Founders and Entrepreneurs

My focus today is on gender diversity, particularly the significant gap in the number of female founders and entrepreneurs in the tech industries. With only 20% of global tech companies having at least one female founder or co-founder, it's clear more needs to be done to support women in this important role.

But why should this concern us? Companies with female founders raise less funding than their male counterparts, they're less likely to secure additional rounds of funding and they retain less equity in their company. Without the necessary early-stage funding, these businesses can't mature beyond an idea or prototype, which, in turn, limits the market's potential diversity and innovation.

Four Actions Towards Diversity

Action One: Seize the Opportunity

Now is the ideal time for women to step up in the tech industry and for businesses to support them. The current war on talent, along with the increased acceptance of flexible working environments in tech teams globally, provides women with ideal opportunities to succeed within the tech industry.

Despite offering generous parental policies, it's clear that it's still primarily women who take on primary caregiver roles. Thus, promoting a more flexible work culture is key to making the industry more accessible for women.

Action Two: Amplify Female Voices

It's time to make sure female voices are not only heard— they're also listened to. Law firms, universities, corporate legal teams, and not-for-profit organizations all need to play their part to ensure women are included in tech discussions and strategic decision-making processes.

Action Three: Lower Funding Challenges

One of the largest obstacles for many female founders is securing funding. With not enough women in venture capital, private equity, and investment banking, traditional channels of raising capital often seem inaccessible to women. We need to help entrepreneurs access knowledge, capital, and a supportive community, as the formal channels are not working as they should.

Action Four: Shine a Light

Highlighting the existing female founders in tech is crucial in encouraging the next generation towards a career in the industry. Showcasing successful female founders helps to inspire young women and provides them with role models within the industry.

Wrapping it up: The Time for Action Is Now

While advocating for diversity in legal tech comes with its fair share of discomfort and challenges, it's absolutely worth it. We all need to do our part to shine a light on the amazing women already contributing to the world of legal tech, providing them the resources they need, and making space for their voices in important discussions. Together, we can build a more diverse and inclusive future in legal tech.

Video Transcription

Hi, everyone. Hopefully you can all hear me. Uh Welcome to this session, which is our diversity in legal tech.My name is Lisa Dowie and I'm the chief customer officer here at P Xa and in the spirit of reconciliation here in Australia, we always start meetings like this with an acknowledgement of country. So I would like to start by acknowledging the traditional owners of the lands on which I'm speaking to you from today, which here in Melbourne is a wri people of the coola nation and pay my respects to their elders past and present. Now a little bit about me before we kick off as someone who has spent the majority of my career in technology and now working at PEXA in the legal tech profession, diversity in tech and diversity in all aspects is something really close to my heart. I spent the 1st 15 years of my career working in transformational technology projects both here in Australia and in the UK. And then I joined Pixar almost 10 years ago now. And I actually started in the tech side initially and then moved over to a customer role about seven years ago. So I love tech. I love innovation. I'm a bit of a data nerd. So please don't tell everyone about that.

But most of all, I really love engaging with people. So I really found like I've found my home now where I'm in a customer role, engaging with them daily and stakeholders and getting to introduce to them really neat innovative solutions. So as you can see by the sign behind me, my team will be pleased around the branding. I do work at PEXA and I'm sure many of you might not have heard of PEXA before. Uh Initially, that stood for property exchange, Australia and Pecar really is about revolutionizing the way we exchange property. It's a world first digital settlement solution. So we provide efficient, reliable and a secure settlement experience for home buyers and sellers.

So together with our network of financial institutions, lawyers and conveyances, we're helping more than 20,000 people every week move into the home of their dreams. We began as a really small start up just here in Australia with one product. We're now a publicly listed organization moving into international jurisdictions with multiple products. So hopefully for those of you around the globe, you'll eventually see a little bit more of PEXA particularly if you're in the UK. So now on to today's session around why it's time for action on diversity in legal tech. Now, I'm sure many of you will certainly understand the benefits of diversity in business but I think just to ensure we're all on the same page, it doesn't hurt to reiterate a few of them. And there are many diverse organizations as we know, attract new talent and have less attrition. Never been more important. Given the war that we're seeing on talent at the moment, that's really critical for businesses to attract staff and retain their talent. Also, one of the top benefits for diversity is really simple actually. And it comes down to the bottom line. It's great for the bottom line. And some recent research from Boston Consulting Group identified that organizations with diverse management experience were experiencing 19% higher revenue.

Now, that's not a great testimonial. I don't know what is but equally, I'm also really uh cognizant of the fact that it's not just about the dollars and the cents really diverse teams and having greater participation across your workforce starts to represent the customer base that we're all here to serve. And for me, as a chief customer officer, really important to me and it's a no brainer. We all know that diverse teams get better answers. They spark more innovation and they expand the organisation's customer base, which ultimately is what many of us in business are trying to do.

Now, I did wanna acknowledge um you know, off the top, that diversity itself is a very broad subject, of course. But today, I'm really gonna focus in on the gender of diversity that we have particularly in technology and legal tech. And I think many things that I'll be talking about around legal tech apply to all tech industries. So of course, we all hear a lot about more women on boards, more female CEO s, more girls studying stem subjects. But there's another significant statistic and a gap that I see in this market and is talked about quite a bit which really relates to female founders and entrepreneurs. And several reports across lots of different industries are really starting to shine a light on this. And the legal tech industry experiences very similar challenges. When I looked at some of the research and the data, what really astounded me was a recent global tech report that highlighted only 20% of global companies had reported at least one female founder or co-founder.

So that's a pretty daunting t uh stat when you think about it. But when you think, why should we care? Should we be worried? Well, we should, because companies with female founders, they raise less funding than their male counterparts and they're less likely to raise subsequent rounds of funding. And most importantly, they retain less equity in their company. So without that early stage funding, the business will have no means to move beyond an idea or a prototype or that start up phase add to this, you think about the market perception that financial backing is an indicator for a better idea or a better business. So without it female businesses, they really run the risk of being locked into that small micro size for a prolonged period or worse, still, perhaps indefinitely. So, research does show though, which is really enlightening when we think about it, that female in female founded start ups, they actually experience lower failure rates, they produce more capital, efficient companies and achieve higher venture capital returns. So, no brainer, right. What are we doing?

So, I guess now in this next part of the session, I really wanted to focus on what can we do about it. And I wanted to talk to you about four particular actions that I think we can all take in some shape or form. So action number one, there's never been a better time than right now to act. And I think this counts for both women but also for businesses. So we all know and particularly women know that we often carry the greater burden of home and family responsibilities following the pandemic.

Though there's never been a better time for flexibility in the workplace. And the great thing is that technology teams often tend to lead the pack when it comes to flexible working environments. We know there's a war on talent. I touched on that at the very beginning and I think what this means is that the opportunities right now are plentiful. They are well paid in many circumstances and businesses are desperate for skilled resources and they all want a diverse workforce. It's also interesting to note that in technology, the gender pay gap tends to be smaller than other industries. So what I believe is we really need to actively encourage women to be wildly ambitious, to be big thinkers, to be unafraid, to fail on that path to success in technology. But now businesses have a part to play too as we experience this talent shortage and especially in the tech industries, business who are, who aren't supporting those flexible ways of working in diversity will be left behind. I'm sure like me, many of you have seen the recent uh Twitter war between Elon Musk and Australia's co-founder of Lass and Robert Farquhar, where Elon Musk stated that everyone at Tesla is required to spend a minimum of 40 hours per week in the office.

Otherwise they're gonna consider that you've resigned Farquhar from Atlassian who has a very different view. Of course, used this as an opportunity to really promote Atlassian s work from anywhere policy. And especially asked if there were any Tesla employees who were looking for work with a link to their careers page. Reportedly Atlassian saw a huge spike in the number of visitors to their page, which I think just shows how important this flexibility is. I acknowledge there's still a lot to play out here around how businesses respond post the pandemic. But I certainly believe and what I'm hearing from candidates that I interview is that flexibility and the ability to work remotely is one of the most important requirements right now.

And I really do believe that by providing this, it will foster an environment where females can flourish and they'll be more likely to take that step into being a founder or an entrepreneur. Family friendly policies are another item that many businesses are focusing on. And we here at P Xa have very generous parental policies, both for the primary carer and the secondary carer. But even though we've had these in place now for many years, we know that predominantly it's still women that are taking out that primary carer role. So for what I believe is, there's never been a better time for women to seize that moment. But for businesses, you have to create that flexibility and diversity in your culture as well. Action two that I wanted to focus on is I really do think we need to do more to ensure that female versus voices are actually heard. But also that they're listened to female voices need to be at the decision making table and they need to be amplified more broadly, the legal tech industry which I'm in. I think every individual within it needs to play a part whether it's the universities, the law firms, the law societies, judiciary, the corporate legal teams, not for profit organizations.

Absolutely, everybody is involved here to ensure that women are part of those legal tech discussions, whether they are participating as a buyer of that tech solution, whether they're building it a part of a business or a founder that's building that technology or whether they're a commentator.

And I've experienced a little bit of this first hand in the early days here at PEXA, when we were trying to drive uptake of our new innovative technology, we found that the decision makers within the law firms were often the partners, of course, those that had the decision rights around what would happen within their organization, predominantly they were male.

But we also found that they weren't really interested in this new innovative technology that we had, that was gonna be time saving, more secure, more reliable. There was a bit of an attitude that if it, if it's not broken, don't try to fix it. However, on the flip side of that, when we started speaking to some of the law clerks and the junior lawyers who were doing a lot of the work and had the managing that paper based process. They really wanted to embrace that new technology and innovation because they could see the pain points and the inefficiencies that it caused. So we really had to create a, a swell of momentum at the grassroots to gain that early adoption and create some upward pressure. But I think that lends itself to the fact that women need to be part of those decision making processes and engaging with your user base is really important. I have this hope and I like to be hopeful that one day organizations will strive to have the same diversity in procurement decisions just like we do around our recruitment process. I'm sure many of your organizations are similar to mine here at P ESA where we have policies that ensures that we have diversity of uh the panel of people who interview new pecans who are gonna be joining our organization that ensures that we make, we're sort of accounting for our natural biases that come in that we don't keep hi hiring like minded people or we're still hiring our friends.

I really do think we should strive for that same diversity when we're looking to make procurement decisions and introduce new technology solutions. This will ensure I believe that women are able to be, have a seat at that decision making table and that organizations engage with their user base.

This, I believe action will really improve the chances for female founders who are looking to generate revenue in that all important stages to be more successful action three, which is a big one. I have to admit it's about lowering the funding challenges. And this is one of the biggest hurdles for many female founders. All of the research I have seen from across the globe supports this. And whilst I haven't personally applied or tried to raise funding, I have been in an executive at P ESA here where we've raised various ranges rounds of capital, whether that was through a trade sale. I've been through an IP O so I've been part of the process and I've seen both the problems and the opportunities this represents. But what really dawned on me is there's not enough women within the venture capitals, private equity or investment banking. I can see how those traditional channels of raising capital are just not working for women. I saw some pretty scary data recently that reported that approximately just 10% of decision makers within venture capital firms in the US are women surprising. Do you think 10% is really low in Australia? We fare a little bit better with around 20%. And I suggest across the globe it's probably somewhere in the middle either way, not enough. And this then of course, flows through to the allocation of funding.

Some other, some other research I saw from Crunch Base revealed that only 11%. Yes, it's 11% of funds were raised by companies with a female founder or co-founder that then gets split down again. So 9% of those 11, we funds invested with a start up with both a female and a male co-founders. Only 2%. Can you believe it went to female only founded start ups? 2%. That is a real issue. And you can see why this is the biggest challenge and hurdle for female founders. And when we look at this data over a period of time, we can definitely also see that it's not improving, which is a really worrying trend. Female founders who do get funding, they raise less than the men do on average and they are less likely to raise subsequent rounds. They also retain less equity in their companies thus ceding control to their investors. What a missed opportunity. This is, this often means that female businesses, they remain small, they miss out on the investment to grow, which is ultimately a loss to all of us and the global economy. I really do believe that the more women there are in venture capital, more likely we are to see that gender diverse teams and minority groups will be backed and funded.

We need to help entrepreneurs to access the knowledge, the capital, the community because the formal channels are not just working. And I really do believe that those long ingrained biases are gonna take some time to change. So here in Australia, myself and three other amazing women have started what we call the women of Australian leave G Tech Association quite a mouthful. So we call it walter for short. And we are setting out to harness the power of the collective. We wanna make sure that we share resources and that we hopefully create some new funding channels really important for female founders. I believe to scan the market, look for those funds that are more likely to fail to fund females. There are already some great options out there set up by women who appreciate the challenges, working theory. Angels Golden Seeds, ceo.com, really some great ones out there that are gonna help those female founders get the funding they need. At Pixar, I mentioned that we were a start up quite some time ago, but we certainly remember the challenges that that represents. So we have also started what we call PX ventures, which is really around us, helping other entrepreneurs and start-ups by investing in them and helping them on that journey.

And my role with PX Ventures on the advisory boards means that I will ensure that the female voice is heard and they get that funding that they're after. So to wrap up that funding challenge, we really do, we must educate, we must share resources, foster a community and create new funding paths. And finally, my fourth and final action, female founders actually do exist, believe it or not. So let's shine a light on them. This I believe is probably the easiest of actions and I that I've talked about today and something I think we can all play a part in. There's never been a more accurate statement and I'm sure you've heard it a few times, but you can't be who you can't see. So, of course, for the next generation, coming up, the girls that we talked about studying STEM, they need to see these female founders and know that they exist. Some of the research that we conducted here in Australia suggested that those in the legal tech industry were not aware of female founders at all. They don't exist.

They said some of the comments that we received were, I've seen precisely two women in leading exec roles in the legal tech market. Another one said I would struggle to name three female founders in legal tech. What astounding, right? I'm sure it's probably very similar across the globe.

So what do we do about it? Well, we have to take some small steps, I think to start with, I think Corporates need to get behind this and invest in associations that are striving to make change like this. It's not easy and it won't happen without some dollars behind it tech conferences like today, highlighting females bringing these conversations to the to the forefront. We need more of them. I think you if you see an agenda for a tech conference that lacks diversity, choose not to attend and let the organizers know why suggest some amazing women that you know, to be speakers, men can help too. Of course, it's so important that this is not just about women, helping women. Some of the mentors and people that have helped me throughout my career have been many men and they know how to open the doors. So let's tap into those. We can all help via social media. We're always on our phones, we're always on linkedin, whatever it might be, we can all play our part by sharing content liking, promoting those female leaders that you know, within in tech will really help. So put it simply, we gotta help a sister out, provide them a leg up, give them a hand, you get it.

I'm sure let's really commit to how we can all shine the light on the amazing women that we know and showcase founders and also women in tech in general. I think it really will make a difference. So they're the four actions. Hopefully I'm close to time. I think I am. But I just really wanted to sum up important to knowledge that there can be no change without discomfort. I think it's no growth can happen without conflict and we really need to acknowledge and embrace it in preparing that pathway for the next generation. Everyone deserves the opportunity to live their dream. There are so many women out there with the capacity to positively contribute to the world and we should all want to support them in achieving their highest potential. So four things to remember from today. If you can, there's never been a better time than right now. So let's seize the opportunity. Female voices. Number two have to be amplified. Let's ensure they get a seat at the decision making table. Three, we really have to help female founders access the funding traditional channels, just not working. And four, let's put the spotlight on the female founders and the women in tech in general. And we can all play a part. So I know I'm close to time. So I would like to thank and congratulate the organizations of the Women in Tech Global Conference. The value of events like this cannot be underestimated.

And most importantly, I'd like to thank all of the attendees and those that are viewing the recording of this session, taking a moment to stop, have the conversation, think about the actions we can take all has the potential to be quite powerful. So please hit me up on linkedin so we can connect, I can support you, you can support me. Thanks for joining me, everyone and enjoy the rest of the conference.