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‘Barriers to entry remain’ for women in legaltech

Finding positive role models to look up to and building connections is key to succeeding in the legaltech industry, according to these female tech founders.

user iconLauren Croft 19 November 2021 NewLaw
women in legal tech
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Speaking on the first episode of the new Lawyers Weekly podcast show, LawTech Talks, the founder and director of Immediation, Laura Keily, and the founder and CEO of Xakia Technologies, Jodi Baker, spoke about being female tech founders in a male-dominated field and the challenges that come with the territory.

The release of this episode followed the release of the Diversity in LegalTech – it’s time for action report, published by the Australian Legal Technology Association (ALTA) – in partnership with PEXA and Alpha Creates, which found that just 21 per cent of Australia’s LegalTech founders are women.

The report flagged a lack of professional support and having appropriate networks and also inability to strike a balance between work and life – something which Ms Keily said was particularly tough when starting a new business.


“In essence, in order to get a side hustle like this off the ground, you have to do multiple jobs at the same time. There is another alternative for most people, unless they’re extremely fortunate to have their own independent wealth or some other form of funding. The way I did it was to do more than one job at a time. Now that is extremely difficult, and it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that if you’re a woman and you are bearing an unequal share as the data shows of the child-rearing responsibilities, that it can be a bridge too far,” she said.

“I’m pretty fortunate in that my husband had for some time taken on the majority of that load and still does, which has enabled me to instead of doing three full-time jobs to do only two full-time jobs, which has enabled me to work only six-to-seven-day week.

“But if I was doing that on top of drop off, pick up and all of the things that go along with being a full-time carer, it would’ve been literally impossible, and I couldn’t have done it. So that conundrum, I think, is probably at the heart of the time it takes to dedicate.”

Therefore, it is more important than ever for women in tech to have success stories to look to, said Ms Baker.

“If you can hold up success stories and say yeah, it was hard, but there’s funding there, and it can be done, and there are support networks, and you can draw on both things, support networks and funding to help you through the difficult time and onto the next stage. And I look at how long it takes for women to get from micro or idea through, to a product than for men,” she said.

“I think that if we can’t give positive messages to the up-and-coming women, if we can’t show them that, yes, it’s tough. Then we’re going to be stuck here for a long time. So yes, it might be a disincentive, but I don’t want to get stuck on that message. I want to look forward and say, how are we going to get past it? How are we going to change the story for other women who are there with great ideas today who are maybe holding back and provide them with a pathway?”

In addition to balancing work and family and finding women in the industry to look up to, Ms Keily added that female legaltech founders need increased government assistance and funding.

“I think one of the biggest issues is accessing government assistance. And Jodie and I have spoken about this before that the accelerating commercialisation and boosting female founders grants that are available, if you can get them a fantastic, but they often require the contribution of at least 50 per cent of the funding to already be banked by the founder or the entrepreneur in order to access the other half,” she said.

“So those barriers to entry remain. I don’t think that those kinds of programs necessarily do the trick. I think we probably need to give slightly better incentives to women and a bit of a kick along if possible.”

Ms Baker reaffirmed that it was important to be able to be seen as a role model for other women who are looking to get into tech.

“It’s really important for people to be able to look at a journey and learn from the mistakes that I’ve made as well as the successes that I’ve had,” she said.

“There are things that you can do right now here today to support this ecosystem of women and make sure that they come through and there little things like a feedback loop, make sure that you are there and speaking to these women and providing with an opportunity to speak, help make noise about these women help to get out there, engage with them on social media, connect with them, put them in front of you or the purchases of your organisation when you’re considering things, they’re out there. So, it’s not too hard, it just requires a little bit more effort.”

Moreover, the pair had some valuable guidance and advice for women looking to get into legaltech.

“This is the most fun that I’ve ever had in my career. It’s also the hardest job I’ve ever done, but it’s enormously rewarding. So, I think that, that in itself, the journey rather than the destination is a really important thing to call out,” Ms Baker added.

“But it does take a long time to build those connections, understand where the disparity lies, work out how to counteract them and what have you. So, the faster that people can get into that network that now exists and make sure that they’re learning from it, the better that they’ll be in terms of achieving their goals.”

Ms Keily agreed and added that finding out where certain sources of knowledge are is “absolutely critical to even understand what the funding options are that are available to you.”

“I’m only just now starting to absorb the full scale of what is required to build a sales organisation four years into the journey. And so, the earlier that you can tap into that knowledge base if you don’t have it, the better. In terms of the why, it is certainly the most creative, the most demanding, but the most useful of the broader skill set I think that not only lawyers but also women bring to the table,” she said.

“But this gives you the opportunity to really broaden out and find out the real limits of what you can achieve. Find out as much as you can, and then just go for it knowing that there’s a lot involved, and if you just keep going, you will eventually get there.”


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