Fiona Boyd: Empowering Women Entrepreneurs

My current role is Co-Founder and Director of Business Development at EdSmart, an EdTech company dedicated to driving digital transformation in schools. My mission is to develop technology that enhances school efficiency, maximises data utilisation, ensures strong data security, and reduces the administrative workload for teachers.

The weight on school education is significant, yet many are unaware that public education is a relatively recent development, spanning only 150 years. With the enactment of the Victorian Education Act of 1872, the world witnessed the birth of the first-ever public education act, providing free and compulsory education for children aged 5 to 15, unless exempted for valid reasons. Contemplating the immense benefits that school education has bestowed upon society and the economy, it becomes evident just how vital teachers, teaching, and schools truly are. This is why I am wholeheartedly dedicated to developing technology that enhances school operations, optimises data utilisation, ensures robust data security, and alleviates the administrative burden on teachers.

I am deeply passionate about empowering more women to embark on the entrepreneurial journey and acquire the knowledge and skills necessary to assemble and lead teams, create exceptional products, comprehend product/market fit, and successfully commercialise their innovations. Entrepreneurs serve as catalysts, introducing new products and adding value to the world. However, it is disconcerting to note that only a mere 3% of women-led startups in Australia receive venture capital funding. Even when women are part of the co-founding team, the percentage of VC funding only slightly increases to 10%. It is crucial for women to helm a greater share of the newly emerging businesses, particularly in the realm of AI/machine learning.

During London EdTech Week in June, I had the opportunity to meet with the Preface AI team, a leading AI training startup. They highlighted the advantages of deploying AI, particularly Chat GPT3, to streamline research and administrative tasks in business. However, they also cautioned that Chat GPT3’s underlying data sets are skewed, with around 65% male and 70% US data. It is imperative for women to engage with technology and start their own ventures for multiple reasons, including the fact that without their involvement, technology may be developed without considering women’s experiences. We have already witnessed the consequences of predominantly male-based medical research, leading to inaccuracies in treating women for conditions like heart disease, where the diagnosis is delayed by an average of 7-10 years compared to men due to different symptoms and the exclusion of women from original research.

The presence of women entrepreneurs, researchers, scientists, and decision-makers has never been more necessary in the era of big data. Data sets predominantly based on male data could shape how women are treated in future society. Without a seat at the policy decision-making table and clear roles in developing upcoming technologies that will influence our world, women may be left behind.

If there is one guiding principle that has defined my life beyond the exceptional education I received at Santa Maria College, it is following what Joseph Campbell referred to as “following my bliss.” This concept is not about simply seeking happiness but rather pursuing what is intriguing, inspiring, energising, and sometimes challenging, even in the absence of immediate rewards or moments of self-doubt.

I would like to acknowledge someone who exemplifies what is possible for female technology entrepreneurs in our country, specifically as an outstanding role model from Western Australia.

Melanie Perkins, Co-Founder of Canva and a fellow alumni of my other high school, Sacred Heart Sorrento, has achieved remarkable success. Canva, her company, currently holds a market valuation of AUD 39 billion. I encourage you to explore Melanie’s story and witness the extraordinary achievements that a young woman with a clear vision and unwavering determination can attain by surrounding herself with brilliant co-founders. Melanie’s success is built upon her own vision, deeply human values, and a product that revolutionised graphic design, making it accessible to everyone through Canva. I eagerly anticipate discovering the future tech revolutionaries of Santa Maria College, those who share traits with both Melanie and myself.

This article was originally published in the 2023 Catherine magazine.

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