Some of the most important positions of power in the world are held by women: Ursula von der Leyen at the European Commission, Christine Lagarde at the European Central Bank, Janet Yellen at the US Treasury, and Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala at the World Trade Organization. Evidence that women can be as successful as men in positions of power. For this to happen, one of the conditions is the increased participation of women in sectors traditionally dominated by men.
In Europe, Stemettes aims to encourage women to pursue careers in STEM fields. Anne Marie Emavidon is the founder and CEO of the company. In 2020, she was voted as the UK’s most influential woman in technology. We asked her about the challenges women face in finding a career in science and technology.
“There are quite a few things to do – says Imafidon -. I think the greatest way to change things is social norms. And I am referring to actions that in the UK have ensured more justice since the 1960s”, for example in wages. In science and technology, people are very well paid to work in multiple roles in different organizations. The underrepresentation of women in the sector means that if we were better represented, we would be closer to equal pay. We need to change the approaches that are reflected in society: social norms have evolved and must be reflected in the way we do things.”
The boom in women’s safety apps
Technological advances have increased risks for women around the world, whether it’s privacy, online harassment, surveillance cameras, or location tracking. In the UK, the demand for solutions to help women feel safe on the streets has increased dramatically. This has led many women to propose innovative technology-based solutions.
Emma Kay is the creator of WalkSafe, the UK’s fastest growing security app. According to the former beauty expert, the app will soon be available across Europe and the United States. “We use real police data on crimes, it’s the only app that does – says Kay -. I actually experienced sexual harassment when I was younger. So I realized how much tools are required like ours.”
WalkSafe raised $100,000 in venture capital funds in its first round of investments. In order to keep the app free and available to everyone, the company has started a second round of funding. Emma app encourages people to take precautionary measures to avoid getting into dangerous situations.
One Scream is another app that allows people to react quickly if they are in danger. “I got emails from my kids’ school warning me to be careful because some mums got robbed, so I came up with the idea of making an app,” says Uta de Ver, co-founder of One Scream. Simply say a keyword to start the application, which will immediately send a distress message to the contacts entered into the user’s emergency database.
One Scream recently launched paid subscriptions and is looking for new investors through its startup acceleration program in the United States. Some critics have pointed out that women’s safety problems cannot be solved with technology alone, but the large number of downloads illustrates the importance of safety apps in making women feel safer on the streets.
Reducing the gender gap
For other women-led startups, it’s not easy to get funding. Despite campaigns to narrow the funding gap, only 2% of venture capital goes to women-led startups. This is despite studies showing that gender diversity leads to higher financial returns. Maria Velisaris is a co-founder of SteelSky Ventures, an all-female fund that invests in companies that improve access to health care for women. Here’s what companies like SteelSky can do to help women entrepreneurs.
“Less than 12% of venture capital funds focus on women-led companies and we can’t fund all of them – says Philisaris -. People with money mirror the solutions you see in the market. If we change that mix and diversify who has money. Allocation of capital, I think we’re going to start to see a change in the kind of companies that are developed and the kind of entrepreneurs that get funded. I think success will continue to be successful and 2022 is going to be an important year for women’s health.
Some key facts
Although Ursula von der Leyen was frustrated by the delay in agreeing to the European Convention to have more women on boards of large companies, Europe made progress:
- In 2008 Norway was the first European country to implement a quota system for boards of directors.
- France currently has the strongest female representation on the boards of major companies at 45%.
- According to Harvard Business Review, the women’s economy generates $15 trillion in profits each year. Women continue to drag consumer spending, despite the effects of Covid on employment.
- However, UN data revealed that the world’s women earn only 77 cents for every dollar earned by men, and despite all the awareness campaigns, at the current rate, equal pay will not be achieved before 2069.
Clearly, more needs to be done to help women bridge the gap. The pandemic may have reversed gender equality, but there is no doubt that it provides governments and businesses with one more reason to step up their efforts to empower women and build a more equitable and sustainable future. The more women in positions of power, the more decisive the change and the greater the benefits for all of us.