By enabling exploration and increasing confidence in their own abilities, innovations that are by women & for women, act as a tool for empowerment. They encourage transformative social change and serve to break many barriers. The cyclical nature of this opportunity — of getting inspired and thereon making way for others to follow — is an encouraging message of reform for the world.
Webinar invite: rAInbow in discussion with HiiL
One of our products, rAInbow, is a chatbot which serves as a companion to survivors of domestic abuse in the South African region, and helps them in getting the required help. Fernanda Munhoz, head of rAInbow, represented us in the webinar and spoke about the importance of women in technology and innovation.
Nanda comes from an extensive background in the social sector, and joined us upon finding that those at the forefront were indeed all women, as opposed to most other social enterprises. She saw herself fitting perfectly in a space where work is done for women, by women.
It’s important that products like rAInbow are developed and managed by women and survivors, who can contribute empathy to such a sensitive experience.
rAInbow’s uniqueness comes from its innovation, easy understanding and usage, because it is a chatbot that everyone can use through Messenger. Its accessibility and innovation makes it one of the biggest justice innovations of 2019. We also contrasted rAInbow with the alternative — we started with an off the shelf chatbot service, but it didn’t do what was needed, so we created our own.
Being a woman inevitably helps you to be in the shoes of the victims and makes you feel closer to them. The issue we’re dealing with is a very sensitive one — our whole innovation is based around the fact we build it with empathy and compassion. That’s part of the experience and the value of using rAInbow, and that’s something we try to our advantage and to show the benefit of when we speak to funders and supporters. Our users are often emotionally in a place where they’re feeling lonely, in despair, and afraid, and that’s why this empathy is so important. They need to be sustained on a psychological level and that’s our aim.
A male-dominated space is the reality of the technology and innovation sector today. We need to change that.
The reality is that technology is a male-dominated space. The absence of women in innovation means that these systems are being made by men, tested on men, and, in general, tend to work better for men. There is an important issue on gender bias in Artificial Intelligence. Indeed, this has already led to serious issues, with Alexa, Siri, or location sharing and tracking, being used by perpetrators or simply not serving the needs of women.
The message we have for fellow women innovators who want to create their own space in this arena is this: be a part of creating this space for women. If you work somewhere that you see issues right now, help the conversation start around how you recruit, how you can make the work environment more attractive and suited for women, etc. For example, what’s the gender pay gap — is that a problem in your workspace? How can you bring it to light?
- Give women the opportunity and voice that they deserve because of their expertise.
- Develop opportunities to learn and embrace technology-innovation so that confidence is instilled in young girls to be the future harbingers of change.
- Be a mentor; pass on the knowledge and kindness that someone else showed to you.
- Make the environment and ecosystem safe and enabling.
- The leadership of women is a strength — empathy in the world of user-centered design is a collaboration which is not just important but absolutely necessary.
We thank HiiL for leading such a pertinent discussion!
Technology as a field is dominated by men. Even where there are more women in number, such as in charity and the social sector, it is men who occupy the leading positions. Application of technology in the real-world, requires compassion and conscientiousness that women can make available.
Women’s role in innovation is still poorly defined and riddled with difficulty — barrier to entry and lack of female role-models being some of the important ones. But equal access to opportunities for all genders is possible in the near-future, if we take the right steps.