By Ariellah Rosenberg, CEO ORT South Africa
The #metoo campaign in social media and broadcast channels has raised awareness about women who have been sexually abused and marginalised. This campaign, at times, has been controversial due to the magnitude that it has reached. Nevertheless, it is an important movement for women suffering in silence.
The #metoo movement has become more than women expressing their frustration about malicious sexism; it is becoming a roar for acknowledgment of women’s place in society and for the contribution women make to universal progress and growth.
Considering the advancement of human beings on earth, one is in awe of what we have achieved. We have found ways to defeat hunger, disease and pandemics and even strive for immortality. According to Dr Yuval Noah Harari, in his book Homo Deus, the source of human power is continued growth and subsequent technological improvements.
When thinking of innovators who have contributed to technological advancement and innovations, who comes to mind first? Thomas Edison, Bill Gates? How about Marie Curie who won the Noble Prize, twice for the work she did on radioactivity. How about our own Joan Joffe, known as the first lady of ICT in South Africa?
For decades women were denied education and opportunities to be able to achieve as much as their male counterparts and in some countries we still need to fight for the rights of women to education and employment.
In the past years more and more women are contributing massively to economic and entrepreneurial innovation. But do we hear about them?
The book Innovating Women by Vivek Wadhwa and Farai Chideya, asks this question and provides examples of tech women we rarely hear about. Such is the case with Kay Koplowitz who founded the USA Network. She developed the novel idea of using satellite for commercial use and brought sport to cable television; she is also the first woman to serve as a network president in television history.
The book also makes references to research which shows that businesses run by women tend to be highly successful and consistently out-perform their male-owned counterparts. A study by American Express found that among businesses with revenue greater than $10 million, women-owned business experienced a 47% higher rate of growth. Between 2002 and 2012 female- owned business grew 28.6% compared to 24.4% owned by men, bringing women- led companies to the top.
The book notes that despite the success shown above, business led by women often struggle to get funding. The Centre for Business Women Research discovered that a significant reason for this can be directly tied to gender bias.
Social change enables more women to innovate, make a difference and impact our environment. More work is needed to be done if we, as a society, are to maintain our power and continue growing, ensuring women have their rightful place to contribute but also to be acknowledged.
And this has to start early, by promoting STEM education for girls from an early stage as well as ensuring that the workplace gets rid of gender discrepancies and adopts policies that empower women.
Just as we managed to defeat some biases and disease and dominate earth with our advancement, so it is our obligation to fight gender biases and discrepancies and create space for women in STEM careers, innovation and entrepreneurship.
ORT SA, an educational NGO provides STEM education and skills transformation as well as entrepreneurship support and training.
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