• Jillian Kowalchuk

Equality By Design

Last year International Women’s Day, March 8th was a historic milestone marked by 100 years of some women in the U.K.’s right to vote. This year, in 2019 we are celebrating 100 years since women were able to enter into the legal profession #Balanceforbetter

However, we have a long way to go the evidence, personal experience and ideas around the solution was presented in my TEDx talk 'Equality By Design'

There are countless reports, statistics, case studies and books about how powerful diversity and inclusion (D&I) is for business. Inclusive Leadership, one of the best selling books on this topic, has used many of these studies in order to drive this point: Deloitte reported there was an 80% improvement in performance when D&I was high within a team. McKinsey reinforces the D&I business case with 19% higher retention, 57% higher collaboration and 42% more team commitment. The Peterson Institute’s global study found that a mere 30% female representation on boards can increase a company’s net profits by 6%. As can be seen the statistics are in favour of the changes already taking places but what are the impact and costs if we keep the current pace of correcting gender inequality?

According to a report by Mercer, we are 217 years away from closing the gender pay gap. That’s about three generations?! This means our great, great, great-granddaughters might be able to reap the benefits of these social changes and have the opportunity to make the same money for the same work as their male counterparts. Additionally, Grant Thorton estimated the opportunity cost with male-only boards across the USA, India and U.K. at approximately $655 billion for 1,050 companies.

But I believe there is hope to move this needle quicker. We are now entering the Information Age, where about 50% of the world is connected to the Internet propelling radical social, environmental and political changes. The opportunity for innovation and technology to address issues of equality on a global scale is not possible. This year’s UN Women’s International Women’s Day (IWD) theme is Innovation and Technology. We have to align the progress in social change with the fast pace rate of our technological advancements. With the onset of the #metoo movement, times up and other conversations, like mandatory reporting on the gender pay gap, now is the time to do so much more. The solutions we need today must be as diverse and representative of the people, problems and perspectives we seek to change.

The idea of Safe & the City emerges from my engagement with these issues. As a public health researcher focused on sexual and women’s health, I was no stranger to speaking about or trying to learn from people about difficult topics. However, after arriving in London and using navigation apps to make my way through the city, I suddenly found myself in peculiar, uncomfortable and even scary situations. I saw an opportunity. What if we could use the information we do know about crime, urban design and combine them with the experiences that are often not formally captured or reported (sexual harassment and violations) on one map. Not only would this allow us to understand repeated incidents, mobility patterns and where people seek help, but could also unlock the opportunity to follow the breadcrumb trail. By utilising a public health background and building on GPS technology we unlock the opportunity to lift the scale on the size of the problem, identify and stay ahead of crimes and unpleasant experiences. We can make sure that people’s stories are heard and can impact more than just a street-level change.

Tech4Good has the opportunity to help advance gender equality and social issues so that both technologies and social change can accelerate at the same rate. We need not wait another decade, century or generations to make gender equality a reality- we can do so together today!

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