Brainstorming for equality

A new think tank aims to bring women from a wide range of areas together to talk about how we can accelerate the movement towards greater gender equality.

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How do we build a more equal workplace for the future? For tech philsopher, writer and filmmaker Somi Arian’s new women in business and tech think tank it is about bringing together women from all professions to brainstorm about some of the areas we need to consider.

The first session of her think tank was held earlier this month and brought together an eclectic range of international experts, from scientists to a magazine editor, a lawyer and a corporate anthropologist.

The event started with science. Plastic surgeon Dr. Sophie Bartsich compared rehabilitation for sports injuries with the lack of rehabilitation for women who have pregnancy or birth-related injuries and Dr Sophia Yen, CEO and Co-Founder of birth control organisation Pandia Health, spoke about the need for women to have more options for turning their periods on and off and called for more research into the long term effects of birth control. She said menstruation was the number one cause of missed school and work for women under 25 and the leading cause of anaemia. Hormone treatment could end “the random burden” of period pain, she stated. GP Dr Leah Austin spoke of the impact on schooling of sanitary poverty and how periods affect women’s energy and concentration levels, adding that girls are starting their periods earlier and are having more heavy bleeds. She also called for more studies into menstruation and the menopause and for more treatments. Governments and pharmaceutical companies were not likely to act without pressure, she said.

The meeting also heard from working mums and entrepreneurs. Justine Southall, managing director of Marie Claire magazine, spoke about unequal childcare and its impact on the workplace. She called for “behavioural, attitudinal and actual change”. She said lockdown had reinforced traditional gender roles, but had opened many men’s eyes to the benefits of being at home and employers’ eyes to the advantages of flexible working. Younger generations had different expectations, she added, and employers who ignore this do so at their peril.

Investor Laura Burkemper spoke about women’s finances and earnings. She said there was a need for more pay transparency tools, for greater consumer action in favour of companies which promote equality and for more action to build the pipeline for female success and invite the next generation to the table. 

Lawyer and gender bias expert Andie Kramer called for a seven-step programme to eliminate historic bias against women at work. She said information was needed to break through policies and procedures that treat women as second class, to promote flexible schedules for all and to highlight women in leadership positions. Film producer Kerry Fulton spoke of the impact of gender stereotypes on screen and the need for more female directors. She said there was a perception that female film directors were less profitable, but the statistics show the opposite. What they needed was more finance, for instance, at grassroots level, and more distribution models to tell their stories.

Other speakers covered politics and the need to build networks for financing and mentoring women, using technology; machine learning and the need for more female role models in tech, greater resilience and sponsorship to tackle a sexist culture;  collaboration and the need to visualise new, more positive stories about women; and coaching for leadership and resilience.

Somi Arian is building a platform to raise funds for research grants, to showcase female talent and to share information on products produced by women.



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