With International Women's Day in mind, here are our top innovations aiming to improve the lives of women in a variety of ways
The theme for this year’s International Women’s Day, held on Monday the 8th of March, is #ChooseToChallenge. The idea that we are all responsible for calling out gender bias and that we can all individually contribute to making our world a more equal place.
This year’s COVID-19 pandemic is reported to have set women’s equality back by decades, and the statistics are pretty shocking. With full economic parity predicted to have been 257 years away even before the pandemic, this year has seen many more female businesses closing than men’s. Ninety per cent of civil servants who lost their jobs in December 2020 were women. In most countries around the world, domestic violence cases towards women have soared. Hard work to make the way we live our lives more equal over previous decades has been lost to the fact that the burden of care disproportionally falls upon the responsibility of women.
Here at Springwise, we continue to spot innovations aiming to help women in these areas and more. From education, to tackling workplace bias, to inclusive lingerie, here are some of our top innovations that promote gender equality and help improve the lives of women facing a variety of challenges.
1. INDIAN NONPROFIT IMPROVES WOMEN’S LIVES THROUGH SUSTAINABLE CRAFT SKILLS
Gauri Gopal Agrawal originally founded the Skilled Samaritan Foundation in 2012, in order to help to install lighting and electricity in rural villages. But while doing this, she also discovered that women living in these areas were often skilled in making traditional crafts from materials that were usually thrown away, but they lacked the opportunity to sell their work. Accordingly, she turned the Foundation’s focus to helping them, founding the brand Sirohi.
Sirohi is a luxury, sustainable brand, the products of which are made using materials such as textile waste, industrial plastic waste and local fibres. It also aims to help women to become financially independent. This has, at times, been an uphill battle. For example, when trying to find someone skilled in the charpai style of weaving, Agrawal found that many women were reluctant to work for money, as it was frowned upon in their communities. She finally found one woman willing to do the work, which encouraged others, and now they have 200 women working with them.
All of the women who work with Sirohi are trained by an in-house team, using support from designers in India and the UK. Training includes not only how to design and create new products, but financial literacy, ensuring that each craftsperson knows exactly how much their products sell for. For new designs, Sirohi may train a master craftswoman, and she teaches the rest. Teaching is often conducted through WhatsApp video calls and YouTube videos, to avoid the need for travel.
2. WOMEN’S DEVELOPMENT CENTRE WITH GIRLS SCHOOL, SUSTAINABLY BUILT IN RURAL INDIA
Despite being India’s third-largest state, Rajasthan has the country’s lowest rate of female literacy. Most girls lack education and employment opportunities and there is a significant imbalance in the overall numbers of girls and boys, due to a high rate of female infanticide. Working with the Citta Foundation, New York City-based Diana Kellogg Architects designed the Rajkumari Ratnavati Girls School as part of a women’s economic development centre. Within the centre, there is a market and exhibition space.
Built by local master craftsmen and constructed with hand-cut Jaisalmer sandstone, the school has space for 400 students in grades from reception to year 10. Located outside the city of Jaisalmer in the Thar Desert, the school is powered by a canopy of solar panels that double as the roof for a play area that is tucked between walls and runs alongside an interior staircase.
The school is the first of the three structures that will become the Gyaan Center, an organisation and place dedicated to promoting and supporting girls and women through education and into employment. As well as room for a market, there is exhibition space that will launch with a textile museum of pieces from local villages. The first intake of students is planned for early 2021, and construction of the rest of the centre is ongoing.
3. EMPLOYEE ENGAGEMENT PLATFORM ENCOURAGES DIVERSITY IN THE WORKPLACE
All of Us aims to help organisations to build diverse cultures and promote positive role models within their spheres. The platform offers educational information through the form of news, business insights, inspiring stories and thought leadership.
Users can select topics of interest and share relevant information about themselves to their colleagues. This connects people with those who have similar interests, and builds communities who share knowledge in and out of the workplace. By harnessing the power of collaboration, All of Us aims to demonstrate how the right behaviours can be influenced and the conversations that lead change and build inclusive workplaces inspired.
Working primarily with the finance industry, the startup advocates for diversity amongst senior positions and leaders as a key strategy. The startup also deals with resolving the gender pay gap, and that a lot of resolving diversity issues stem from the dismantling of unconscious bias when it comes to the hiring process, whether that be in terms of race, gender, age or sexuality.
4. RETAILER CREATES INCLUSIVE LINGERIE FOR DISABLED WOMEN
US-based online retailer, Intimately, seeks to diversify the intimates industry by creating undergarments specially designed for disabled women. The bras and other underwear are adapted for special needs.
While some adapted underwear is available for the disabled, it is “ugly and archaic”, according to the company website. Intimately’s line uses comfortable fabrics and pleasing colours, giving women more options.
Intimately targets shoppers who find conventional fits, straps and designs of modern lingerie unwieldy or impossible to put on. Products are adapted to meet people’s needs, and its goal is to make all women feel beautiful. The retailer also hosts a blog for its clients to chat about how the clothing makes them feel sexy and empowered.
5. E-BIKE DESIGNED FOR WOMEN
Electric bikes are becoming more popular every day, allowing people who might not otherwise cycle to get on the road. Liv Cycling, a company aiming to get more women on bikes, has introduced its E+ series, designed especially for women. The company’s new models have the comfort of a flat-bar bike, the light feeling of a road bike and the extra oomph of an e-bike.
The line includes the Thrive E+ Ex Pro, Thrive E+ 1 Pro and Thrive E+ 2 Pro, which all have aluminium frames and the SyncDrive Pro motor, designed by Yamaha. The motor will multiply a riders’ effort by up to 360 per cent, and automatically adjusts the support level based on the riders’ pedalling input. The Thrive E+ Ex Pro also includes both front and rear lights, a kickstand and a rear rack, to make in-town riding more convenient.
6. FAIRYTALES REIMAGINED FOR MODERN ERA
Creative agency, The Martin Agency, has begun a non-profit project that will re-imagine classic fairytales for a modern era. The project, “Now Upon a Time”, uses original fairytale story plotlines, but changes details so as to present stronger female characters and more positive role models for both boys and girls.
The project started when The Martin Agency’s SVP and creative director, Neel Williams, was reading a bedtime story to his two young daughters. It is well known that fairytales are heavily gender-stereotyped, with girls and women in the stories almost always rescued by their male counterparts, and Williams recognised how unhealthy and backwards thinking this is. Creatives at The Martin Agency rework the stories and produce new visual versions online, as well as podcasts and audiobooks. What is more, all of the material is free.
7. PERIOD UNDERWEAR COMPANY USES AD CAMPAIGN TO NORMALISE MENSTRUATION
US-based Thinx is a menstruation underwear company campaigning for more comfortable periods — comfortable in both the physical and social senses. The company’s latest national ad campaign being shown across the United States imagines a world where everyone gets periods.
The television ad, titled “MENstruation”, shows men and boys in a variety of situations familiar to most girls and women. From getting a first period to the logistics of managing leaks, clothes and menstruation supplies, the video focuses on situations that are monthly occurrences for women. The company believes that making periods more comfortable comes from removing social stigma and making menstrual products that do the job.
Written By: Holly Hamilton
8th March 2021