July 5th, 2019; Berlin, Germany
-Waridi Pabst, CEO Fashion Africa 254
-Nancy Wang, CEO Advancing Women in Product
-Sara Wiechmann, Co-Founder CoWomen
-Melissa Drier, Women‘s Wear Daily
With this event we wanted to highlight womxn-made media, products, spaces, and movements and the importance this has in tech and society. We partnered with CoWomen a beautiful women only Co-Working space in Berlin. Each panelist brought their own perspective to the topic at hand.
The inspiration for this topic comes from a question that many of us are grappling with: how do we get more women in tech? From many of the discussions that I've witnessed mentorship and education for entrepreneurs is the de facto answer. However, my personal belief is that education and mentorship has to start young. Very young.
There is an abysmally low number of women in STEM fields, which translates to an abysmally low number of women STEM leaders. There aren’t many women in STEM fields because girls lose interest in STEM fields starting at age eight. The reason the interest begins to falter at age 8 is because there are very few companies designing products, shows, and technology with them in mind.
Though women earn more degrees than men, on average, and make up nearly half the labor force in the U.S., women are less represented in management positions the higher up they go. Today only 24 women are serving as CEO's of the S&P Fortune 500 Companies. I want to imagine a world where that representation at the top is equal.
Which lead me to the question: what is the importance of made for women by women products? What social implications would that have? What would that do for the cumulative mindset of "the perfect female body"? How would it change the product offerings, marketing campaigns, journalism, spaces, health products, and policies that we currently consume without question? I set out to produce a panel of women who would be able to provide personal insight to each one of these questions.
Nancy Wang, CEO of Advancing Women in Product flew into Berlin for Tech Open Air. Previously with Goldmann Sachs, Google and AWS before founding AWIP. Nancy provided incredible insight when it came to the gaps we see in tech management roles and the importance of targeted skills based training and mentorship.
Melissa Drier, German Correspondent for Women's Wear Daily from 1985-2018 is the gem of Berlin. Her quick wit and natural aptitude for putting unspoken thoughts into words makes her a magnet for virtually everyone in the room. Melissa has had the pleasure of interviewing fashion greats throughout her career and now she has joined them. It was such a pleasure and honor to be in her presence.
I have no patience for mediocrity, believe in working with one’s hands whatever that might entail, think beauty is sadly underrated in our society, though it is still all around us if you have the eyes to see it. -Melissa Drier
Sara Weichmann is the CEO of CoWomen. Together with her co-founders she has opened up the first women only co-working space in Berlin. The beautiful space hosts weekly inspiring community events, skills development workshops, and exclusive mentoring. When it comes to the importance of made for womxn by womxn physical spaces, Sara is at the forefront of the movement. We have to pose the question, if there are physical spaces made exclusively for male clientele is there room within our society for spaces made exclusively for women? Our panel gave a resounding "yes" in response.
Waridi Schrobsdorff, CEO of Fashion Africa 254, provided an exclusive look into the new frontier of Fashion Tech in Africa. Waridi is developing an app available via Google Play called Tailors Club that connects seamstresses with designers in Africa. Having had worked in the fashion industry herself she understands what a struggle sourcing and secure payment can be. I have worked for the entertainment industry myself and I can see this app being extremely resourceful. The search for qualified and available seamstresses is a struggle especially when production companies hit the road.
"I am a feminist, but not a gender separatist. I like working with women, but I also like working with men, and hate to think of what my personal and professional life would have been like without the great guys I know and knew. It’s a question of people, and my major rule is to avoid power hungry jerks, regardless of race, religion, or whether they’re male, female, straight, gay, or trans. I would simply say be who you are, and associate with people with whom this is possible." -Melissa Drier
For me, the main take away from the panel discussion was that we are living in a state of constant development and opportunity in business but there is an underpinning of unsettling instability. None of us are explicitly happy or completely devoid of hope with the current state of enterprise.
An interesting question that was posed from an audience member to Melissa was her opinion about the current state of the media and its penchant for sensationalized headlines. Melissa remarked that journalistic media has radically changed. It has turned from a source of pure news from verified sources to an overwhelming amount of content that is often sensationalized to bring in readers. The business model is quantity over quality.
Even on issues like the #metoo movement we all seemed to have a difference of opinion. All across the board however, we agreed that there needs to be more female representation when it comes to innovation within product. The panels resounding advice to those of you with an idea is "just do it". Figure out a way to bring your concept to life. Each one of these women have taken the leap and I'm sure they would agree that they are better off for it.
Our lineup of events for the year is below:
08/29/2019 SoGal + Nasty Womxn Pitch Night *pitch workshop- only 20 spots available.
08/31/2019 Yoga-nna Get Funded! *yoga & wellness
10/6/2019 Regional Round Pitch competition *apply to pitch today!
If you would like to stay in touch and attend one of our next events please join our Facebook page here!
If you would like to see the presentation that I made for the event take a look below. I have tried multiple times to rename it. Disclaimer: I also forgot Nancy Wang's name on the very last slide. My apologies.