International Women’s Day and SXSWi 2016

Equality in digital, tech and the wider world

This time last year, Tom and I flew to SXSW Interactive. SXSWi (that’s what the cool kids call it), is a BIG deal in the world of digital, tech and interactive.

It’s one of the largest conferences of its kind. Over forty thousand people attended in 2015 from all over the world. Al Gore gave the keynote last year, and this year Barack Obama and Michelle Obama have the honour.

Today is International Women’s Day and I’m reminded of my favourite keynote speaker from SXSWi 2015: Princess Reema bint Bandar Al Saud. A fearless campaigner for the equal rights of women across Saudi Arabia and a highly authentic and compelling presenter.

“You cannot have half of your population not working” – Princess Reema bint Bandar Al Saud

I recall clearly that in the middle of hundreds of conversations, demonstrations and presentations on the future of tech and digital, the stories shared by the Princess connected with me at an emotional level, and were more compelling than anything else going on around me. And that says a lot because I really love tech and innovation.

In the broader world, women bear the brunt of public health failures, crime and violence, people trafficking, and prejudices.

And in the tech and startup scene, it’s clear that men still have the upper hand in terms of salaries, promotions … and even public speaking slots.

Yet I’m inspired by people like the Princess who strive to make a change.

Closer to home my friend Claire runs SheSaysBomo, a group dedicated to and run by women in Bournemouth, who share an aim:

By inspiring and empowering more women into the digital industry, we can make a difference.

Julian is another great friend, coach and business partner, who amongst other things is a mentor for the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women. He has mentored women from all over the world and helped them improve their businesses, and empowered them to build better lives for themselves and their families.

And me? I’ve always strived to build and grow balanced mixed-gender teams. I provoke the conversation about equality when I hear prejudice. And I truly believe that empowerment for all is the way to a better, fairer, and more profitable world for women and men.

I won’t be at SXSWi 2016 but Tom will be. Follow his adventures on Twitter and the We Are Base blog.

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