Think Tank for Women In Business & Technology

Conference #4 – Women and The Future of Work
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In FemPeak’s 4th conference for the Women In Business and Technology Think Tank, held virtually on 24 March 2021, we explored the role of women in the future of work and the changing nature of gender roles with the aim to empower more women to raise their socioeconomic status through the application of technology.

The panelists in attendance were:

Part I: Professor Sara Seager, Professor Diana Walsh Pasulka, Lisa Forte, Rupal Yogendra Patel, and Doctor Warren Farrell
Part II: Kristen O’Grady, Rob Baker, Sue Nelson, Christina Colmer McHugh, Doctor Ilaria Cinelli, and Vanessa Maddox

Part I

Professor Sara Seager

Astrophysicist & MIT Professor of Physics, Planetary Science and Astronautical Engineering

Professor Sara Seager is an astrophysicist and a Professor of Physics, Planetary Science, and Astronautical Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Her innovative research, which earned her a MacArthur “genius” grant, has introduced many foundational ideas to the field of exoplanets, planets orbiting stars other than the sun. She is now at the forefront of the search for the first Earth-like exoplanets and signs of life on them. Her work and life are captured in her memoirs titled, The Smallest Lights in the Universe.

Somi Arian first encountered Professor Seager in Lex Friedman’s podcast, she then read her book, and finally interviewed her for FemPeak’s podcast. It was during this interview, they both realized they needed to work together to address one of the fundamental issues women encounter on their rise up the career ladder, Confidence, and the Impostor Syndrome.


 As an astrophysicist, Sara Seager learned how to overcome her own confidence barriers to reach the place she is today. Somi Arian also took advantage of this opportunity to share that Professor Seager has just joined the team behind FemPeak to help build the confidence vertical of the platform.

Apart from being an astrophysicist and a professor, Sara Seager has a passion for inspiring women to become more confident and gives them concrete tools to overcome the Impostor Syndrome. The Impostor Syndrome refers to an internal experience of believing that you are not as competent as others perceive you to be, or that you do not deserve to be where you are. Overcoming self-doubt is key for a change in women’s narrative and society as a whole.

Prof. Seager invites us to think about how many times we say, or think, bad things about ourselves, versus how many times we say nice things, like congratulating ourselves on an achievement, or feel proud of ourselves. She points out that one of the cores to gaining self-confidence and overcoming impostor syndrome is to say and visualize good things about concrete accomplishments, literally twice as often as you think and say negative things.

She explains how growing up, she was one of the least confident people around, and how her father pushed her to get out of her comfort zone and thrive. Throughout her life’s experience, and a few very specific mentors, she has gathered a set of tools that have led her to where she is today. To conclude her time on stage, Prof. Seager shared one of these tools, which she calls the Trophy Album (working title).

The Trophy Album consists of a sort of photo album, digital or physical, in which you put real copies of concrete forms of your accomplishments, for example, a job offer, an award, or an image you create to capture a particularly meaningful accomplishment. This will be something personal and different for everyone. Once you have created this book, the idea is to look at it for a few minutes right before bed and acknowledge the good things about yourself and your achievements, eventually, these things will seep in deep into your subconscious and become one of the cornerstones that can help you build confidence and overcome impostor syndrome. Sara Seager and Somi Arian are working together to make this, and other tools, into a format that is accessible and usable for everyone.

Professor Diana Walsh Pasulka

Professor of Religious Studies at UNC

Professor Diana Walsh Pasulka is a professor of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina, in Wilmington. Her work addresses the intersection of technological innovation with exceptional creativity. Her latest book, American Cosmic: UFOs, Religion, Technology was a breakout success that crossed from an academic to a mainstream audience and became a best seller in several genres. Her work is popular with people interested in how paradigms shift and how creativity works within processes of positive innovation.

Like Professor Seager, Professor Walsh was also another amazing speaker Somi Arian encountered on Lex Friedman’s podcast. She was interested to learn that Diana was not only a philosopher and theology and religious studies professor, but also that she was as passionate about Nietzche as Arian was. Somi Arian fell in love with Diana’s suggestions on how we can use ideas from philosophy to pave the way for women’s success. Today Diana talked about Success Skills for Women in Business and Technology and left us with three key takeaways that I’m sure will resonate with you.

In the last 10 years, Diana’s research has taken her to a unique group of people who are millionaires and billionaires. What she saw was that they had certain techniques and strategies in place that she’d already seen in A History of Philosophy identified as techniques for success and prosperity. The people using these techniques, in their majority, are not philosophers, so most of them do not know that these strategies are thousands of years old and have already been recognized by history.

From her own experience, Diana Walsh shared a few of these techniques with us. As a successful woman, she realized that although she was successful, she was not enjoying any of this success because she simply lacked the time. She started applying these techniques to her personal life and immediately noticed how her life changed 180 degrees.

1. Living in the future: We have an unconscious mind which impacts our choices and our actions more than we think. We need to stimulate our unconscious mind to help us achieve what we want. Even people we deem successful, who’ve already “made it”, think their circumstances are not ideal and are always looking for ways to better them. It seems that the human psyche is made to look forward, so how do we use this to our advantage? We look at our present surroundings and gather that they are not the most ideal, we then visualize where we want to be, and we don’t get upset if it seems far away from now because we live within the parameters of time, and we’ve got to make peace with the fact that it is going to take time to achieve our goals.

2. Successful people surround themselves with people that believe in them: She points out that with social media and the internet we are often surrounded by negativity. Diana realized that these successful people just didn’t read the negative comments, they shifted their attention away from the negative and only focused on the positive. Which is the opposite of what most of us do. We need to surround ourselves with positive people and people that believe in our mission. She gave great examples of how philosophy and religious traditions have always shown this, Jesus Christ had his Apostles, Mother Teresa had her sisters, the Buddha had his sangha, etc.

1. Your physical surroundings influence you more than you think. What Diana did was re-decorate her bedroom. This is the first thing we see when we wake up and also the last before going to sleep. She made her bedroom into something she personally thought would be what her bedroom would look like if she were at the height of her success. This technique was the one that changed her life faster and with more results than anything before.

Of course, not everyone is able to realistically afford to redecorate and refurnish their room, so a good place to start is to create a wish list that will help you identify the things that you want when you reach your goals. At an unconscious level, this helps us integrate that we are successful and that we can achieve our goals. Most of the billionaires and millionaires that Diana encountered did this, even if they didn’t know why they were doing it. It is a technique that actually works and it’s something we should all try to employ. Start with your bedroom and then move outwards, your living room, your whole home, your community, etc. If you want to change something, begin with your bedroom, the place where you will envision all the wonderful things that you know can happen in your life. It is interesting to see how something so physical can be so influential at a subconscious level.

Next up was Professor Manuela Maria Veloso, who could not make it, so Somi Arian jumped on ahead and introduced Lisa Forte as the next speaker.

Lisa Forte

Speaker, trainer, entrepreneur & vlogger

Lisa Forte is a speaker, trainer, entrepreneur, and vlogger. She previously worked in counter-piracy operations off the coast of Somalia, UK counter-terrorism policing, and then for one of the UK Police Cyber Crime Units. Lisa is the co-founder of Red Goat Cyber Security who specializes in training and helping crisis management teams rehearse and test their plans for a cyber-attack. In early 2020 she co-founded a “cyber for good” movement called Cyber Volunteers 19. The group provides pro bono help and advice to hospitals around Europe during the pandemic and has amassed almost 3000 volunteers.

 Lisa shared with us her experience in the world of cybersecurity and AI and pointed out why we need more women in Cybersecurity, and where to start your career in the field.

Cybersecurity is often overlooked from a female career’s perspective, and Lisa has spent all her career essentially working in male-dominated industries starting with her first job in counter-piracy security, where she was the only female employee in the entire global company, so she is quite used to working in these environments. Cybersecurity, where she is now, is, unfortunately, another one of those male-dominated industries. Something that should be pointed out is that as females, we actually view risk very differently than males, and each person in each culture views risk differently as well. This being said, hackers come in all shapes and sizes, and genders, and religions, etc., so if your security team does not look as equally diverse, essentially you are shooting yourself in the foot from a security perspective.

Lisa Forte believes there are a lot of things that women bring to the table in cybersecurity that perhaps men do not in the same way.  She expresses her thoughts on how Cybersecurity is an excellent career path for females because it is an ever-changing work environment that requires constant learning, flexibility, and adaptation. Hackers are always coming up with new ways to beat cybersecurity, so the teams have to stay ahead of this cat-mouse game.

She also mentions that due to the fact that there are so few females in the industry, now is the perfect time for women to get into cybersecurity because they are considered such a scarce resource. At the moment, there are a lot of big cybersecurity companies recruiting women specifically for their cyber teams which are typically built out purely by males (of the same ethnicity, age group, etc.). It is the perfect time for women to join these teams, even if they do not have a strong background in coding. Lisa points out that she doesn’t either, and it is not a necessity. She touches on the fact that cybersecurity is perhaps one of the career paths that will probably give you more job security than any other in the market right now because the adversary is always growing in number and severity every single day.

She also explains that cybersecurity is a very diverse career path since there are so many different ways in which an attacker can come after a company and there are different approaches for different types of attack. Your job could include testing security, defending, analyzing malware, working for the police, etc, so cybersecurity provides you with a very broad range of things you can do depending on your skillset. It is a common misconception that you have to be very good at coding when actually it’s more about being able to analyze risk than anything else.

Ending the subject of cybersecurity, Somi Arian introduces next, Rupal Yogendra Patel, an ex-CIA agent, and entrepreneur.

Rupal Yogendra Patel

Ex-CIA & Entrepreneur in Residence at London Business School

From war zones to boardrooms, New York-born and London-based, Rupal Patel, has often been the only woman in Alpha-male environments. After a thrilling career at the CIA, she started her first six-figure business from scratch almost 10 years ago. Combining the business savvy gained along the way, with her CIA training, she now helps the next generation of women leaders and change-makers think bigger, lead better, and be bolder. Rupal has been called a “power woman” by Harper’s Bazaar, is an Entrepreneur in Residence at London Business School, and is currently writing a business book like no other.

 She shared with us some fantastic insights on what she’s learned from her work at the CIA, as well as her experience in war zones, to show us how to build a successful persona, how to use ignorance as an asset, and how to get out of your own way to achieve big, bold goals.

Rupal begins by further explaining this idea around personas. In all security agencies where agents go undercover, they have to create a certain persona for each mission they are going on, and this is 100% applicable to our daily lives. When Rupal talks about “choosing your persona for the mission” she means that as humans we are all multifaceted, so when we go home we put on our “parenting persona”, for a date we put on our “boyfriend/girlfriend persona”, for an investment pitch meeting we put on our “successful persona” and so on. On the same note as what was expressed by Professors Seager and Walsh about Trophy Chests and Trophy Albums, this idea of a successful persona is similar to that. It means that before going into a big meeting, or a client meeting or a pitch, we tune into our previous successes, tune our subconscious into when we were feeling our biggest, “badassest” self, whether this was on the football pitch or the tennis court, or wherever, just picture when you felt your most powerful self from a business context. This energy will be reflected in everything you do inside that situation. For all other types of situations, choose the persona that is appropriate for that particular mission and you will find that really tuning in to that persona will help you achieve what you need.

The second idea she explains is about using ignorance as an asset. Rupal refers to it as tactical ignorance or strategic ignorance, and what this means is that usually, as women, we over-analyze things and think we need to be 100% perfect at everything before proceeding, and the idea of tactical ignorance is to know when to stop taking in more and more information because this usually leads to analysis paralysis.

An example of this is when we go to an interview with someone we’ve put on a pedestal. The more we learn about them, the more we research and psyche ourselves up usually leaves us more nervous, creating a sort of tense energy. But if we limit ourselves (each person has different limits) to just knowing enough information, to be impactful and powerful, but then leaving it at that so we’re not constantly bombarding ourselves with ways in which we will fail or that we’re not going to be as good as somebody else, etc. By limiting the information that we let in, we are using ignorance as an asset.

The third idea she explains is how to get out of our own way to achieve success. During her time at the Agency, she learned about the art of the possible, and this is something that comes back to what Sara Seager said in the beginning, about focusing on the positive aspects of ourselves instead of the negative. The art of the possible is all about learning why I will succeed, what can I do to make this happen, how will I achieve this, instead of studying the ways in which it will fail. When you do this you will realize that all the things you want to achieve are doable, you just have to start studying the art of the possible.

 Somi Arian introduces the next and final speaker of the first part of the conference, Doctor Warren Farrell, and takes a detour from technology to look at the changing gender roles.

Doctor Warren Farrell

Author, therapist & named one of the world’s top 100 thought leaders by the Financial Times

Doctor Warren Farrell has been named by the Financial Times as one of the world’s top 100 thought leaders. His books include the New York Times best-seller, Why Men Are the Way They Are, and his most recent is The Boy Crisis (co-authored with John Gray). Dr. Farrell conducts couples’ communication workshops nationwide. He has appeared on over 1000 TV shows and been interviewed by Oprah, Barbara Walters, Peter Jennings, Katie Couric, Larry King, and many others. He has frequently written for and been featured in The New York Times and publications worldwide. 

Doctor Warren Farrell sheds some light on the current changing gender roles and brings to attention the fact that women who have never been married and never had children out-earn their male counterparts by 17%. He talks about the 25 reasons that empower women, and that the pay gap is not about men vs. women, but about dads vs. moms.

Doctor Farrell points out that after much research, he learned a great deal about what are the factors that create and influence the gender pay gap. He first found out that there are about 25 different choices that men and women make differently about their work-life decisions and almost all of these choices led to men earning more money than women, and women having more balanced lives. Further research on balanced lives showed that people that lead balanced lives are usually happier. If our primary goal is all to be happy, what was the issue here?

Doctor Farrell began to question that maybe the pay gap was not about discrimination, but about male bosses undervaluing women, and after looking at both men and women with MBAs that ran their own businesses through a survey realized by the Rochester Institute of Technology, he realized again, that it was not. From the women and men that earn from their own business (therefore no male bosses), he found out that women earn only 49% of what the men earn. This means that women without male bosses earn less than women with male bosses. This brought forth more questions for Dr. Farrell.

After more inquiries at the Rochester Institute of Technology, he found out that 79% of men listed earning more money as their primary goal in starting their own business. Whereas for women, earning more money was not even in the top 5 goals. He realized that the primary goals for women had more to do with balancing their work-personal lives, having more autonomy and flexibility, being closer to home, spending more time with family, etc., but also they wanted to do something that was safer.

So Doctor Farrell asked the question: What would it take for a woman to earn as much, or more, than a man? All the things that he discovered were really about trade-offs, meaning men’s trade-offs include earning more by working more hours per week. Women work more around the home, men tend to work more outside of the home in the home environment, and also more hours in the workplace. According to the Bureau of Labour statistics, which defines a full-time work week as 35 hours per week, he discovered that men tend to work around 45-50 hours a week versus women who work closer to 35. When looking at the pay gap between these two groups, it was clear that people that work 45-50 hours earned 100% more than those that work the normal full-time 35 hours. This means that by working those extra hours, people get paid disproportionately more than those that don’t.

He also discovered that dirtier and dangerous jobs, jobs that were far away, etc. were also more likely to be taken by men, for example, garbage collectors, construction workers, jobs that require relocation or traveling a great deal, and jobs that are technical with fewer people contact like engineering.

The big takeaway for Doctor Farrell is that you have to take risks if you want to earn more, you need to get involved in professions that are male-dominated because women are needed in professions like that, and encourage women, from an early age, to think outside the standard box that has been set for them.

With this, Somi Arian concludes the first part of the fourth conference of the Women in Business and Technology Think Tank and opens up the Q&A for the first part.

Part II

Kristen O’Grady

Finance Executive and Entrepreneur, COO and Head of Product for Seeds

Kristen O’Grady is a finance executive and entrepreneur, currently COO and Head of Product for Seeds. She is passionate about making money more meaningful – by showing others how they can grow their wealth as well as have a positive impact on the world. Kristen spent nearly 15 years at BlackRock and JPMorgan designing & launching investment products for wealth advisory and private bank clients. She believes in empowering women through economic opportunity by serving as a non-profit board member of MicroDreams, a microfinance foundation. Kristen has a 5-year-old daughter who already calls herself an engineer and scientist.

Kristen believes that we are all looking for more meaning in our lives – especially women. And by looking at the ways in which we invest our money, the ways in which we buy things, and choose to support companies, she is of the opinion that we can really make an impact on the world. Kristen talks about how she sees women playing a part in the investment world.

Intentional Investing: Do you know what your money is supporting? What kind of impact do we want to have on the world? Each time we spend money in a store or invest in a company, we are making a choice to support the choices and the impact that that company is making in the world, on people, on the environment, etc.

For example, if you only buy clothes in a store that has 10% or less women on their board, you are unintentionally supporting keeping the status quo that gender parity is not there for women, however, if you support companies that have a diverse leadership team you are further supporting that cause. This is applicable to all aspects of how a company makes choices, treats its workers and supply chains, and the environment.

So what should we do to invest intentionally? Kristen brings us to the next point of her answer.

Wealth Technology: Also known as wealth tech, wealth technology is the intersection of wealth and technology that creates a whole new world of investing and being able to personalize our investments. If we can personalize investments, we can also align them with our personal values and our financial goals.

Technology is enabling us to evaluate companies, not only on financial aspects, but also on how their business operations are treating the earth and people, both the shareholders and the stakeholders. This is what ESG integration is, it’s investing using all of that information about a company. We now have public data on a number of things about a company, like how much pollution a company is crating, or how they treat their employees, etc.

Companies are now starting to realize that it is in their business’s best interest to be better to the earth and their employees. Also, globally, government policy is moving in a direction that requires companies to disclose more of this ESG information.

What can we do now?

Throughout history, women have been the driving force in many revolutions, including playing a part in the movement towards sustainable investment. But it’s not just women, everyone cares about this now, so we are all changing the way we invest and hold companies accountable for this. Last year, in the USA alone, more than 50 billion dollars went into ESG funds, and this is what doubled the flows from the year before.

The big transformations we have all gone through in the last year, with the global pandemic, with re-evaluating our values, with paying attention to how companies are treating their workers and the world, from climate change to social injustices, this has all brought these issues to our attention, and financial technology platforms, like the one Kristen helped create, Seeds, enables wealth managers and investors to discuss and prioritize their financial goals and personal values. Once they do that, they can create investment portfolios of companies that align with their client’s values and goals. This means that there is no longer a trade-off between investing for financial returns and also to better the world because better ESG equals better business, and also better long-term investment.

To conclude, Kristen challenges us to consider how we are investing. We can all make small changes in the world, or what she calls little victories, and change the way we think about and make choices with our wealth so we can all grow and invest in a way that is both positive for us and the world.

Next up, introduced by Somi Arian, was Rob Baker who spoke about how to help change women’s narrative, we need to get men involved as well.

Robert Baker

Founder of Potentia Talent Consulting, Trustee of One Loud Voice for Women & Board Director for Spktral and Talupp

Robert Baker left Mercer, the global HR consulting firm, in January 2020, after a distinguished 42-year career. His last role was as Leader of Diversity & Inclusion Consulting for the International Region. Rob was a Board member of PWN Global, the leading women’s network, for seven years: and is now a Trustee of One Loud Voice for Women. He has now set up his own firm: Potentia Talent Consulting and is a Board Director of Spktral: leading gender pay gap analysts and Talupp, the AI-driven experiential talent development platform. Rob is a Companion at the CMI.

Rob shares with us some of the nuggets of wisdom that he has learned through years of research and experience. He believes that “if we truly want to advance women’s progress and status in the workplace, we need to engage men (especially male leaders) to smash the stereotypes that limit women’s careers and men’s family commitments. We need men to support these changes and to become activists for gender empowerment – they are good for everyone!” Somi Arian asks him the question: What can we do to achieve this?

Each day more and more men are wanting to get involved and engage with women’s issues, gender equality and empowerment. Rob Baker shares with us how to start by following, according to his experience, these five key steps in his roadmap:

1- Awareness: helping men become more aware of the poor place they are starting from when it comes to women in the workplace. Women only have 23% of executive positions in organisations, for example. According to the UN Global Compact, only 37% of companies have an organisation wide gender equality strategy. A lot of them don’t even realize that women have this sort of double bind, with their careers and also with supporting and building a family and a home, children and elder care responsibilities. If men are this 80% of senior leadership, change is not going to happen unless we can get them to engage. The starting point is for them to listen to the voices of women, read books, listen to videos, talk to women about their experiences at work and in society.

At a company he works for, Rob got all the men interested in women’s issues to get together and watch a video of all the women in the company talking about their experiences in the company with bias, microaggressions and stereotypes. These men were frankly amazed that their women colleagues actually experienced these things on a regular basis.

2- Acceptance: Acceptance about helping men to understand and accept our advantage and our privilege, and accept that the current situation at work was built by men for men, and that this is untenable both at work and at home. It is not good for men either. We all know that societies with more gender equality are actually better for both men and women’s mental health. We need to convince men that advances for women do not mean losses for men.

3- Advocacy: Get men to add their voices to the conversation. Having men be comfortable in becoming allies and stepping up in women’s issues. Engage with groups like “The Better Man Movement”, or join a women’s network like PWN, or go to women’s events, and take the risks to learn and share in these events, and share the male’s perspective if invited to do so, because Rob believes that this is important for the conversation.

4- Activism: Helping men determine what steps they can take to really move this situation forward, and get that commitment from them to take these steps. This is all about self-development, about learning how to be a better leader, bringing on the full range of emotional intelligence capabilities. Be open to learning from women. Events like the pandemic have brought forth that women have been better leaders in this aspect. Men should be open to the idea of learning from this, and also do concrete things like sponsoring women into leadership roles, make sure there are balanced slates of recruitment training promotion, etc., and also speak up against injustices.

5- Assessment: or feedback. Helping men assess their actions and listen to the feedback about how their actions are landing and see if they need to make more changes. This is all about dropping the ego, because feedback is a gift that can help us develop and grow.

Rob has also run an event called Shattering Stereotypes, with men and women divided into two groups to share their experiences in the workplace with bias and issues of aggressions etc. He then got the two groups together to share their experiences and realized that it was a learning experience full of realizations for both genders, because there actually are men who want to be able to do more in the home, they want to spend time with the kids, but the culture does not really permit that, so the more that we understand each other and each other’s restraints, constrictions, challenges, etc., the easier it will be to work together. Rob shares his optimism that we actually can work together to advance women in leadership.

Sue Nelson

Award-winning businesswoman, author, speaker, & expert on innovation for hyper profitability

Sue Nelson is an award-winning businesswoman, author, speaker and a renowned expert on using innovation to accelerate hyper profitability. She was recently named as one of the Top 20 Global Food & Agri Thought Leaders. She was the founder of the award-winning Breakthrough Group, which grew from a two-person operation in 2015 to a highly profitable multi-million-pound business. It was sold to EY in 2020. Sue has appeared as a guest on every national television and radio news programme in the UK including CNN, Sky News, Radio 5 Live and BBC Breakfast.

In her proposal Sue mentioned that she created a workforce that lived and breathed her brand and developed relationships that turned new clients into ambassadors for her company. These are some incredible achievements, and Somi Arian asks her to share with us what are some of the things we, as female entrepreneurs, need to know before we start our own business, and how can we deal with the numerous ups and downs that we will encounter?

Sue begins by explaining that if you’re going to start a company you need to first figure out what it will stand for and that the values and beliefs are, because these will be the same values and beliefs that are important to you as an individual. This is perhaps the easy part, as difficulties will arise when the company grows, and you’re no longer just one person, but fifty. How do you get those 50 employees to live and breathe what it is that you want to do? You need to be passionate about your mission, and be able to articulate it and transfer it into your staff.

The way Sue’s company did this was by never recruiting on qualifications or experience. She only ever recruited people based on their beliefs and their values, what they stood for and their attitudes and behaviours. This way they created a company made up of a band of people who were all in it together. She points out that when recruiting, they don’t pay attention to anything but the person’s value, including gender, race, etc., they just focus on getting the right people for their team, and because of their focus on this, they actually have a very diverse workforce.

The second advice she gives is based on the ups and downs we will encounter as female entrepreneurs. Women have a lot more on their plate than men do, that is a fact, but we are all going through the same (or similar) things. Everyone feels like that sometimes, so we’ve just got to get ourselves up, get dressed, show up, and find the strength to carry on. Don’t let anything dent our confidence. She believes that men often overestimate how good they are, and women tend to underestimate how good we are.

Sue believes that women entrepreneurs have an amazing contribution to make, and she thinks that they really understand the people that work for them and understand how to get the best out of them. Women make amazing entrepreneurs and Sue wants more of us to take the plunge and do it!

Christina Colmer McHugh

Founder of Moodbeam

Christina Colmer is the founder of Moodbeam.

Moodbeam started as an idea in the head of an anxious working mum who simply wanted to know how her child was feeling when she wasn’t with her. Fast forward 5 years and now Christina co-leads an exciting health tech brand after inventing a user-led device that logs and tracks moods, creating real-time, accurate visualised data for at-a-glance emotional awareness. It now includes support to organisations who want to gauge the morale, wellbeing, and productivity of their teams, in real-time, because if your teams are happy, your business will thrive.

We measure a lot of things in life but perhaps one thing that we fail to measure is happiness. It is Christina’s belief that we can save time, money and lives by implementing a simple metric in our everyday lives, from birth to death, and that our measure of happiness is the missing link in seeing how we feel about any given situation. In her proposal she mentioned that mental health is not just an internal matter, but something that is impacted by everything around us. Somi Arian asks her to share how she thinks technology can help change the way we communicate with each other for the better?

Moodbeam is the first wearable device that logs how we feel at the push of a button, and it is a project that comes from a very personal place for Christina. She used her background as a starting point for Moodbeam, since as a journalist she spent around 15-20 years loving and getting to know people, getting to know what makes them tick, etc.

Coming up with Moodbeam was prompted by a personal struggle she had with her daughter at school. She created it to form an emotional legacy for one person, but from there realised: What if they could form that emotional legacy for everyone and allow them to do that on their own terms.

 Moodbeam opens up a way to start a conversation about feelings, whether it is from a personal viewpoint, or from a business perspective, since as team leaders we might want to know how our teams are feeling.

This disconnect that has been brought upon us, especially during this last year with the pandemic, it is important for us to know ourselves, what makes us happy? What makes us unhappy?

Christina never dreamed of being a woman in technology, but she believes that every new technology that is invented comes from a place of need. She mentions she has two young daughters, and the reason behind Moodbeam was to create a space to open up to these conversations, from an early age, about empowerment and understanding what makes us feel good, or not, and do something about it. Empathy and communication are key.

As females we have perhaps been rather apologetic until now, when instead we should have been celebrating the fact of working alongside, or under, very talented and influential people. Christina believes gender is irrelevant, it should all be about the merit, purpose, passion, and the why.

Next up, Somi Arian introduces Doctor Ilaria Cinelli who will share with us her point of view on these issues from beyond our planet.

Doctor Ilaria Cinelli

Senior Engineer, Fellow of the Aerospace Medical Association, President of the Aerospace Human Factors Association, Mentor and Role Model of Space4Women

Ilaria Cinelli is a senior engineer with records of biomedical engineering and space exploration accomplishments. She has a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Biomedical Engineering from the University of Pisa, and a Ph.D. in Neural Engineering from the National University of Ireland Galway. Ilaria is a Fellow of the Aerospace Medical Association, President of the Aerospace Human Factors Association, and a Member-at-Large of the Aerospace Medical Council. She is a Mentor and Role Model of the Space4Women network of the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs.

Over 560 individuals have travelled to space, but only 11% of those are women. Just 15 female astronauts have conducted a spacewalk, as compared to over 220 men. Human exploration of space has been designed for men. Future female astronauts are exposed to more unknown than men due to the lack of data. This is clearly a serious issue. Somi Arian asks Ilaria what she thinks we can do to change this?

Being a girl in space can be quite challenging as it is such a male dominated environment. As a role model and mentor for the Space4Women network of the UN’s Office for Outer Space Affair, she aims to empower women at facilitating the access to space exploration.

As a female commander for analog missions, Ilaria found her feet working in operational scenarios, where it was her against the elements full-time, but the fact is that only about 5% of women join these human specified programs in an active way, and only a very small percentage of this 5% are destined to become astronauts.

Ilaria explains that there are different advantages that can be taken from implementation and running space missions on the ground, and one of these is leadership. In the International Space Station there are so many human studies that show how important it is to have a gender diverse crew, one of the reasons is because a mixed gender crew reach higher performance in flight than an all-male, or all-female, crew. However, if you look at the expansion of human space exploration, there is a clear lack of data at the base of the current human specified program that could eventually lead to discrepancies regarding safety.

The way in which space missions are made safe, is by collecting data and analysing it, but if there is little or no data on women in space, this is impossible to do. For example, the designing of spaceships is all based on the needs of male astronauts, but women have different needs, different shapes, different bodies, etc., so this lack of data may lead to exposing women to higher risks in space. She points out that if we want to make space travel reasonable and fair then we need to open access to space for women.

As a commander in analog missions, Ilaria applies her leadership successfully in all kinds of situations, and if it works in the harsh environments where she works, it can also work in any other kind of office. She talks about translating the advances of space back to the earth. Even though space is a very niche field, they are joining the global mission towards gender equality.

The next, and last speaker of today’s Think Tank is Vanessa Maddox.

Vanessa Maddox

IT Professional, Co-Founder of TheGirlfriendGroup, Founder & CEO of V.R. Maddox Consulting LLC, Author

Vanessa began her career in IT as a staff assistant and trainer for the U.S. House of Representatives. She went on to work for Fortune 100 organizations, federal government agencies, and the U.S. Congress. She co-founded TheGirlfriendGroup, a global business/social community. That effort led to the founding of her first startup, V.R. Maddox Consulting in 2010. In 2017, Vanessa was elected as the first Black woman in the history of Leesburg, Virginia to sit on the Town Council. She’s currently writing her first book/memoir entitled, The Politics of Nice: How a Catholic School Girl Navigated the Halls of Power.

Throughout her career, Vanessa has navigated and tried all the unconventional methods of securing employment with proven results. Today she shares with us how women can go about securing employment.

One of her most recent missions is ensuring people are gainfully employed through the pandemic, and one of the things she has employed and battle tested is the notion of anyone can up their game and up their skillset and be able to become gainfully employed, but she points out a number of things we need to consider since we are in this pandemic situation. She gives the example of a person who might have been stably employed during the last 10-15 years and have just found themselves unceremoniously turned into the job market during the pandemic. In these cases, it is probable that the person does not even have a resume because they haven’t had the need for one in 10-15 years, they have no idea of the current job market, or what it takes to get back into the job market.

The first thing she tells her clients and people she mentors is:

1- To get mentally prepared to enter the jungle that is job hunting. She does not entertain anything else until she has figured out what the mindset is regarding job hunting because once the positive mental attitude is there, then you can better deal with what will be put in front of you in the job market.

2- Outward presentation: Revising resumes and LinkedIn, which is critical nowadays. Your resume and your LinkedIn should be mirror images of one another for continuity reasons and also so there are no anomalies.

3- The importance of practicing presence and interview skills. Vanessa calls this job readiness. She helps people become ready to get ready to sit in front of a recruiter. It is all about candidate preparation and candidate readiness.

Vanessa employs what she calls Tips From A Recruiter, and goes over her top 10 tips that candidates need to know before they go to an interview.


The expositions today have shed some light on the current status of women in business, and proposed tools to help women continue their journey towards changing their narrative. Spaces like these provide us with the time to put our heads together and find common ground across all sectors and industries. 

It is interesting to see how with new developing technologies there seems to be an opening for women to achieve sustainable growth, equality, and bridge the data gap. There is still a lot of work to be done, but it was great to see that we already seem to be moving in the right direction.

The speakers today shed some light on some of the decisions we, as women, make that affect our career growth. Gave tips and advice on how to overcome things like impostor syndrome, or how to be successful entering the job market, and visualising and embodying success in order to get there. Expressed the need for more women to join traditionally male-dominated industries like Space Exploration and Cybersecurity, and exhorted the men to get involved as well.

In order to reach our goals, or any type of progress for women and girls around the globe, we need to collaborate, communicate, and step out of our comfort zones.

The different tips, ideas, and advice shared by our panellists today will certainly help us along the way to achieve gender equality in the workplace and at home. They joined the conversation by sharing their experiences in order to help fuel women’s journey forward.

Conferences like FemPeak’s Women in Business and Technology Think Tank open up a place for us to connect and learn from each other, grow our network and meet like-minded individuals. To move forward we need to be creative, get out of our comfort zones and think outside the box.