Think Tank For women in Business & Technology

Empowering Women to Reach Their Full Potential!

Vision

This Think Tank was born out of my dream to see women in the top tier of socioeconomic progress, in business and technology.  When we look at the list of top 100 thinkers and philosophers of all time, top 100 business minds and entrepreneurs, top 100 politicians, top 100 writers, top 100 scientists, and top 100 most influential people of all time almost 99% of them are male. I’ve been researching the role of women throughout history, looking to understand why our full potential has remained untapped. I believe we can and should have female counterparts of Jobs, Gates, Zuckerberg, Page, Brin, Bezos, and Musk!  These are all individuals who have touched my journey and inspired me in some way. Regardless of how they are viewed by many, these are men who are shaping the future of humanity. I believe we need women in that picture. Women bring a new perspective to leadership in business and technology. We think differently and this will ultimately benefit all of humanity. But having a dream is not enough. You have to do something about it, which is why I created this movement to make it happen. 

Please note that the opinions expressed here are mine only. You don’t have to agree with me to be part of this movement. You may have your own reasons for wanting to see women succeed in business and technology. As long as we share the same goal, I hope we can support each other. 

Women international think tanks - Somi Arian

What Holds Women Back?

I’ve been thinking and researching a lot about what has held women back throughout history. Why don’t we have more female world-class scientists, business leaders, and innovators, even in areas that are historically known as female domains such as cooking, sewing, and dancing, the highest-paid chefs, designers, and dancers are male. Why? I’ve been wracking my brain to figure this out and here is my hypothesis which I’m still researching and developing further. At the moment it’s just my theory and needs a lot more empirical evidence and research but you have to start from somewhere.  My conjecture is that somehow it all goes back to information which is the glue that binds three elements that shape all human experience. Those elements are nature, nurture and the self

  • Nature is our biology, and DNA which define our mental and physical components. 
  • Nurture is driven by our environment which includes culture, education, law, politics, economy, workplace, and technology. 
  • Self is the third and the last factor which has the ability to decide to what degree we will be defined by our nature or environment. This is the question of free will, which fascinated me as a woman born and brought up in an underprivileged and traditional society which was profoundly oppressive towards women.  
  • There is however one more element which is outside of these three factors but binds them together. That element is information, (AKA knowledge, data). 

The roots of women’s underdevelopment in socioeconomic terms go back to the restriction of data, to women, and about women. Let me explain the origins of this data gap. 

Example From Physics

You’ve probably heard about the Hubble Telescope. Well, did you know that Edwin Hubble built his ideas on top of the finding of Henrietta Leavitt, a female astronomer who worked at the Harvard College Observatory as a “computer”, and examined photographic plates in order to measure and catalogue the brightness of stars. Leavitt’s work enabled astronomers to measure the distance to faraway galaxies. After her death, Edwin Hubble used Leavitt’s work to establish that the universe was expanding. Hubble went on to win a Nobel Prize and gained all the recognition that arguably Leavitt should have gained. Most importantly, as a woman Leavitt was not allowed to operate the telescopes. So her knowledge and experience were restricted to second-hand information as opposed to direct access to the source of knowledge.  

Think Tank for women - Somi Arian
Philosophy and Psychology

There are few people who have not heard of Friedrich Nietzsche, and Sigmund Freud. However, you probably have never heard of a woman called Lou Andreas-Salomé, who was a Russian-born psychoanalyst, and author. Salomé was a close friend to Nietzche, Freud, Paul Rée, and Rainer Maria Rilke and had a big influence on them. She was one of the first female psychoanalysts to write on female sexuality before she met Freud who later admired her work. She was a complex woman by the standard of her time, and perhaps even today she wouldn’t have been fully accepted for her free-spirited lifestyle and liaisons. 

However, Salomé was a super-intelligent woman who impacted some of the biggest minds of her time, but as a woman, she was never able to rise to prominence to the same degree and she is now largely forgotten. When you read Nietzsche and Freud and especially their views of women perhaps it’s worth bearing in mind their close friendships with Salome. In fact, Nietzsche was so madly in love with Salome that he suffered immense depression when he felt that he was rejected by her. 

Think Tank for women - Somi Arian
Computer Science

When we talk about computers, we often hear about the idea of the Universal Turing Machine. But in fact, the first person who recognised that an “Analytical Engine”, could have universality in its use case was a woman called Ada Lovelace, an English mathematician and writer who collaborated with Charles Babbage. Even before a computer was ever conceived Lovelace published the first algorithm intended to be carried out by such a machine, making her one of the first-ever computer programmers. 

Yet, computer science has come to be known as a largely male-dominated field and few people know about Ada Lovelace outside of the industry. Moreover, Lovelace was a Countess which meant that the status of her family was part of the reason she managed to gain her level of education and was able to collaborate with Babbage. Naturally, it would have been impossible for other women of lower background to ever have a chance to gain such opportunities.

women in technology think tank - Somi Arian

The Impact of Inequality

When we talk about computers, we often hear about the idea of the Universal Turing Machine. But in fact, the first person who recognised that an “Analytical Engine”, could have universality in its use case was a woman called Ada Lovelace, an English mathematician and writer who collaborated with Charles Babbage. Even before a computer was ever conceived Lovelace published the first algorithm intended to be carried out by such a machine, making her one of the first-ever computer programmers. 

Yet, computer science has come to be known as a largely male-dominated field and few people know about Ada Lovelace outside of the industry. Moreover, Lovelace was a Countess which meant that the status of her family was part of the reason she managed to gain her level of education and was able to collaborate with Babbage. Naturally, it would have been impossible for other women of lower background to ever have a chance to gain such opportunities.

The Impact of Inequality think tank - Somi Arian
woman success think tank - Somi Arian

Whereas for a woman to achieve the same level of success, first they need to break down the old social and biological structures to level the field before they can even begin laying their foundation. By then, they will have lost valuable years of youth, energy, and stamina. Look at the film industry for example. The history of academy awards goes all the way back to the late 1920s. In almost an entire century there’s only ever been one female director who won the award. That’s because for a woman to reach that level of success, they have to break down doors, demolish long-established norms, and bulldoze their way. The stamina, energy, and sacrifice that it takes to do so are beyond words. 

September 10th Conference Panel

Somi Arian
Conference Director

Somi Arian is a tech philosopher, multi-award-winning filmmaker, author, entrepreneur, and a LinkedIn-Top-Voice in the UK. Somi is researching women’s socioeconomic position in society and why, historically, women have been held back in science, technology, and the business landscape and how to change this narrative. This is why she started this Think Tank.

Tony Fish

Data Gap

Tony Fish specialises in data, judgment, and complexity and will discuss a historical trend of data gap that has held women back since early history. This gap is now increasing as algorithms enter every aspect of our decision making. What are the risks of failing to address this data gap, and what can we do about it? 

Dr Sophia Yen

The “Nature” Argument - Menstruation

Dr Sofia Yen is a Clinical Associate Professor at Stanford, CEO/Co-Founder of Pandia Health, birth control delivery, and has 20+ years experience in medicine, with a passion for women’s health. Sofia will discuss how the menstrual cycle affects many women’s productivity from an early age and what can be done to drive faster and more effective innovation in this area. 

Dr Leah Austin

The “Nature” Argument - Hormones, Childbirth and Aging

Dr. Leah Austin is a GP and Nutritional Therapist. She specialises in Chronic, Hormone, Gut and Nutrigenomics health. Leah will discuss how hormones affect women’s mental and physical health throughout their lives, from puberty, and childbirth, to menopause? What innovations are we missing in this area and what short term and long term investments are needed?

Dr Sophie Bartsich

The “Nature” Argument - Women's Only Health Issues

Board Certified Plastic Surgeon and Women’s Health Advocate. Dr. Sophie is an expert in breast surgery and a warrior for gender equality in healthcare. She is also the founder of a Biotech company that is researching a potential breast cancer vaccine. Sophie will discuss how women’s only health issues are not always studied or validated as are general health concerns that affect men to a similar degree. Our question is, how can we tackle misinformation, gaps in insurance coverage, and lack of social acceptance of these issues?

Justine Southall Marie Claire
Justine Southall

The Nurture Argument - Women in Culture

Justine Southall worked in media for many years and has run brands such as Marie Claire and Cosmopolitan magazines amongst others. She will discuss the way that even now women are brought up with certain gender stereotypes, often starting in the family and that these can then be reinforced by the media, arts and culture in general. She will discuss the impact of this from her experience of having worked with women and talked to women through these magazines and businesses for over 30 years. Our question is how can media companies and social media influencers do more to help change the narrative?

Kerry Fulton

The Economic Implications of Women in Film

Kerry is the founder of Evenfield Entertainment – a company that finances and produces films by women with an ambition to balance popular culture. Entertainment and especially the film industry play a huge role in shaping our culture. And yet, still in 2020 only 12% of films are written or directed by women. That means that stories told from a male perspective dominate culture.  As the US movie industry is a form of global imperialism, the whole world suffers from this lack of perspective.  What’s holding women back in the film industry, and how can we change this?

Andie Kramer

The Legal Landscape for Women

Andie is a partner at an international law firm, a gender equity advocate, a speaker, author, and champion of women’s leadership. She is the author of “Breaking Through Bias” and “It’s Not You, It’s the Workplace”.  It is widely understood that women earn less than men. This seems to be the case across most industries and throughout history. Our question to Andie is, as a lawyer working on gender inequality, where do you see this historical trend coming from, and how/why has the law failed to protect women? Shouldn’t the pay gap be a legal question?

Natalie Cline

Women in Politics

Natalie Cline is a Computational Linguist who is also the Democratic Nominee for U.S. Congress in West Virginia’s 1st District. When we look at world leaders, even in our modern times, men still form the majority of the leadership positions. Our question to Natalie is: what are some of the barriers of entry for women in the traditional political landscape? How is technology changing the nature of governance and could this be an opportunity for women, or is it a further deterrent?  

Michael O'Toole

EI in STEM
Michael trained as a Psychologist and holds a Masters degree in complex problem-solving. He spent the majority of his career as a Managing Director of Technology at Morgan Stanley. He currently runs an E-learning company (CareerDrive) specialising in Emotional Intelligence for early-career individuals. He teaches at several universities and is a regular contributor at technology conferences. Michael believes that computers with the ability to understand and respond to emotions will be coming soon, to a device near you, and could represent an incredible career opportunity for the future.
Dr Andi Simon

Corporate Perspective and Change

Dr Andi Simon is an award-winning author and corporate anthropologist who specializes in helping organizations change. Throughout her career as an executive in five large organisations, she gained valuable experiences that she now brings into her work as a consultant, author, and speaker.  Our question to Andi is around the subject of change. Many large corporations are now championing having more women in leadership positions. Yet, this feels like a tick box exercise and we are far from seeing equal opportunities for men and women in the top tier. What is the biggest obstacle for corporations when it comes to a meaningful change of culture. Is true change even possible, or are we trying in vain to teach an old dog new tricks? 

google
Toju Duke

Tech Education Perspective

Toju is Google’s Product Lead for Europe, Middle East and Africa, and a Machine Learning Fairness Program Manager who works closely with women.  Toju observes that one of the biggest reasons why women do not enter technical fields such as artificial intelligence, math and engineering to the same degree as men, seem to be lack of knowledge regarding the opportunities and lack of confidence that they can succeed in a male-dominated field. The question is how can we change this narrative both as individuals and in corporations? 

Laura Burkemper

Economic Perspective

Laura Burkemper is CEO of The Catalyst Center® helping companies to “build brand capital”, market, & scale.  Laura serves as a Sr. Adjunct Professor teaching the course, “New Venture Feasibility” and is ranked 10th of 2,600+ entrepreneurship programs.  Laura observes that women’s orientation around money is more likely to be focused on earnings and a living budget, and less likely to be focused on strategic financial planning and long-term investing. And yet for women to have a meaningful impact and a seat at the table they need to increase their overall level of wealth and be able to invest in new industries and innovation. How can we elevate women’s economic circumstances and their financial literacy?

Sara Milne Rowe

The Self - Psychological Perspective

Founder/CEO of award-winning Performance Coaching Company, Coaching Impact. Coaching CEOs, senior leaders and their teams, in many industries in the UK and worldwide – often in challenging situations – & in schools, building habits for resilience. Speaker & Author of The SHED Method (Penguin 2018).  We are asking Sara to focus on the self aspect of what women can do to shape their own career. In particular, what can women do to harness their own energy, have a strong sense of self-advocacy, not worry about what others think of them, and be more assertive in asking what they want? 

Conclusion

Over the past few weeks, we’ve had over 3000 people signed up to join the Think Tank. I’ve received a huge amount of feedback and suggestions on how to make this movement a meaningful success. What we mean by that is a movement that truly makes an impact on women’s lives, careers and their socioeconomic progress. Think Tanks and conferences are great, but talk is cheap. The question is how can we create a physical change in the world around us. Therefore I’ve concluded that for this movement to make a meaningful impact it needs to have two parts. 

The think tank, where every month we get together to:

  • Identify the problems
  • Call for innovations that will address those issues
  • Vote and reach a consensus on which causes need to be prioritised
  • Set short term and long term goals

FemTalent, a membership platform that will provide the following opportunities:

  • For top female talent to build a profile to showcase their abilities through a short video pitch and easy to follow CV
  • For top female consultants to share their expertise through an audiovisual pitch
  • For up and coming female talent to express interest in internship and entry opportunities
  • For members to provide training to other members with the specific needs of women in mind.
  • For employers to identify top female talent in all area to hire
  • For entrepreneurs to seek investment from other members with the aim to:
  • Remove the barrier of entry for women to invest
  • Help more women gain investment
  • Build innovation around causes that really matter and create the most impact for good for women
  • For members to generate grants for the future education of women in all areas, such as underprivileged young women, and programs that will help women with mental health challenges or gaining new skills during maternity leave. 
  • For members to have a peer to peer lending platform to help more women build businesses and thrive

At the end of this session, I will introduce the FemTalent platform which we are still building and I will ask for the attendee’s input on features that we are building and how to make it so as to serve professional women in the best possible way. This movement is designed to be as democratic and collaborative as possible. I’m dedicating every waking hour and all my resources outside of my day job at Smart Cookie Media, to building this movement, from thinking to action. 

Join the Think Tank

Have a Question?