My team and I have been working arduously for the first conference in September. Here’s our second update and why you should join us!
Somi Arian Think Tank for Women in Business & Technology
Why Do Women Matter in Business and Technology?
Last week I announced the launch of my Think Tank for Women in Business and Technology. For the first time I shared my dream publicly, that is to see women in the top tier of business, and technology in my lifetime. I received a huge amount of support for the initiative, but I also got some criticism. In this video, I want to respond to some of the critics.
When you look at the business landscape right now, there are a handful of major technology firms in the West, and another handful in China that control the most important technological advancement of our time, i.e. artificial intelligence. In The West, we have Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, and Google and in China, we have Tencent, Alibaba, Baidu, Xiaomi, and Huawei. All of these firms are run by men in their very top tier.
Now, my reasons for wanting to see women in the top 1% are twofold, one is personal and the other philosophical.
The personal reason has to do with having been born and brought up in a culture that was inherently oppressive towards women. I personally suffered the consequences of this oppressive system. For example, I was forced to marry my cousin at the age of 17, and he told me that he would lock me up until my hair was as white as my teeth. These are stories I’ve never before shared publicly before.
When I moved to the UK for my postgraduate studies I realised that the situation was nowhere near as bad for women in the west. But there were still remnants of biases deep in the western culture too and it would probably take generations to overcome them. So reason number one has to do with my personal experience since childhood. Sometimes in life, extreme pressure propels an extreme response, and perhaps my drive partly comes from my experiences. I’ve learnt not to judge it and let it fuel my journey, just like an Olympic athlete training for the game of their life.
The Philosophical Argument
Now I will share my philosophical argument with you about why I think women should be in the top tier. Please bear with me as this one is a little complex. I could talk about it for hours and so anything I say in a short video will not do it justice.
Many of you may know that I’m a big fan of Nietzsche and wrote my MPhil Thesis on him. Nietzsche wrote a book called The Birth of Tragedy that had a profound effect on me. What I’m about to say is not Nietzsche’s exact words but it’s my own philosophy inspired by him. In The Birth of Tragedy, Nietzsche describes two primary modes of life, one is all about form, logic, and order, which in Greek Mythology is represented by Apollo.
The other aspect of life in Greek Mythology is represented by Dionysus, which is the god of formlessness, disorder, and I add to that emotion, which is often viewed as the opposite of logic. The Dionysian realm is in some ways much more complex than the Apollonian.
For the past millennia since the time of Aristotle, Plato and Socrates, we have become a logically driven and male-dominated society. However, as humans, we have three main capacities, Physical, Cognitive and Emotional.
The first two industrial revolutions enhanced and outsourced our physical abilities. The third industrial revolution, that is the digital revolution outsourced and disrupted our cognitive abilities. So the only other kind of unique human ability we have left is in the emotional realm.
But we have two problems, one is that since the birth of Aristotelian logic we have neglected the development of our emotions. For example, in our educational systems, we have prioritised intelligence over emotional intelligence. The second problem is that we are now entering an era where we are merging with technology.
You may say “but logic is not easy”. The way I describe it is that logic is complicated but emotions are complex.
Now, Nietzsche explains that before Aristotle, Plato and Socrates, ancient Greek society was more balanced in that the Apollonian and the Dionysian modes of life were both celebrated. But he explains that with the advent of Aristotelian logic we started to see the dominance of the Apollonian mode of life, where we downplayed the chaotic realm of emotions.
The way I see it is that women are closer to the Dionysian experience as we are more tuned in to the realm of emotions and feelings. I would go as far as hypothesising that we also have an easier time handling ambiguity and uncertainty, though this is something I’m still researching.
Women in the Age of AI
The fourth industrial revolution which is driven by AI, Biotech, and Nanotech is disrupting not just our cognitive abilities but also our emotions. I argue that women could play an important role in making sure that the direction in which these new technologies drive us will be more compatible with our emotional component, which has been neglected for millennia.
That’s why I feel inclined to root for having more women in decision-making roles in business and technology, and especially in the top tier where the future of humanity is being decided. But of course, for that to happen we need to have more women on all levels in these industries and that’s why I started the Think Tank.
I hope this gives you an insight into where I’m coming and why this means so much to me.
There is no pressure on members to do anything but attend the sessions and support the cause. Membership is completely free. I’m doing this because it’s my passion – it’s my dream, and I hope to inspire other women to succeed if that’s what they desire.