Changemakers for Sustainability Series: Gender, tech and transformation

On June 11, the WE Empower UN SDG Challenge group held the second Changemakers for Sustainability Event Series — a luncheon and panel with a gender and technology focus — at the Arizona State University Barbara Barrett and Sandra Day O’Connor Washington Center. The second of the series featured 2018 Asia Pacific WE Empower Challenge awardee Hadeel Anabtawi, founder of The Alchemist Lab, an organization providing education to over 25,000 children in cities, remote villages and refugee camps in Jordan. Anabtawi has also launched several initiatives such as “Go Girls!,” a program encouraging STEM-style thinking in young girls.

The event kicked off with opening remarks from United Nations Foundation CEO and President, Kathy Calvin, on the UN SDGs and the importance of gender equality from the UN perspective. Calvin highlighted the role of SDG5 in helping reach goals set in the others.

Following Calvin, Amanda Ellis, Executive Director of Hawaii and Asia Pacific, Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability, presented WE Empower Challenge and its aim to acknowledge women entrepreneurs who are advancing the UN SDGs.

Following this, Amanda introduced Hadeel Anabtawi, who was not available in person but tuned in through video call to emphasize the importance of technology for the future — especially for girls. ASU Thunderbird School of Global Management Student Maddie Handler is currently in Jordan, undertaking an internship with Anabtawi at The Alchemist Lab.

The luncheon also featured a panel made up of WE Empower Challenge partners, showcasing their work in the private sector, international development and academia relating to gender, technology and transformation.

Selina Jackson, Vice President of Global Government Relations and Public Policy at Procter & Gamble — a WE Empower lead partner company — demonstrated the work that P&G is undertaking with a commitment to shared values and women’s empowerment. P&G is the world’s largest consumer goods company, reaching 5 billion people globally through publicity. P&G is addressing algorithmic bias in search engines through the S.H.E. (Search Human Equalizer) initiative, a clear use of technology for attacking prejudices.

The next panelist, Professor Kimberly Scott, professor of Women and Gender Studies at the ASU School of Transformation and the founding executive director of ASU’s Center for Gender Equity in Science and Technology, spoke on the importance of intersectionality. Professor Scott also emphasized the vitality of supporting exploration of critical questions, capacity building through techno-social skills and initiatives, and advocacy. She believes in ensuring that diversity and technology are not divorced. In March of 2020, the Women of Color in STEM conference will be held in Hawaii to create a series of calls to action.

Alexa Roscoe, Digital Economy Lead at the International Finance Corporation (IFC) Gender Secretariat, was the final panelist of the June 11 luncheon. She works with the private sector, helping identify ways in which new technology and business models can benefit women’s economic opportunity. Roscoe illustrated issues such as gender disparities in the share economy — specifically Uber — where the impact of women as consumers and drivers is only now beginning to be explored.

To finish the event, the panelists were asked to give advice for what a person should do to combat gender disparity. Although there is a plethora of ways to tackle this question, the main theme of their responses surrounded gaining awareness, and not being afraid to speak up.

This story was contributed by Julia Brownell, WE Empower Challenge intern from Washington, D.C.