Emerging Trends | SDG5
March 7, 2019

Innovating to improve women’s health and safety: Women and wearable technologies

By ITU News

Last year, the Women of Wearables was awarded as a finalist for the EQUALS in Tech Awards for their work to support women as leaders and innovators in the ICT sector.

On the occasion of International Women’s Day we caught up with Marija Butkovic, Founder and CEO, to discuss how wearable technologies are improving women’s health and safety, and how to support women innovators in the sector.

How can wearable technologies improve women’s health and safety?

Our Women of Wearables (WoW) Carmina and Aditi are perfect examples of female founders building wearables that can improve women’s health and safety.

Carmina Santamaria is the founder of Kwema, a wearable tech start up that helps women in situations of danger. It is a smart bracelet that can call for help in just 3 seconds. It’s a beautiful piece of jewellery with a secret weapon. Once the hidden button on the bracelet is pressed, it will contact friends and family, the authorities and also others nearby who can provide help immediately.

Aditi Chadha is Founder and Chief Product Officer at DAZL, which builds connected devices for women that detects, communicates, documents and deters attacks on women, enhancing their safety and building their confidence.

In addition, Nimb is another company improving safety for women. It’s a smart ring with a panic button that alerts friends and family, emergency services and other Nimb wearers nearby. It was designed after one of the founders was stabbed 9 times.

How can we ensure these new technologies empower women – both as users and creators?

Women are often primary caregivers, hence a lot of technology they develop focuses on providing solutions to things people really need help with. In my opinion, women really focus on end use, need and function.

Take, for example, Hadeel Ayoub who created BrightSign. It’s a glove that translates sign language on your smartphone app, thus enabling people who don’t know sign language to understand the deaf.

You were nominated for the EQUALS in Tech Awards last year in the Leadership Category. How does this global award help to advance women leaders in the field of tech?

Only when women get visibility through awards like this can we hope to have more female role models inspiring us.

“We cannot be what we cannot see. Being nominated has given us a voice and a platform, as well as provided us with great visibility within network of women in tech and women in business globally.” — Marija Butkovic, Founder and CEO

The theme of International Women’s Day is: “Think Equal, Build Smart, Innovate for Change.” How has the network of Women of Wearables taken innovative approaches to supporting women in tech?

Our co-founder Michelle Hua has held workshops for kids in schools in Manchester that taught them the beginning basics of wearable tech. It’s important to educate girls when they are in middle school. Studies show if you can make tech education fun and available to them then, they are far more likely to pursue careers in this area.

It’s important that we have girls in tech. When we don’t, we have products that don’t work for women. With products designed for only half the population it’s a huge loss to businesses.

What is your advice for women to advance as leaders in the field of ICT/tech?

Don’t be afraid to dare to do new things, hustle and always trust yourself. You can do it. We women can do anything.

Why did you start Women of Wearables? What were the needs of the community and how are you addressing them?

In 2016 I met Michelle Hua, an amazing woman, who was also very passionate about the world of wearable tech and fashion tech, and who has experienced the same challenges as I did during her entrepreneurial journey – lack of women, lack of trust in women as founders, and a general lack of support when it comes to women in this specific industry. This is precisely the reason why we co-founded Women of Wearables (or just WoW, as we call it).

It’s an organisation that supports, connects and inspires women in wearable tech, fashion tech, IoT, VR, AR and STEM in general. Our mission, first and foremost, is to encourage more women and diverse teams to participate in building hardware and software products as designers, product managers and developers or to be founders of their own companies, which will create more jobs for women in STEM. WoW currently has a growing community of female founders, products and UX designers, developers, smart textile designers, executives and managers, all working in wearable tech, fashion tech, IoT and VR/AR industries.

We went from a small group of three ladies to a community of over few thousand women worldwide in a matter of months just from word of mouth. With our headquarters in London, UK and more than 20,000 members located around the globe, I’m proud to say that WoW has become a global movement that supports its growing community through events, mentorship, educational programs and collaboration with its network of local ambassadors and partners.

Note from ITU: For more insights from the EQUALS Global Partnership, read their upcoming report, Taking stock: Data and evidence on gender equality in digital access, skills and leadership, to be launched on March 15 here.
Marija Butkovic is the Founder and CEO of Women of Wearables.
Featured Photo via Shutterstock
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Innovating to improve women’s health and safety: Women and wearable technologies

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