SITAWI Finance for Good has partnered with the European collective YOPO to create the “FEM-Innovation Social Fund: Women for ICT with Social Impact” to support the startup of a new kind of accelerator, the international Gendered Innovation Accelerator (GIA) in Brazil, one that will sustain and invest in the redefinition of Information and Communication Technology by supporting innovation with a gender lens. It is not just about correcting the gender imbalance among software coders, but to contribute to the constitution of a new mentality and, therefore, new opportunities in the ICT area. The Fund aims to raise R$ 1.5 million to support startups that will focus on redefining technology and communications from a woman’s perspective.
Today the Information Technology has become the huge installed base of smartphones, mostly Android and iPhone, whose sales in 2014 alone were incredibly close to the total cumulative number of active PC today! This gives a new relevance to the fact that the 0.5 billion women Android and iPhone users are forced to access their extraordinarily powerful devices only through apps practically conceived by men. That represents a huge opportunity for innovation with a gender lens, for a re-definition of the priorities and of the traditional approaches of IT, and, why not, also for a fair return of investment! These are the objectives of the GIA.
The dominant methodology of software design implies that designers create products for users whose interests, abilities and needs resemble their own – resulting in “male default” approach in Information Technology and, hence, in smartphones, given that 85% of software coders are men.
Marketing this ‘male default” to all results in women having to develop skills needed to use the male-conceived and male-oriented interfaces or solutions at hand, therefore producing false idiosyncrasies like women disliking technology, perfect to sustaining stereotyping.
At GIA they identified the latest example of male-oriented tech-design leaving women’s needs behind: the new Apple HealthKit, featuring “the metrics that people are most interested in” and failing to include tracking of menstrual cycle. If we compare the numbers, the users in need of smart assistance regarding menstrual cycles (in terms of regularity, fertility, even natural pain control to reduce painkiller drugs consumption) would clearly outnumber the users in need to track their inhaler usage or running patterns. Yet there is no sign of women-oriented innovation in the Apple HealthKit as it is today – one of the many missed social impact and market opportunities when a male-biased approach in IT remains the de-facto standard.
This is one of the areas where GIA will produce innovation with its empathic women-based organization, together with women-conceived personal security and mHealth, provided they successfully complete their current fundraising.