Forming new skills is an important task for facing the changes emerging technologies are bringing in society and businesses. It is also critical to promote equality in the work place through skill formation. Equality in the work place is not just an ethical issue, but, it also enriches the overall capability of the organisations. This is the mission of Women of Wearables (WoW). Michelle Hua and Marija Butkovic, the founders of WoW, using their entrepreneurial experience in the high-tech sector, are encouraging the presence of women in the Internet of Things, wearable technologies and AR/VR space. We have met them to hear their story and their ideas.
Saverio Romeo (SR): So, tell us what WoW is about?
Marija Butkovic and Michelle Hua (MB and MH): Women of Wearables (WoW) is UK’s and Europe’s first organisation aiming to inspire, support and connect women in wearable tech, fashion tech, IoT and VR/AR industries. Its mission is to encourage more women and diverse teams to participate in building hardware and software products as designers, product managers and developers or being founders of their own companies, as well as create more jobs for women in STEM.
WoW has a growing community of female founders, product and UX designers, developers, smart textile designers, executives and managers, all working in wearable tech, fashion tech, IoT and VR/AR industries, not only in UK and Europe, but also worldwide.
We are WoW founders, both ex lawyers-turned-entrepreneurs, passionate about women in tech, the world of wearables, fashion tech, IoT and VR/AR. After being in the wearable tech industry for the last 3 years founding our own start ups (Note: Michelle founded Made With Glove and Marija co-founded Kisha Smart Umbrella), we found a lack of women and diverse teams in this industry which is the very reason we co-founded Women of Wearables.
SR: Which types of activities is WoW running?
MB and MH: WoW supports its growing community of women and girls in tech space through monthly events, breakfasts and mentorship in Manchester and London.
WoW also delivers workshops to girls between the ages of 10-18 to make their own wearable and e-textiles projects. This encourages more girls to enter the wearables industry by equipping them with the skills they need to reduce the gender gap in the wearables industry. It also shows them how intangible skills such as coding can be converted to making a tangible product that is wearable and uses e-textiles. Through this, WoW helps the gender and diversity gap that is apparent in these industries and encourages and inspires young girls to choose STEM subjects for a career.
SR: In your opinion, what should be done in order to increase the presence of women in the high-tech sectors?
MB and MH: Only by collaboration and education we can empower more women to participate in tech. Our aim is to create opportunities for women in this industry to connect with each other and help ensure not only their businesses and ideas to succeed, but for the wearables industry to succeed. This means that everyone in this industry has to be involved – schools and universities, research companies, investors, startup incubators and accelerators, industry experts, etc.
But first of all, ways of thinking need to change. Throughout the hiring process companies need to be careful not to discriminate anyone, including men, but there are female tech groups that ought to be approached as part of the hiring strategy. Technology corporations and conference organisers have a duty to ensure there is a diverse range of speakers (including men, women and people from different backgrounds) to allow equality and opportunities for everyone.
Although we are women-in-tech organisation, we welcome everyone into our community as participants and speakers, because this problem cannot be solved without everyone participating. We also need more female role models. You cannot be what you cannot see. So, we are hopeful that we will not need as many women-in-tech groups in the future because gender equality will have been reached. Same goes for diversity in general.
SR: What are you planning for the future?
MB and MH: In 2017, Women of Wearables will deliver workshops in London and Manchester to girls between the ages of 11-18 to make their own wearable and e-textiles projects. This encourages more girls to enter STEM by equipping them with the skills they need to reduce the gender gap in the wearables industry. It also shows them how intangible skills such as coding can be converted to making a tangible product.
Our plan is also to become the world largest talent and knowledge pool for wearable technology. It is a very ambitious plan, but we have already achieved so much in terms of size of our community and partners involved, that I do not have any doubts we will achieve that too.
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