For decades incredible women are excelling in their fields. InspiringFifty is a global initiative on a mission to tell their stories and to increase diversity in tech by recognizing and amplifying today’s female role models in science, technology, engineering, arts, and math (STEM). From this initiative Inspiring African Women NPC was born. Supported by Make-IT in Africa, our approach is to inspire the next generation of leaders and tech talents across the ecosystem. And the fight for equality and visibility has come a long way.
Did you know that on the 26th of August 1910, Clara Zetkin, a German advocate for women’s rights, made an appeal for an annual women's day? Her most important initial demand: the general women’s right to vote. A “first” successful modern day public start to female empowerment, or even feminism. But what does feminism mean? According to Britannica online at its core, feminism is the belief in full social, economic, and political equality for women. Feminism largely arose in response to Western traditions that restricted the rights of women, but feminist thought has global manifestations and variations.
Let’s take a look at the global transformation that took place over the past 113 years. The First Industrial Revolution brought about social change, the rise of urban areas, and economic prosperity to selected groups of people. With the Second Industrial Revolution came a massive spike in scientific discoveries, the introduction of standardization and mass production. The Third Revolution introduced mechanical and analogue systems to technology. Lastly, the Fourth Revolution has brought about a fundamental change in the way we live and work and relate to one another. A new chapter for humankind. Now, we have the opportunity to redesign old systems, to be more inclusive and kinder to our planet, through rapid and positive transformation powered by technology.
With the development of new industries, the world witnessed an influx of women into the industrial workforce. This was a significant shift from unpaid caregiver duties in the home, to the combination of earning an income for their families and keeping up with the unpaid caregiving duties in the world. We have seen women take on roles in defense and peacekeeping, learn to fly airplanes, make scientific discoveries, develope innovations, and fly a man to the moon. Women have slowly started to take on technical careers and even to emerge as corporate and political in mostly male dominated sectors.
So have these 113 years of lobbying and advocating for the advancement of women and gender equality made a difference? Do all women have access to the opportunities and the prosperity that the past achievements have brought? Unfortunately, not. Yes, society has made some progress by introducing reproductive rights in the last 40 years. Us women get paid more, but we are still 132 years away from pay parity. If you are a woman lucky enough to live in the right country, then you may be entitled to some maternity benefits and hopefully access to formal education beyond primary school. But the current state of political unrest across the globe and the disastrous effects of climate change tell us that feminism in its “fourth wave” is still very much needed. In fact, it’s essential to the survival of our planet, the wellbeing of all humans and the still unknown long-term impact of technology driving human behaviour and decision-making rights. Fourth wave feminism goes beyond the advocacy of equal rights for women. It advocates for equity for all genders and non-binary people. It recognizes the intersectionality of race, gender, class, sexuality, and nation.
We all witnessed how the COVID-19 pandemic brought the world to a halt. Not only changing life as we knew it, but revealing inequalities in food security, universal access to basic healthcare, (digital) education, information, and economic stability, that could no longer be hidden. The polarization of communities and unequal digital access to resources exacerbated the lives of already vulnerable groups.
But it’s not all doom and gloom. We have learned that we can stay connected with loved ones, no matter the odds – especially digitally. Organizations and civic society joined forces and brought food and medical support to marginalized areas. And as humans, we have learned that we need each other, no matter what gender, race, or country you come from. The pandemic leaves the world with an incredible opportunity to bring a global thinktank of committed changemakers to rewrite the playbook for an inclusive, diverse, and equitable workforce.
We can reimagine our future and connect, co-design, coordinate a movement of female changemakers in Africa, from Africa and for Africa. From the InspiringFifty Initiative Inspiring African Women NPC was born, a community that celebrates African-based women in STEAM. We welcome allies to make our vision of global equity for all genders a reality, by bringing the collective intelligence of female leaders in STEAM together in one global network. We know that women run our families, they keep communities together, they educate our children and by investing in women, we are investing in an equitable future for everyone. We are on a mission to showcase and celebrate the success of these unsung female leaders, to inspire the next generation of changemakers by providing access to digital literacy, peer support, mentorship, and venture building.
About the author: Ellen Fischat is passionate about people development, transformation and economic development. She is an Inspiring Fifty Ambassador for South Africa and Co-Founder of Inspiring African Women NPC.
© Ellen Fischat/Judith Anna Photography