2019 is the year we wish the World Wide Web a very happy 30th Birthday. Find me a person who does not agree that that World Wide Web is not one of humankind’s greatest achievements, and I’ll call them a liar. The web is the place where you can watch endless videos of cats in boxes, book the holiday of your dreams or use an avatar and pretend to be somebody else if you want to. But I’m here to celebrate all the amazing things that the World Wide Web has done for women.
Breaking the silence
Despite the harrowing stories of abuse and exploitation, the MeToo Movement is monumental. 10 years ago, who could have predicted that a simple # would provide women with a collective voice? Nearly every woman I know has experienced some degree of harassment, and while we a knew we hardly unique, we never quite realised the scale. #metoo gave women cause (and action) to essentially join hands with 100,000’s of other women across the globe. It was as cathartic as it was incredibly depressing.
What started as purely online dialogue became a powerful international movement for all women. Could that have happened without the social interaction by women on the World Wide Web? Absolutely not.
This is a wonderful thing
It gives me immense pleasure to imagine what our sisters of centuries past might have done with a Twitter #hashtag. Maybe Joan Of Arc would have been spared her witch hunt and subsequent burning if she had had the privilege of a #FreeJoan hashtag? Imagine what Rosa Parks could have done for civil rights and bus boycotts with the right social media campaign! And what of the Suffragettes? I’m pretty sure that they would have been prolific Tweeters.
I’m not remotely Irish, but boy did I want to be after May 25th 2018. With a record voting turnout and historic ‘Yes’ result, the 8th Amendment was repealed on May 26th and Irish Abortion Law was given a long overdue reform.
Reading the stories of Irish nationals travelling home to vote will not fail to warm the heartstrings. The emotional groups of strangers hugging in airports, the Irish flags waving everywhere from Milton Keynes to Machu Picchu. People were offering lifts to and from airports, and some were even sponsoring others to fly home to vote if were unable to afford the flight. My faith in humanity was really bolstered by this.
But somehow the vital connection is made…
The life of a new mum is to be lonely, but never alone. The isolation is at epidemic-proportions these days. I remember it only too well. In a bid to make some sort of connection, I trekked 45 minutes across town on a freezing and sleeting February morning to a local breastfeeding group. I was the only person to turn up that day and it took every ounce of my willpower not burst into tears.
In 2017 Michelle Kennedy founded the Peanut app, born out of the loneliness she was experiencing as new mother. Drawing on her background (Kennedy is the former Director of dating app Bumble) she solved a prolific problem and grew the app’s community to over 300,000.
“Why couldn’t we have tech to solve our issues? It existed, it just wasn’t being used for our market.”
Michelle Kennedy, 2018
We have the fortune of being alive in a time when such technology exists. We still have the village to raise our children, it just comes from a different source. Women can create their own villages on the World Wide Web.
Go Fund Me
It’s infuriating and unfair, that female entrepreneurs receive 157 times less funding than men. In 2017, women-only funding teams were awarded £32 million, compared with £5 billion which was awarded to male-only teams. It’s enough to make you want to scream. Why the gender bias?
It is the types of questions they are asked at application interviews, according to a recent study. Men are asked questions which focus on potential gains, while women are asked questions about potential loss. Words that investors used when speaking to male applicants included “aspire”, “expand”, “grow” and “achieve”. In a stark comparison, the words used for female entrepreneurs included “anxious”, “careful”, “loss” and “pain”. PAIN?!
What I find even more enraging, and I’m sure you will too, is that despite all these obstacles; female-led start-ups generate more revenue than their male-led counterparts. Women do more with less. So what does a female entrepreneur do when she’s been refused funding via the traditional means?
Crowdfunding of course…
The good news is that women are much better at it than men. According to a study conducted in 2017, crowdfunding has levelled the playing field for women.
Thinx, the period-proof underwear brand was founded in 2013 by three women. A very successful Kickstarter campaign ensured that their products are now stocked all over. GoldieBlox, the engineering toy for girls, was brought to life in 2012 by Debbie Sterling who has deservedly won numerous awards for creating the World’s first girl engineering toy.
We’ll never know if these ideas were refused initial funding because they were female-led or because the target audience is female; but thank goodness the World Wide Web exists to fund amazing women with ideas like these.
We DO need an education
I can say without hesitation that if it wasn’t for online course providers, I absolutely would never have been able to learn to code. Having a one year old plus no financial means to pay for an intensive 12 week web development course, let alone a Computer Science degree, meant my options were extremely limited. I have eternal gratitude for CodeAcademy, Treehouse, Udemy and FreeCodeCamp ,without them I’d probably still be doing a job that I hate.
Online education is not limited to programming either, you can find an online course in just about anything. Languages? Check. Medieval History? Check. Illustration? Yep. And a special mention goes out to the wonderful world of YouTube tutorials. I’d probably still be wearing some very bad Goth make-up to weddings if these didn’t exist.
The benefits of female education are undeniable too, from economic growth to encouraging Human Rights to a greater sense of self-esteem. The World Wide Web has made it easier for women to educate themselves now that the traditional gatekeepers have been removed. I know that I would have struggled in a male-dominated classroom environment but learning at my own pace with online support is one of the most liberating things I’ve ever done.
Now, we aren’t supposed to admit that we like shopping anymore. It is not cool to say that you like it; but the thing is, I really do.
And we really do need to behold the wonder of internet shopping. If you can dream it, you can pretty much buy it. And you can try it on in the comfort of your own home. The Big Guns like ASOS, BooHoo, et al nailed it. You can find something cheap and even get it the same day if you’re totally desperate. But it’s not just the fashion giants who get to reap the rewards of accessible e-commerce.
The rise of smaller, niche brands has been made possible because of the web. So many people have launched their own brand online and created their success in way that they wouldn’t have previously been able. The overhead costs of running a physical shop are gargantuan compared with running the whole operation from your spare bedroom.
The existence of Etsy has been nothing short of life-changing for a number of people. Florabundins started out as a side-hustle, a way for it’s creator Laura McBride to make money while unable to work due to a long-term illness. A little over 2 years later and she has recovered and her business her gone from strength to strength, freeing her from full-time employment and saving her from financial ruin during her illness.
THE FUTURE IS FEMALE
Millennial Women are poised to be the most financially independent women in history. There are countless more opportunities which are a direct consequence the World Wide Web. The key facilitator for he only generation of women to have all the information at their finger-tips, the ability to share, to educate themselves and pursue their own businesses.
It is nothing short of amazing.
Let’s keep the momentum going.