With the voices to bring more diversity and women in technology growing louder, these two ex-lawyers have started Women of Wearables, the UK and Europe’s first community/organisation for women in the wearable tech, fashion tech, and IoT space
For a few years now, the same few have remained the flag bearers of ‘women in tech’ — Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki, HP CEO Meg Whitman, and XEROX CEO Ursula Burns.
Salone Seghal, Co-founder and CEO, TrulySocial, wonders where the real inspiration for women to join technology and become founders lies. The problem, she says, is deep-seated and requires an attitudinal shift in society — people need to get used to seeing empowered and financially independent women in their own households who can then make a mark on the outside world.
With Women of Wearables (WoW), the UK and Europe’s first community aiming to inspire, support, and connect women in the wearable tech, fashion tech, IoT, and VR/AR industries, ex-lawyers Marija Butkovic and Michelle Hua decided to take a step towards that change.
Michelle is the founder of Made with Glove, a wearable tech startup designing fashionable heated gloves for women. Marija is the co-founder of Kisha Smart Umbrella — also a wearable tech startup — responsible for creating the world's smartest fashion tech umbrella. Having had three years of experience in the industry, they decided to address one of its problems — the lack of women and diverse teams — leading to the birth of WoW.
WoW aims to encourage more women and diverse teams to participate in building hardware and software products as designers, product managers, and developers. WoW would also like to see more women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields and founding their own companies.
What does it do?
Marija, who has worked across a range of projects in different industry sectors including legal, journalism, IoT, wearable tech, and fashion, says,
“We decided to start WoW and empower and support women who already are in this industry, but also those who still struggle with where to start. 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 the UK and Europe but also worldwide.”
The community supports women and girls in the technology industry through monthly events and mentorship in Manchester and London. WoW also organises workshops on wearable and e-textiles projects for girls between the ages of 10 and 18.
By arming young girls with the required skills and information, Marija says they are looking to reduce the gender gap in the wearables industry. WoW also shows them how intangible skills such as coding can be converted into tangible products.
“We went from a small group of three ladies to a community of over 300 worldwide in a matter of months just from word of mouth, and since setting up a website and hosting events it has continued to grow,” says Marija.
The wearable tech industry has a dearth of female role models, and it is difficult for women to become what they can’t see. WoW tries to give these amazing women visibility and recognition.
However, wearables being a new industry can make support and mentorship hard to find. It is also challenging for female founders operating in this space to be supported if they aren’t based in a major city with physical access to support networks.
Marija mentions that they are trying to solve this problem by building an online community of women (and men) and connect them even if they are in different parts of the world.
Read the rest of the interview on the YourStory blog.