This year, International Women’s Day holds a special resonance as women from across the world stand up and say ‘enough’ to injustice, inequality and exploitation. Whether celebrating the vote won for (some) British women 100 years ago, an entire industry calling out sexual abuse and ousting (arguably) the most powerful man in Hollywood, or revelations of entrenched pay disparity across the UK, there appears to be no corner of our lives where women aren’t fighting to succeed and thrive equally with their male counterparts.
But amidst this, there are examples of opportunity and success. Women are increasingly fulfilling our rightful place leading industry, media, civil rights, nations and even orchestras. Two of the UK’s leading broadcasters are now led by women, the consortium behind on-off bid for the Weinstein Company was inspired by MeToo, Black Lives Matter is the product of female community leaders, and the Viennese Symphony Orchestra is under female artistic directorship. What’s more, women are building a kinder, fairer, more sustainable society within the Sharing Economy.
The Sharing Economy is a perfect example of where women have been able to leverage our own brand of power and skills to achieve great things – as well as to improve everyday things. Traits typically considered ‘feminine’ – multi-tasking, sharing, talking, caring – become professional accomplishments driving platform success and strengthening communities.
Despite the bad press gig working has received, flexible working delivers the most value to women, a group typically disadvantaged by traditional employment constructs that require fixed working hours and locations that often exclude working parents. Freelancer Union’s Sara Horowitz’s claim that “freelancing is feminist” certainly seems to hold true for women juggling motherhood and a career, with 53% of freelancers being women. For professional women, flexible working offers financial as well as practical dividends. Research by Management Consultancy Eden McCallum revealed that when professional women left employment to become freelancers they gained pay parity with their male counterparts and secured more days, meaning greater income and more flexibility.
When it comes to start up funding, a traditionally male environment, crowdfunding is source of finance where women are pulling ahead. Benita Matofksa talks about this (and much more) in her excellent March blog, but in short women do better than men at crowdfunding. Whether this is because this funding format suits women better or because women are better able to fund (or micro-fund) other women, this is a trend that will see more businesses, films, community initiatives and inventions realised by women of all ages and backgrounds.
Women are the inspiration as well as the beneficiaries of many a technological development in the Sharing Economy. Fintech such as M-Pesa is powering microfinance for female entrepreneurs, Intel’s She Will Connect Africa is training female coders to build new Sharing Economy businesses in Nigeria and beyond, and Safaricom-funded taxi app Little Cab offers female drivers for female riders making getting to and from work safer and more reliable for women in Kenya.
But it’s not just about women making money from the Sharing Economy, we are spending it there too. Wardrobe libraries such as Lena in the Netherlands, a taste of local living with AirBnB, unique pieces from arts marketplace Etsy, buying locally produced fruit and veg from London-based Growing Communities, or simply making the most of what’s already been prepared with community food sharing service Olio, the Sharing Economy makes financial and practical sense for women.
The Sharing Economy is not just for women, however, it’s for everyone. A space where we can all come together and be better together. Fairly, co-operatively and sustainably, the Sharing Economy is a space where technology truly does empower us all to make a difference to the world around us and live our dreams, however big or small they are, one (female-driven) platform at a time.
 Safaricom were also behind the launch of M-Pesa, so truly are supporting East African women with useful, practical solutions for their daily lives.