As the story goes, Lauren Vaccarello, VP of Marketing at Box, was up late one night wringing her hands over the current political climate. Everywhere she looked, there seemed to be an all out attack on the rights of women and minority groups. That’s when, in a fit of inspiration (and quite possibly the influence of a few glasses of wine), she sent a passionate email demanding action to Bryan Breckenridge, the executive director of Box.org (Box’s non-profit branch).
The result of that e-mail and subsequent follow-up meetings was the launch of “Innovators for Women’s Health” (I4WH), a community with the singular mission to “mobilize the tech community to support, protect, and reimagine women’s health.” I4WH plans to accomplish this through a three-pronged approach with initiatives to:
- Increase awareness in the tech community about the challenges women’s healthcare faces.
- Connect the worlds of technology and women’s healthcare so that both thrive.
- Drive Action
- Develop programs to improve women’s health, through advocacy, funding, and technology projects.
I was lucky to attend the launch of I4WH at SXSW and listen to an incredible panel discuss the unique healthcare challenges women face, and the actions being taken to defend rights they’ve worked so hard to obtain. The event featured Cecile Richards (President, Planned Parenthood Federation Of America), Cindi Leive (Editor-In-Chief, Glamour), Jess Ladd (CEO, Callisto), Moj Mahdara (CEO, Beautycon Media), Michele Sullivan (President, The Caterpillar Foundation) and Lauren Vaccarello (VP Marketing, Box).
Pretty cool moment. George and Liza of Redox with Cecile Richards.
While the video quality leaves a bit to be desired, I would highly recommend watching the entire event available here. The speakers did a fantastic job of not only painting a sobering picture of the current climate, but also providing examples of why we shouldn’t lose hope. They also highlighted how together, we can move forward to truly secure women’s healthcare rights once and for all.
The group is still very much in it’s infancy, but the passion and clout of its members makes me believe it will make valuable contributions to this ongoing fight. One of the clearest examples (in my mind of) this specific initiative to “mobilize the tech community to support, protect, and reimagine women’s health” was Jess Ladd’s company, Callisto.
Callisto is “is an online sexual assault reporting system designed to create a more empowering reporting experience for survivors, provide authorities with better evidence and data on sexual assault, and facilitate the identification of repeat perpetrators. Callisto provides survivors with a confidential and secure way to create a time-stamped record of an assault, learn about reporting options and support resources, or report electronically to campus authorities.”
In short, Callisto is out to end rape, and they are making real strides with a technical platform that targets very specific, difficult-to-tackle problems. They’re also making real progress in providing a safe way to report assault, making it clear what resources are available, and corroborating enough evidence to ensure justice is served. I can’t think of a more inspirational example of how technology can be used to protect women, and everyone at Callisto should be applauded for their much needed work.
I4WH doesn’t stand alone. Tumblr also launched an initiative with Planned Parenthood at SXSW and lead a well publicized campaign where 74 tech leaders called for congress to support Planned Parenthood. It genuinely feels like the tech community is rallying around this fight, and it will be interesting to see how everything shakes out. For now, we encourage you to get involved in any way you can and hope to share positive stories from this movement in the near future.
At Redox, we are passionate about finding any opportunity to support I4WH or other initiatives advocating women’s health rights. If you are working on a project and think we can contribute in some way, please reach out. We’re all in this together.
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