2019 was a particularly great year for film, as the Rotten Tomatoes official list was published just a few weeks ago. To much joy, many female directed projects sat atop the tomatoes. Booksmart, The Farewell, and Knock Down the House were just some of many female-directed movies this year employing much praise from critics. There is one other movie however making headway that I would wish to address- this being Greta Gerwig’s second directorial project and six-time Oscar nominated Little Women.
This is not the first time the Louisa May Alcott classic has been adapted to the silver screen; five other films of the novel were forged before the release of Gerwig’s rendition in December of 2019. Though some (yet not many) viewed another rendition of the beloved novel unnecessary and outdated for our modern age, Gerwig found contrary to such a notion. In a recent 92nd Street Y interview, Gerwig explained “I hadn’t read the book since I was 15 and picked it up again when I was 30. I couldn’t believe it- it was so much stranger, urgent and more modern than I had remembered.” Little Women does, and has done so successfully for more than a century and a half, is reiterate that roles for women in our ‘ever-changing’ society have remained seemingly unchanged. Yes, things have gotten much better from the days of nuclear wives and the lack of women’s suffrage, of course, but the fact still remains- women are still receiving only 49 cents to a man’s dollar in the workplace in 2019. There’s still a hangover in the rhetoric of grandmothers across the USA reminding their granddaughters to ‘marry for money and not for love,’ and even mockery of the profoundly important #MeToo movement coming out of the film industry represents a story that is inherently a reality of being a woman in America.
What Greta Gerwig has done in Little Women is instill a commonality that one can overcome such hardship and succeed in this world. Through our historical pasts, one watches the film not with a sense disdain for how our society has evolved, but more so with a confidence that so much can still be achieved. Little Women is a breath of fresh air and has been retold with modern gist and new life in Gerwig’s ode to a cherished classic of American literature.
Male leads still dominate Hollywood box offices and award shows, as this year’s Golden Globe Awards showed us. Not a single female was nominated for Best Director at the ceremony this year. Which, is almost the perfect irony for Little Women. Regardless of the Hollywood Foreign Press’ reasoning, Gerwig remains poised and exact knowing the future of cinema is inherently female, and will continue to be as more young women see and read Beth, Amy, Meg and Jo March discover the world and their places within it. And as for Gerwig and here continued success in cinema, she softly reminds “Men have been putting glasses on hot women [in film and television] and saying they’re awkward, so I can do whatever I want.”
As the new decade rapidly approaches, tech continues to be an industry disrupting the social conformities of our modern times. However, the growing acceptance of women-led companies is still being adopted slower than one may believe. Only a mere 2.2% of investment money for tech startups funds women-led organizations. As a collective conscious, recognizing the marginalization of women’s abilities in the workforce is of the utmost importance. Regardless of such percentages, many women in the industry have achieved wonderful success, remaining pillars of hope for individuals looking to redefine societal expectations for women in and out of the industry. Here is a brief list of 5 women-led tech companies paving the way for others in 2020:
CEO Star Cunningham has dealt with chronic illness since she was young. 4D Healthware, under Star’s vision, aims to humanize the health industry. Her time at IBM made her implement the use of data in patient care, optimizing the time and care each individual receives within the platform.
Coming out of the MIT Media Lab at the end of 2009, Affective tackles three different categories; Automotive AI, Media Analytics, and In Lab Biometric Solutions. From Market Research, social robotics, to human behavioral research, co-founders Rana el Kaliouby and Rosalind Picard are shaping the way we think, interact, and communicate using state-of-the-art tech developed by movers and shakers across the world.
In a Nation plagued with gun violence and a constant fear of domestic terrorism, Astral AR has created detection of bombs and weapons of any type of build or design. Co-founder Leah La Salla has helped lead Astral AR into working closely with law enforcement, school districts, and general public places and check-ins with the goal of creating safer and more secure lives for all individuals; the catch? Atsral AR does this all without discrimination as the backbone of its software.
Wastewater epidemiology- though not known by all, plays a vital role in the public health of individuals globally. Co-founders Marian Matus and Newsha Ghaeli have created a company that collects samples of wastewater amongst cities and determines a percentage of narcotics and their societal impact on the given geographical area.
Diversity hiring is more important than ever in an expanding world, and tech made to ease the process has proved to be dangerously discriminatory. Founder Stephanie Lampkin however, created a three step hiring system within Blendoor that involves anonymous selection of candidates within the software; only qualifications and passions are to be considered. By doing this, Blendoor gives companies the best candidate for the job without the biased given based on sudden appearances.
Want to learn more about women in tech? Visit @SWSiliconValley on Instagram to keep up-to-date on Menlo College’s Startup Weekend, starting March 27th!
Impact Startup Revolution advances the pursuit of financial goals alongside social Impact. Here are some of the world leaders in the Impact Startup Revolution.
Trine is a startup company which connects potential investors (loaners) with Solar Partners. These Solar Partners provide people of their target market with solar products. As the Partner grows, they repay the loan provided by the investor along with interest. In this way, Solar Partners will get the required capital to start their enterprise and investors can safely invest in companies which will give them a return on their investment. This is the underlying reason for the financial success of Trine. However, the bigger impact that we can see is the spread accessibility for solar energy. This accessibility makes solar energy more widely available, and hence easier to implement. Therefore, Trine is helping people take another step forward in the journey to universal usage of clean energy.
Handiscover is a booking website which specifically assists people with special needs and disabilities. The website allows users to find accommodations (at their preferred destination) which support their specific needs. Everyone needs a vacation and Handiscover helps everyone get a comfortable and vacation. This focus on providing accessibility allows Handiscover to target a niche market. This is the root of their financial success. However, we must look at the bigger success and see the positive impact that this website is making for those who have special needs.
Kiron is a startup which provides education that is specifically targeted towards refugees. This education is provided through digital methods. Kiron puts its focus on the students because of their diversity and varying needs. There is a high demand, in terms of education, from refugees who are new to a country and need to develop skills to become competitive candidates for career opportunities and for driving change themselves in their new homes. This need for education among the refugee population is being met by Kiron. The access that refugees now have to education empower them and the societies in which they now call their home.
ArtLifting connects artists facing homelessness and disabilities with clients or individuals who are in need of art. Clients can range from individuals to companies, such as Staples and Google. The company thrives financially because of their ability to connect artists with incredible talent but minimal opportunity with entities which need art. The services provided by ArtLifting allow them to remain successful as a startup, but, the true success of the company is the opportunities that they provide to individuals who may not have been able to become artists for a living. This empowerment is the truly inspiring quality of ArtLifting.
Countable provides people with the opportunity to understand incredibly complicated pieces of legislation. Often times, the laws proposed by lawmakers contain unnecessary jargon that is difficult to understand. This difficulty leads to misunderstanding and it becomes harder for the voter to make decisions. Countable bridges the gap of understanding for individuals and empowers them to make fully-informed decisions about laws. This startup drives change in society by simply making information easier to understand. Simplicity is quite difficult to achieve in the world of legislation, yet Countable makes simplicity possible.
One Degree is an organization which helps low-income families find the resources and support to which they are entitled. These families are usually oblivious to the support available to them because of their lack of resources. However, One Degree bridges the gap between support and families which need support. When people are given the opportunity to rise out of their poverty, they are given a chance to make the world a better place for everyone.
Spoiler Alert is a startup which helps sellers maintain and manage unsold inventory. This startup arose from Techstars and MassChallenge. Companies often have difficulty in getting rid of food inventory that is nearing or past the period of time in which they can be sold. Spoiler Alert provides these companies with the chance to donate, sell with discounts, or redistribute their goods. Management of inventory is crucial in companies to bring new goods into the store. This is where Spoiler Alert provides companies with the exact service that they need, and hence, succeeds financially. The services provided by Spoiler Alert allow the companies reduce the amount of food that is wasted. As such, the food is maximized in terms of its usefulness and the company is able to mange (get rid of) this food in a positive manner.
Digital Green empowers farmers in rural communities around the world maximize their productivity by using technology and partnerships. Digital Green, through its services, helps farmers to rise out of poverty and reach financial stability. The services provided by Digital Green allow farmers to improve their techniques and this brings revenue for the company. However, the significance of the services provided by Digital Green cannot be fully seen through merely the revenue. The true impact is the empowerment of farmers who, through collective strength, are able to improve their condition of life. This empowerment is priceless and adds all the more value to the work that Digital Green is doing to bring positive change to communities around the world.
At Techstars Startup Weekend Silicon Valley 2019 Social Impact Edition, we’re exploring what it mean to be building a startup in Silicon Valley with the pursuit of social impact alongside its financial goals. Our goal is to create an environment where passionate people can come together to get things done; to learn, network, bridge the gap between trades, expose potential, and create ideas and opportunities that drive real-world social change.
Judge Criteria Info:
The Startup Weekend Silicon Valley Social Impact judging criteria is broken up into 4 sections. Teams are judged according to the following 4 criteria (weighted equally):
- Impact Strategy (is it meaningful?)
- In what way does it promote sustainability, equity, and/or social justice?
- How do you measure the short term outcome and long term impact?
- How do you balance social impact and financial goals?
- Does it honor the integrity and ethical responsibilities of its stakeholders?
- Does it challenge the current state of affairs in our society?
- Customer Validation (does the business have a good understanding of customers and their needs)
- Who will be your users, who will be your customers (are they different)?
- Did your team get out and talk to users and customers?
- How many users have you interviewed?
- Did you target the correct people to interview?
- What did you learn from your customer interviews (revenue)?
- What are the core needs of your users?
- Execution & Design
- What feedback have you gotten to inspire your Minimum Viable Product?
- Did you build a prototype (paper or powerpoint is ok)?
- How effective is your “Minimal Viable Product” for the weekend (be it software, hardware, etc.)?
- How functional is your technical demo?
- How easy is it for the user to navigate and use your product?
- Were you able to incorporate customer feedback into the solution?
- Business Model (is this business feasible)
- Is it a big/unique idea?
- What is your key value proposition?
- How do you plan on making this a successful business?
- Have you thought about competition, how to scale, acquiring customers, revenue model etc.?
- Have you identified a specific target market?
- How will you acquire your first 100 customers?