When cruising my usual tech news outlets, I came across what I thought was going to be an article packed full of innovations that help women, wherever they are, change their lives for the better, spurring real progress on the gender equality front. Alluringly titled 10 simple gadgets that empower women around the world, I clicked the link hoping for the best but unfortunately got a list straight out of the 1950s.
The items deemed top 10 “must haves” included an oven, a washing machine, water filters and breast milk warmers. To be sure, the issues these gadgets help address are completely worthwhile: creating safer cooking methods, decreasing the number of hours spent washing clothes by hand, helping to provide clean water and properly warmed nutrition for infants, respectively. However, these tech tools only empower women superficially – the chores they are expected to do on a nearly daily basis remain their responsibility.
This top 10 list is a string of band-aid solutions that will help women have more time to do more gender roles-based work, adding only a marginal life improvement. Furthermore, this “improvement” may still be out of the reach of the women intended to benefit due to the relative high costs of the tech offerings, even if they are thousands of dollars cheaper than what can be had for an equivalent gadget in the West. Real empowerment would be the creation of gadgets that not only help women “lighten their load” but also challenge the structures that force women to carry that load to begin with.
To that end, I think that we should all help the author of the article, Lyndsey Gilpin, by tweeting her with suggestions of tech that helps empowers women on a level deeper than innovative chore execution. One of the gadgets that would make my top 10 list is the mobile phone camera.
The heART of A Woman Project is a creative and meaningful tech-based approach to women’s empowerment that goes beyond solidifying women’s traditional forms of participation in society. Their mission is to “…provide education to women impacted by poverty, in photography, mobile technology, social media and computer skills. It aims to empower women to have a voice, creative outlet and sustainable income through the sales of photographic art products.”
What I love about this particular appropriation of a tech gadget is that because the price of mobile phones with good quality cameras continues to fall below $100, the use of mobile phones for photography can be accessible for more women, even those at the base of the pyramid.
Also, teaching women how to take photos,
promote and sell their artwork can provide real opportunities to empower women to become financially independent in addition to helping to build their self-confidence and self-esteem.
What other truly empowering tech gadgets for women can you think of? Leave a comment with your suggestions!