One night back in January, I got this email from our VP of Marketing Lauren Vaccarello:
I want to do something to preemptively raise money to cover contraception for the women who may lose access to free birth control. How do we do it? Should we reach out to Planned Parenthood about this?
I could feel the urgency and conviction in the email. I forwarded it directly to leadership at several women's health organizations. Cecile Richards, President of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, and her team replied immediately.
We knew we needed to rally the tech community to protect and support their work and the work of their peers. With help from our impact and influence partner Handshake, Box.org organized with partners from Planned Parenthood, Glamour Magazine, Blackbaud, Twilio.org, Project Callisto and more to launch Innovators for Women's Health, with a panel and day of action at the Box Austin office during SXSW. We aligned around three goals:
- INFORM: Increase awareness in the tech community about the challenges women's healthcare faces.
- CONNECT: 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.
Cecile Richards kicked off the Friday afternoon panel by highlighting extremely positive momentum in the field of women's healthcare: "A lot of folks worked hard over the past 8 years to get women access to family planning, preventative care, cancer screenings and we have gone lightyears. The Affordable Care Act was the first chance to lower the playing field for women, with no more gender rating in insurance plans so women don't have to pay more for healthcare."
As Richards noted, we're now facing a huge challenge to women's healthcare access and rights, and the technology industry can make a huge impact. "This is a very exciting time to be with the tech community because disruption in this field is what we need," Richards said. "We need folks to stand up for women and women's rights more than ever before." Planned Parenthood as already made strides in breaking down barriers for patients using technology. They recently launched mobile appointment book, see six million patients every month online, and run a text chat program with patients.
Jess Ladd, TED Fellow and Founder of Project Callisto, shared how her organization is using technology to help women on college campuses nationwide, where 1 in 5 women are sexually assaulted by the time of graduation. Project Callisto is an online system to learn about reporting options, including a platform to report electronically. "Our platform is built around what survivors want and what reporting systems they wish had existed for them." Reporting rate has quadrupled on Callisto's pilot campuses.
Ladd also offered advice on how others in the tech community can get involved. "Don't build a food delivery app. Innovate in women's health. Innovate in the space of rights. We need more folks contributing ideas grounded in the reality of people effected by these issues."
Moj Mahdara, CEO of BeautyCon, spoke to the role of publishers and content in women's rights. She highlighted that technology and content are now married, and engagement with content is higher than ever. "Consumers are now in control of content, and publishers are willing to get active." Cindi Leive, Editor in Chief of Glamour Magazine, elaborated on what this fight means for publishing. She said that Glamour receives some backlash when they publish content on pro-choice issues, but "we feel okay about potentially pissing people off if we're doing it in a respectful way - what we're doing is really standing up for what's accurate and true."
The incredible success of the events in Austin during SXSW showed Box.org that there's power in convening leaders from sectors that fill gaps for one another. Cecile offers programs that enable girls and women, Box and Project Callisto offer technology enablement, Moj and Cindi offer media support and amplification... Partners from all three contribution areas form a resilient community that makes all members stronger. In this case, more strength means more well-being for girls and women.
Box.org is excited to build on our strong start facilitating the scale of well-being for girls and women, especially those facing discrimination or injustice. Our focus will expand beyond health to also encompass well-being for females during childhood, during the career journey and on life's hardest days.
There is a lot more in the works that we will be announcing soon. Stay tuned for future events and don't forget to check out how you can get involved!