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March 8, 2017

International Women’s Day: Inspiring Women in Innovation

Women around the world have been marking March 8th as International Women’s Day for more than 100 years. International Women’s Day was first observed in 1908 in New York as a march demanding shorter hours, better pay, and the right to vote, and was adopted as a United Nations’ official day of observance in 1975 after decades of unofficial observation.

While the United Nations offers a theme each year – for 2017 that theme is #BeBoldForChange – it’s up to the women in each country to decided what that means for them. Some countries take on pressing issues – Jamaican women are focusing on gender-based violence in light of an increased number of attacks against women and Pakistani women used the 2016 holiday to protest against honor killings – while others treat it as a holiday honoring women – museums are free for women in Italy and men give women flowers in Romania.

Led by the organizers of the Women’s March on Washington, American women are calling it “A Day without Women.” Women who can afford to are taking the day off from paid and unpaid work, while those who cannot are showing support by wearing red and avoiding spending money – with exceptions for small, women- and minority-owned businesses.

In honor of the movement’s effort to highlight the role that women play in the domestic and global economy, a few of the Vrge women wanted to the take this opportunity to highlight women we’ve come across throughout our careers in tech, policy and innovation who inspire us.

For Amy, Erin Griffith is one of those women. “She is best technology reporters out there. Her ability to distill a technology culture issue to its essence and frame it in ways that pulls it out of the Silicon Valley echo chamber and into the larger zeitgeist is unparalleled. In particular, her December feature on startup scandals and just how far some companies may go to bend the regulatory rules was not only well-reported, but conveyed in a language and tone that rang true to both the SF startup folks and the DC wonks I know. It’s not surprising that she spent time working for Sarah Lacy at Pando, a start-up truthsayer and rabble-rouser in her own right. Erin now helms Fortune’s lauded Termsheet, the must-read investment daily.”

For Maria, Inbar Lasser-Raab struck a chord. “As the Vice President of Infrastructure and Digital Solutions Marketing at Cisco, Inbar is not only an Executive Sponsor for one of the largest IoT Conferences in the world, but she is a strong advocate for women in STEM careers. She supports Cisco’s Girls for IoT Innovation program which gives women the opportunity to compete in an IoT solutions challenge. I think the tech world needs more leaders like Inbar who are passionate about shaping the workforce of the future.”

And for me, this was an opportunity to revisit Jane Chen, a woman with a lofty goal of helping the 20 million premature and low birth-weight babies born every year around the world with the Embrace Warmer. After visiting health facilities in Nepal, interviewing doctors, nurses and mothers, and testing dozens of designs, she co-developed the portable, easy to use, battery powered infant warmer as part of a class at Stanford University. Her group then piloted the warmed in rural India and released the first warmer in 2011. They have since saved more than 200,000 babies worldwide and even received funding from Beyoncé.

However you may be observing International Women’s Day, we hope you can find inspiration in the women around you.

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