Baking Gender Transformation into the Industries That Will Define Our Future - SecondMuse

Before you go,

let's stay connected, don't miss our updates and subscribe to our monthly newsletter:

    Our programming prioritizes the representation of women (and all historically marginalized groups) and designs economies intentionally to right the wrongs of a staggeringly unequal past.

    One of the common threads that tether our diverse programs at SecondMuse and the SecondMuse Foundation together is our focus on gender equality. From Headstream to GET Cities to For ClimateTech, our programming prioritizes the representation of women (and all historically marginalized groups) and designs economies intentionally to right the wrongs of a staggeringly unequal past.

    One of the strongest examples of our gender-focused work in a program that is not explicitly related to gender comes from The Incubation Network, which has the primary mission of supporting and scaling solutions that prevent the flow of plastic waste into the world’s oceans. The Incubation Network, like all SecondMuse programs, also seeks to shift power dynamics and create more just and inclusive economies.

    To ensure that women aren’t being left behind, The Incubation Network team uses a custom gender framework to plan all of its programs and to assess and improve the gender integration of the projects that it supports. Sarah van Boekhout, Program Manager for The Incubation Network’s Inclusive Markets, explains that the intent is to ensure that all programming is at least aware of and acknowledges gender inequality. “But the ultimate goal is to ensure our programming is gender-responsive — and even more ideally, gender-transformative, meaning that we are challenging harmful gender norms and actively promoting equality.”

    With awareness as the foundational goal, The Incubation Network team has participated in trainings designed to help them understand the way gender influences power dynamics in its five target countries — Indonesia, India, Thailand, Vietnam, and the Philippines — and how to identify opportunities for change.

    In its work to stop the flow of plastic pollution into the environment, gender inequality becomes evident at every socioeconomic level in every country and sector The Incubation Network engages with. For example, the program works closely with informal waste pickers who fill a critical gap in the region’s formal recycling economy. In many countries, these laborers are overwhelmingly women who face unique risks and vulnerabilities.

    “Informal waste workers already tend to have more volatile daily incomes, lack social protections, face social stigmas, and deal with significant risks to their health and safety, particularly during the Covid-19 pandemic. On top of that, women are at greater risk of gender-based discrimination, harassment, and violence,” van Boekhout says.

    “So a strong theme in our work is looking at how plastic waste management and recycling systems in South and Southeast Asia can integrate elements of the formal economy that might provide for safer, more stable, more dignified work, while at the same time improving plastic material recovery.”

    To that end, The Incubation Network’s Leakage and Livelihoods program supports seven projects across South and Southeast Asia that aim to improve the livelihoods of informal workers in the waste sector, the majority of whom are women.

    Their latest program, Equality in Plastics Circularity, comprises a separate cohort of projects targeting gender inequalities across the plastic waste value chain, particularly towards women waste workers. Five of these projects are entrepreneurial solutions, complemented by three research and policy advocacy projects. 

    Gender Equality in Tech (GET) Cities

    Gender equality is the core purpose of our Gender Equality in Tech (GET) Cities program, an initiative designed in partnership with SecondMuse Foundation, Break Through Tech and Pivotal Ventures to create pathways that will accelerate the leadership and representation of women, trans, and nonbinary people, particularly Black, Latino/a, Indigenous, and people of color in technology through the development of inclusive tech hubs across the United States.

    Women held 26% of roles within tech and computing jobs in the U.S. in 2020, and Black women are just 3% of the tech workforce, according to The National Center for Women & Information Technology. Yet we know that a thriving tech economy will only exist when all the talent in our workforce is engaged and has the opportunity to advance. 

    GET Cities is active in Chicago and the DC Metro Region and recently launched in Miami. The initiative brings together key stakeholders from all areas of the tech ecosystem to align on shared goals and increase the number of women graduating college with computing degrees, the hiring and advancement of women in tech roles, and the amount of funding women founders can deploy and access to spark women-led tech businesses. 

    “We don’t claim to have all of the answers, and we are not saying that we can make everything gender-responsive and gender-transformative,” says van Boekhout further.

    “But we do have the motivation, the resources, and the mandate to bring people together and start conversations around these complex systemic issues. We are not going to solve them overnight, but what we are going to do is find the people who have the really exciting ideas, elevate the ideas, wrap research agendas around them, and see what works and what has potential for impact and scale.”