Producer/director Ondi Timoner has the rare distinction of winning the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival twice. Her 2004 doc, Dig!, explores the star-crossed rivalry of the Dandy Warhols and the Brian Jonestown Massacre, while her 2009 top prize-winner, We Live in Public, examines privacy in the virtual age through Internet visionary Josh Harris’ social experiments. Her company A Total Disruption releases weekly short docs about thought leaders and doers who are transforming our lives through technology.
Joining the conversation about women in tech is Puneet Kaur Ahira, Special Advisor to Megan J. Smith (the US Chief Technology Officer and Assistant to former President Obama). One of her many roles at the White House included expanding technology platforms to make them more accessible and broaden involvement. This goal expanded the startup Shift 7, which she recently co-founded with Megan Smith. In this panel, Ahira discusses the business model of Shift 7: to bring together diverse talent in tech and highlight social innovation happening around the world. The company’s larger goal is to broaden (both geographically and demographically) the participation and accessibility of technology with youth specifically in mind.
Modest-fashion industry expert Melanie Elturk introduces her own use of technology by making the hijab more accessible to Muslim American women. Her company, Haute Hijab, is one of the largest U.S. brands for modest fashion. The catalyst for the creation of her company came from her experience growing up as a Muslim American woman and not having accessibility to a variety of hijab style options. Elturk’s intention extends beyond giving stylistic options to women. At the root, she started her clothing company to empower hijab-wearing women worldwide, showcasing them as successful and confident.
Another startup founder, Bea Arthur, uses her background as a licensed therapist specializing in women’s issues to expand mental-health counseling accessibility through telemedicine. Her company, In Your Corner, offers counseling services through video by connecting users to trained therapists and certified coaches online. Arthur uses technology as a tool to make virtual therapy available anytime and anywhere. The company has also begun to offer on-demand therapy as an Alexa skill, thus becoming the first mental-health product offered on Alexa.
Nancy Schwartzman is a documentary film director, producer and media strategist who uses storytelling and technology to create safer communities for women and girls. She is a globally recognized human rights activist whose work focuses on the prevention of violence. Nancy created the award-winning mobile app Circle of 6, a fast, easy-to-use app created to reduce sexual violence. Schwartzman mentions that her inspiration stemmed from her question on how our generation can harness technology to encourage bystander intervention and empower what already exists in our culture: a micro community of friends.
Schwartzman also premiered her documentary Roll Red Roll at the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival. The film takes a deeper look into a notorious high school sexual assault and the social media-fueled “boys will be boys” culture that let it happen.
Photo Credit: Jolene Siana
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