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We’re halfway through Women’s History Month, and as a female-founded company, we wanted to dedicate this issue to buried stories about women’s progression, innovation, and recognition. We're starting in the United Arab Emirates, where women make up only 3.5% of all board positions currently. The UAE is changing that by making it compulsory for listed companies to have at least one woman on their board. But the UAE isn’t the only one working towards a more equitable future. Let’s dig into the rest of our special edition women’s issue.


The EU wants wage transparency from companies
Thu Mar 4

At this point, the gender gap isn’t a surprise. But how do we actually work to bridge the gap? The European Commission believes the path forward requires pay transparency, which means employees would have the right to request how their earnings compare to others.

Across the 27-nation bloc, women currently get paid 14.1% less an hour than men. The researchers say the drafted proposal seeks to arm women with the information needed to negotiate higher wages. The legislation specifically:
  • Requires companies with over 250 employees to provide detailed pay information (salaries, bonuses, pensions, etc.) on how much men are paid versus women
  • Protects job applicants from having to disclose previous pay history during interviews, reasoning that taking such information into account often reproduces inequality
  • Allows national authorities to penalize companies — including fines — for firms that either don’t comply or are found to have unequal pay
  • And puts the onus on the employer to prove that there are no discriminatory policies in place (as opposed to employees fighting to prove if they are being discriminated against)
While not without critics, the proposal follows a trend of pay-related legislation and policy in 13 European countries. For example in the U.K., companies with over 250 employees have been required to disclose gender wage gap information since 2018. And in Germany, workers are allowed to request information on how their salaries compare to that of their colleagues in similar roles. The EU-wide proposal is still subject to amendments before seeking approval by the European Parliament and EU Council.

Some additional resources... 
→ For local coverage on the details of the proposal, refer to the EU Observer

→ For a closer look at the gender pay gap in the U.K., turn to the Wall Street Journal.
→ We also sourced information from reporting at Bloomberg


Polish teen helps domestic violence victims through a fake cosmetics shop 
Mon Mar 1

Poland is no stranger to criticism when it comes to women's issues. Just last year, the country began plans to leave a European treaty that works to prevent and combat domestic violence against women. Poland claimed it threatened the country’s traditional family model, a remark quickly met with outcry, especially given the timing: in the middle of a pandemic where calls to domestic violence helplines increased five-fold globally.

One young woman took matters into her own hands and has helped 350 people so far through a fake online shop where victims trapped in their homes can secretly request help without their abuser realizing. Here’s how it works:
  • Created by 17-year-old Krystyna Paszko, the Facebook shop makes it look like the victim is simply shopping online.
  • Instead, the page connects victims with a psychologist once they ask to buy a cream, prompting a conversation around how long they've been having “skin problems.”
  • If an order is placed with an address, this information is taken as code for authorities to come visit the home.
Paszko credits the use of Facebook as a part of the site’s success, saying it’s a more approachable medium for a younger demographic. In fact, not only are most of the victims using the service under 40-years-old, but most of the men (about 10%) have been teenagers. The idea itself was inspired by a French initiative where people can go to the pharmacy with a special mask that lets the pharmacist know they are a victim of domestic violence.

Some additional resources... 

→ For more on Paszko’s shop, turn to BBC.
→ For more on Poland’s stance on staying with the domestic violence treaty or not, refer to the Associated Press
→ To learn more about violence against women during COVID-19, referred to as the Shadow Pandemic, turn to UN Women.
→ Poland was also under fire last year for imposing a near total ban on abortions. Learn more about it in this previous edition of Below the Fold.
→ In fact, their own version of the European treaty might ban gay marriage and abortions all together. 


Understanding the strides and challenges women face with NFTs
Thu Mar 11

It seems everyone is talking about NFTs (non-fungible tokens) these days. NFTs are one-of-a-kind digital assets that can be bought and sold but have no tangible form, sort of like a virtual certificate. NFTs are now fueling a unique new revenue stream for artists where people are paying hundreds of thousands of dollars to “own” a piece of digital art through a token.

Some are claiming one of the benefits of NFTs is its inclusiveness given there are zero barriers to entry. Despite not being the main examples in most articles reporting on NFTs, a number of women are worth recognizing in the space.
  • Lady Pheonix is the founder and host of CryptoBasel, the blockchain edition of Art Basel, an international art fair staged annually in three countries. She also is one of the organizers behind Crypto Fashion Week.
  • Marguerite deCourcelle took a different, interactive approach, providing paintings with clues to hidden bitcoin prizes as early as 2015. One person unlocked five such bitcoins in 2018, at the time worth about $50,000.
  • Rachel Siegel, one of the original crypto influencers, has been an active advocate for creating equal access to the blockchain globally. Last year, she even was able to make money off selling her selfies.
Though these women have not always been welcomed for their approach. Both deCourcelle and Siegel were criticized last year for using photos of themselves to market their campaigns. Opponents (and trolls) are accusing these women of harming the industry by being both models and developers. Meanwhile, other women have seen their photographs put up for auction by men without consent, such as web developer and painter Ashtoshi who found someone took a bikini selfie she posted on her Twitter and sold it for profit on the blockchain. Currently there are limited legal options to prove who actually owns these digital assets.

Some additional resources...

 For an explainer on what NFTs are and how they work, turn to the BBC.
 For more on how women are thriving in the space, turn to KultureHub or Bloomberg.
 For more on the struggles women are facing, turn to Coindesk
 To learn about the legal nature of NFTs and current limitations, turn to The Capital.
 P.S. Reddit’s co-founder thinks NFTs could create a trading card boom for women’s sports.  


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