International Women's Day - how can digital solutions be used to tackle gender inequalities?

By Catarina Nyberg | 09/03/2017


Inclusion and accessibility are subjects we care a lot about at Sigma, as we encourage our clients to use technology to reach and support a broad audience, with ranging skills, confidence levels, experience and access needs. Last week, International Women's Day threw up another opportunity for us to connect with the wider community and raise awareness of how technology can be used to tackle social issues affecting women and men. Some reasons why this matters:

  • There are many more men than women in power. In the British Parliament:
    • 81.3% are Men
    • 22.7% are Women
  • Many more men than women are bosses of big companies:
    • 93% Men
    • 7% Women
  • Women earn 10% less than men for the exact same job
  • 1 in 3 women have experienced physical/sexual violence at some point in their lives

Source: The Independent, 7th March 2015 and The UN

We worked in collaboration with the Cheshire East SHIFT programme, a new initiative for digital arts and creative technology, and invited 17 Art & Design Macclesfield college students to participate in a design hack workshop at our local office. The theme of this year's International Women's Day was #BeBoldForChange and so, we asked the students to consider how technology and digital solutions can play a part in resolving some specific social issues.


The day started with an introduction to what a design hack is and a presentation of the challenges, as well as guidance on how to work through the tasks. The term hack refers to a kind of workshop where you quickly dig around for information and ideas to come up with a solution.

The students were split into four teams and each team was given a challenge to work on. The four challenges ranged from gender stereotyping in toy marketing, gender stereotypes associated with particular careers, low recognition of female athletes and sexual harassment and violence against women.

To start with, the students did a few exercises to explore and define a problem within their given challenge. This was followed by a session on ideation to come up with as many ideas as possible to address the chosen problem. Over lunch and with the help of 100 slices of pizza (!), the students went through the process of choosing one idea to work with.

Students working on a solution

In the afternoon, the students worked on creating and sketching their digital solutions, with the support of their teacher, Johnny Mellor, and our own Sigma team.

At the end of the day, the teams presented their solutions, and there were four prizes awarded for:

Best creative idea
This team came up with a design of an app aiming to protect women from abuse with many clever features, including smart ways of reporting danger and collecting evidence.

Most implementable idea
This team came up with a design for an online careers test, covering a range of support services aimed at attracting women and men into careers irrespective of gender stereotypes.

Best presentation
This team came up with a design for an app that used augmented reality and community relations to encourage more women into sports and raise the recognition of female athletes.

Best teamwork
This team came up with a design for a gender neutral online game that would address gender stereotypes in the toy industry.

Student prize giving

It was a genuine pleasure working with the students, hearing their thoughts and ideas, and then seeing how they used them to solve their respective design challenges. The teams pulled together straight away and kept the energy up throughout the day. The groups tackled the issues of gender inequalities with creativity and originality. We were really impressed with the ideas they came up with!