For those not familiar with our organization, WikiRate is a non-profit based in Berlin, Germany, with the mission of bringing together public information about the social and environmental performance of companies in one place.
WikiRate is not only an open data platform; it is also a research tool that engages thousands of researchers, students and volunteers every year at a global level. As a wiki, we care about creating and nurturing a community beyond the digital space and organizing networking and social events to foster the local community in Berlin.
Our team joined Open Heroines, an international online community of over 600 women who work in the fields of open government, open data, and civic tech, in 2019.
We successfully applied for the Open Heroines Community Events Fund with the idea to run our first local event and highlight initiatives in which outstanding women are using data and technology to foster transparency and sustainability in the private and public sectors. We recognised the need for women working in this space to be able to share their projects, experience and ideas, and to connect and grow their networks.
So, we put the word out in Berlin, tapping into our local network mailing list, creating an Eventbrite event and spreading the word on Twitter. We also reached out to groups like WomenTech Network, a community that promotes diversity in tech, connecting talented and skilled professionals with top companies and disruptive startups that value diversity.
More than 25 people attended the event, most of them women. Attendees came from the private, public, and non-profit sectors, with backgrounds including open data practitioners, independent consultants, human rights experts, software engineers, open government advocates and digital educators. The diversity made for an evening with thought-provoking conversations.
We invited three inspiring women to take part in a panel discussion and share their experiences, moderated by Lucia Ixtacuy from the WikiRate team:
- Lubomila Jordanova discussed her work with Plan A, a group that is working to empower companies to address the issues of climate change by building tools that help them reduce their footprint. The tools are developed based on an algorithm, which analyses thousands of data points to predict and prioritize the most critical environmental issues and the ways in which industries and companies impact these environmental changes. Lubomila is the CEO & Founder of Plan A.
- Edith Woischin shared her experience envisioning and designing tools to help governments to improve the realisation and transparency of human rights work and the UN Sustainable Development Goals. She reflected on the importance of listening to the individual needs of a client and incorporating them in the final product. Edith is co-founder of Dumpark and a founding Trustee of the Impact Open Source Software Trust.
- Sydney Strelau spoke about her experience in the climate change and human right fields, as well as her team’s efforts to develop an innovative social impact measurement methodology. Sydney is a sustainability professional and researcher at Löning — Human Rights and Responsible Business.
Berlin’s supportive work environment. Highlighting the importance of the workplace culture, the speakers emphasised how their personal work experiences benefited from safe and motivating spaces and supportive work teams. This needs to be the norm in the sector, as we do acknowledge there is a “Berlin bubble” that we operate in, which also exists in Europe in general, as compared to other parts of the world.
Gender and the legitimization of sustainability. The feeling of being undervalued while at a conference because of your gender and age is not uncommon. For one speaker, this is in spite of her being featured in several panels and delivering a keynote. It led to an open discussion on whether the topics of sustainability and climate change have long been underestimated, precisely because many sustainability initiatives and organizations are run by women. Is the same message being received differently depending on the gender of the speaker/interlocutor? The sense is that in some cases the legitimization of sustainability is increasing with more men becoming involved in this space in recent years. The conversation needs to continue on the green-feminine stereotype and the fact that women remain underrepresented in environment, energy, planning and science ministries.
Intrigued by the discussion, we did a bit of research after the event and found that , the International Union for Conservation of Nature put out an Environment and Gender Index in 2015, on the participation of women in the three Rio conventions. It showed that there was “a much higher percentage of women NGO Representatives, with an average of 47%, than Government Delegates, with an average of 33%”.
Podcasts to reflect. Some great podcast recommendations came up on feminist solutions in climate change, which are worth checking out:
Mother of Invention Podcast: Hosted by Mary Robinson, former president of Ireland and UN high commissioner, it highlights the work ofaa women around the world who are leading the fight against climate damage. It also showcases the work of grassroots climate activists at the local level, as well as global initiatives to push governments to adhere to the Paris Agreement goals.
Women at the Forefront of Climate Action: An episode of The Beam Podcast on how climate change exacerbates inequalities, especially existing gender inequalities, often resulting in negative impacts for women.
Join the network
We are delighted by the levels of engagement and interest in the event and we look forward to continuing this conversation and fostering the Berlin Open Heroines network through future meetups. If you want to connect or suggest a topic for another event, get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you to everyone who joined us and for sharing your insights and reflections, to Open Heroines for sponsoring the event and to the WomenTech Network for promoting the event & Cafe Nest for providing the space and the delicious snacks and drinks!