A New Angle: The Wei hopes to elevate mid-career creative womxn, en masse
The new platform from SheSays brings together reading material, courses, events and coaching via a digital platform, aiming to help womxn creatives during the mid-career opportunity gap – which has worsened during the pandemic.
- Jenny Brewer
- 16 February 2021
- Reading Time
- 5 minute read
A New Angle is an editorial series that aims to give a platform to creative industry changemakers who make it their mission to disrupt the status quo. Each week we’ll chat to a person or team doing important work in the sector, making it a fairer place, championing vital causes, supporting underrepresented groups and tackling pertinent issues facing creatives everywhere.
This week we hand the mic to Alessandra Lariu, co-founder of SheSays and co-creator of The Wei: a new digital service to help progress mid-career womxn creatives, who stand on the precipice of an opportunity gap. Standing for Womxn with Epic Ideas, the platform was borne from research into the widespread negative impacts of the pandemic on womxn creative practitioners. It aims to tackle the problem at scale with a tech solution, a digital app featuring reading material, courses, events and coaching support, which uses algorithms and machine learning to tailor the experience to individuals’ needs.
It’s Nice That: What is your mission, and what about the creative industry are you hoping to change?
Alessandra Lariu: For 14 years SheSays’ mission has always been getting more womxn and non-binary people into leadership positions. SheSays’ new venture The WEI’s mission is to use technology to do that at scale. The WEI stands for Womxn (with) Epic Ideas and it will help exponentially grow our impact from helping 50 womxn every month to helping 500. We believe that advancing womxn’s careers is the secret sauce for positive economic impact everywhere. When womxn rise, all boats rise.
INT: Tell us a bit about your background, or the background to the organisation, and what led you to this point.
AL: The WEI was created by SheSays. SheSays is an award-winning organisation for womxn in the creative industries. It was founded in 2007 in London and runs tailored engagements for corporate clients as well as free events and mentorship for 70,000 womxn in 55 cities worldwide. SheSays is a pioneer in the womxn’s space, including the first all-womxn hackathon, the first speed mentoring event, the first womxn’s speakers list as well as industry representation in No10 and the White House. SheSays’ activism creates tools and campaigns to empower creatives, such as the IRL mentorship scheme Who’s Your Momma, a career advice tool with advice tailored to individual needs called BOOM, and a campaign for equal parental leave.
INT: What are the major challenges you’re facing, and why?
AL: The WEI is solving for the opportunity gap that exists mid-career. According to the World Economic Forum, only 27 per cent of seats at board level are held by womxn. The current pandemic has made the situation worse, with womxn losing their jobs almost twice as much as men. A study by Exeter University showed that Covid could set the pay gap back 200 years.
We want to revert this scenario. And the more womxn The WEI helps rise to the top, the more likely we are to solve for inequalities including the pay gap and the motherhood penalty. We’ll also bring a more diverse perspective on inclusion. We believe that if we guide womxn creatives to unlock their leadership potential, we’ll create a fairer workplace. It’s called equitable learning. And talking about equity, The WEI is optimised for – but not exclusive to – womxn.
INT: How are you tackling these challenges?
AL: The WEI is a tech solution in the Learning & Development (L&D) space to solve gender inequality in leadership at scale. Our market-first career progression platform with a gender lens uses a combination of machine learning and human emotional intelligence to:
- create low-cost career progression with advocates on demand;
- aggregate content, events and courses in one place (information is scattered with in-market solutions);
- establish a personalised career eco-system for individuals.
We have tried mentorship, events, talks, workshops, hackathons, campaigns and tools, and while these are great, we need to go bigger to achieve measurable social impact and move the needle when it comes to gender equity and racial justice in the creative industries.
INT: How can the creative industry help your mission?
AL: Broadly speaking, start with self-analysis. It’s a hard but important thing to do. Admit your racism/sexism, move forward and educate yourself. Give shout-outs to womxn you admire on LinkedIn and social media. Support their businesses, especially Black-owned businesses. Call out social injustice at work, do it through us anonymously if you’re concerned about losing your job.
Specifically, about SheSays and The WEI, get a mentor with us. Or find an advocate with The WEI – we like the idea of advocates as they sit between mentors and coaches providing accountability. Register with us to receive newsletter and event invites. Follow us on social media. Sign up for The WEI. We have just successfully completed our crowdfunding on Kickstarter, against all odds, and are really excited about our next innovation. We have started working on our Minimum Viable Product (MVP) and will launch in the summer. Register your interest by sending an email as an individual, or as a company, agency or studio. Help us help the Creative Industry be the first sector to close the gender opportunity gap.