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Allied Arts & Media Curated

Field Trip App Puts Historical Women on the Map

‘Women on the Map’ is a project of the SPARK movement created from the concern of the invisibility of historical women figures all over the world.

After noticing that from 2010 – 2013 only 17% of Google Doodles around the world honoured women, the not-for-profit company approached Google to fix the problem. Google agreed and the two groups have worked together through the Field Trip App to feature more historical women figures.

Now, when users log into Field App and enable history notifications, their phone will buzz when they are approaching a location where a woman made history and can read about her and her achievements.

What is interesting about SPARK is that they are run by an international team of girls ages 13 to 22. Self described a “girl-fueled, intergenerational activist organization working online to ignite an anti-racist gender justice movement,” SPARK did all the research and work on the 100 women who are currently featured on the app.

Some of the historical figures featured are:

The Arpilleristas in Santiago Chile: A group of women who wove colorful tapestries documenting the turmoil and violence of Pinochet’s regime.

Mary Ellen Pleasant in San Francisco, CA: An activist and abolitionist who, among other things, would dress like a jockey to help slaves escape their plantations.

Mary Anning in Lyme, England: A renowned fossilist who discovered fossils of a Plesiosaurus, rocking the scientific community to its core.

The list is still small but this is only the beginning. SPARK is asking for people to nominate more women and contribute to the database. So if you have notable feminist entrepreneurs from history that you want to see put on the map, check out their website for more information about getting involved and supporting their cause.

Activism & Action Our Voices

Diversity Rules


High-tech companies in Silicon Valley know diversity spurs innovation and creativity. They’re making serious efforts to get more diversity—especially women—into “the pipeline.” Yet, the retention and promotion rate of women remains appalling, says Rajkumari Neogy, founder of iRestart, a start-up diversity coaching company based in San Francisco.

Neogy herself enjoyed a meteoric rise in the tech industry. She started as a training specialist with a start-up and rose to a leadership and development lead with Adobe and Facebook before confronting her own painful experience of workplace exclusion. She witnessed sexism (“All the typical shit you read about does happen”) and she felt “othered” during her role as a consultant. “I was making six figures and helping the company grow,” says Neogy. “Due to being labeled as a contractor, I was denied access to company events, information, and resources.” That othering was rampant, she says, and many consultants were quitting. “After a while it begins to wear on you. You realize you only belong in this conditional way and that began to hurt more and more,” says Neogy.

But why did it hurt so much? Neogy took some time out from her career, spent two months on a beach in Asia thinking about it, and began researching and writing about pain and exclusion. She realized her workplace pain had been compounded by the “intense” childhood abuse she suffered in her family, her own internalized homophobia, and the trauma of being gay-bashed as a young adult. After excavating the sources and connections of her pain, she started applying the leadership training and communication strategies she had developed over her career and put herself back together.

She returned home to write her book, The WIT Factor: Shifting the Workplace Paradigm by Becoming Your Optimal Self. She also developed a new strategy to increase and retain diversity in the workplace—and created a new company to deliver it. And so iRestart was born.

To start her company, Neogy lived on her savings for a year while drumming up business and taking the free online lecture series “How to Start a Startup” offered at Stanford University. She learned best when she sought advice one-on-one from experts. With her financial advisor, she set up an S corporation so she could build stocks and dividends and, ultimately, equity.

Through iRestart, Neogy delivers her unique Disruptive Diversity coaching program, either to teams or individuals over a six-week period of engagement. She describes the leadership and mentoring sessions as a “rupture and repair” strategy that pinpoints root causes of exclusion and communication pain points (rupture) then creates profound inclusion by utilizing a range of tools (repair). The program builds a radical sense of self-worth in individuals, develops empathetic communication strategies, and increases emotional intelligence. The end goal is to create a “whole-person culture” that values diversity, which builds team effectiveness and performance.

During initial consultations, she admits she gets resistance, particularly from men. “They think, ‘What is this bullshit? Is this therapy?’ But men have just as much wounding as women. Men have been raised to be excluded. ‘Don’t feel feelings, don’t cry, don’t show up, don’t be effeminate.’ They are taught unconsciously to exclude most of themselves. So men feel unsafe with feelings and they are often posturing, aggressive,” says Neogy. “Workplaces haven’t allowed individuals to be truly authentic, to express personal feelings. That’s why we have so much workplace violence. I’ve watched men burst into tears [in training sessions] and flourish into authenticity. To enable authenticity, we need a level of connection, of vulnerability.”

Neogy admits women initially criticize her approach as “blaming the victim,” since she emphasizes changing the self as well as the culture. “It’s important to realize that humans have trauma and you go [to work] with your baggage,” she says. “Someone criticizes you [at work] and says, ‘You didn’t do this right.’ I could take this personally. Maybe I had a parent who told me how stupid I was. Here I am, 44, and I immediately turn five years old and feel shame.”

How does that play out in the workplace? Consider a typical meeting in a high-tech company, Neogy says. A woman joins a team comprised mostly of men. She may be the only woman. “The guys” are already bonded. They want to connect with their new team member. They’re trying to figure it out, but don’t quite know how. They want to appear confident, so they make themselves bigger, louder, more aggressive. They’re fearful that being too nice might come across as flirting. They feel vulnerable, too, unsure what to talk about other than work. If they’re engineers, they zero in on problems and without realizing it, their brains are associating this new person, this alien other, with “issues” like conflict and work problems.

The female team member begins to feel criticized every time she’s approached. Given that our identities are so closely associated with work, women begin to take the criticism personally, and may connect it with past trauma. That’s when the pain begins to layer and her sense of self-worth diminishes.

“The system is completely focused on excluding her without knowing it’s doing that,” says Neogy. “The workplace for women becomes an environment of microaggression. The woman is made to feel like shit. So either a company owns that out loud and doesn’t hire women or you attempt to redesign your system in a way that invites difference and values and enmeshes it.”

Going through disruptive diversity training, says Neogy, helps men admit their feelings and helps women separate the personal from the workplace. “You can’t ignore [trauma] so if it comes out through my coaching, you have not resolved it,” she says.

One female executive came to Neogy for coaching after being promised a vice president position for 13 months. After a frustrating wait, she started distrusting her boss and considered leaving the company. Within three sessions, she got the promotion. Another woman wanted a three-year plan to head up her engineering division; she was promoted within four weeks. Neogy says coaching helped both women build a solid foundation of self-worth, which enabled them to rise above the “blame” and not take problems personally. They learned how to talk to people they felt challenged by, while gaining greater respect from their team.

“When my client has a greater sense of self-worth, they get the promotion, they get the money,” says Neogy. “It happens over and over. Disruptive diversity is about raising the global economic status by raising the global self-worth status.”

In this work, Neogy says her own “otherness” as a biracial, bilingual specialist, and especially as a gender-fluid queer, in tech and communications has been a huge advantage, enabling her to act as a bridge between cultures, businesses, languages, and genders. She presents as butch and says wearing men’s clothing in the queer-positive tech and entrepreneurial world of San Francisco hardly turns heads. Rather, men feel comfortable being vulnerable around her. “I think they perceive me as a woman but not a woman,” she laughs. “They’re always hugging me!”

Women also feel safe confiding in Neogy because she’s not a man, yet she’s not in competition with them either. “I go in as everyone’s best friend,” she says. “Ultimately, I believe we all want to belong while retaining our uniqueness. It is by contributing our uniqueness that we feel valued, that we matter, that we belong. That uniqueness is diversity. But the contribution has to be received, which is the inclusion element.”

As the demand for her Disruptive Diversity coaching has grown, she’s developing a certification process to train other coaches to deliver her programs. She’s also partnering with a mentoring software company to build online diversity coaching content. And she’s seeking partnerships with micro-fund and venture capital firms from Silicon Valley to Shanghai, exchanging a percentage of her coaching fees for equity in their enterprises. She’s found this alternate payment structure can be attractive for entrepreneurs following a lean start-up model. Plus, an enterprise that starts with a diverse and inclusive culture bodes well for success. Her long-term goal is to build enough equity to invest in other start-ups while acting as a hub for VC firms and micro-firms, “a connecting tapestry” as she calls it.

Being in the business of healing businesses has also enabled Neogy to continue her own healing journey. “I have tried desperately to grow a family that is safe for me,” she says. “It took me 44 years to figure out how to do that. When we grow up in a family that exploits us, we run that pattern until we don’t. Entrepreneurship is a way of saying, ‘See me. I matter. I’m special.'”

Our Voices

Her unapologetic confidence to succeed

A female VC once told Jessica Mah that her personality was too strong – at least for a woman in the tech industry. Mah calls it unapologetic confidence and she’s not ashamed to put it to good use. After all it was strength and willingness to believe in her abilities and her company that allowed her to reinvent her financial software firm and create a stunning growth rate of 2,685.6% over a three year period.
Mah launched inDinero in 2010 with her friend and co-founder Andy Su. At the time Mah was just 19 years old and by the time she was 20 they had received $1.2 million in funding through Y Combinator.

Inspired by her entrepreneurial mother, Mah claims to have had her first taste of business in second grade selling drawings in the school playground. When she was 8 years-old Mah began learning computer programming. At age 12 she started her first company and by the age of 15 she dropped out of high school to take computer science courses at University of California at Berkeley from where she later graduated. Tech Crunch toted her as “the closest thing we have to a female Mark Zuckerberg.”

In creating inDinero, Mah was motivated by her previous small business ventures and the problems she faced with managing her books. She took something that intimidated her and decided to create a product that would make it easier for small businesses to manage their own accounting.

With her immediate PR and funding success, Mah did not project that inDinero would fail within the first year. According to her feature in Inc. magazine most of the 30,000 mom-and-pop-shop customers using inDinero were not buying into premium tools and used the software for free.

Money started to burn away. There were the basic operational costs but there were also the costs of letting your ego get the better of you. In an email to her parents she confessed to the detriment of cockiness and arrogance: “I feel like I’m Bernie Madoff – rich on the outside, but completely broken on the inside.” Flashy PR and an expensive office was not going to sustain her success. Mah had a wake up call. She was spending $80,000 a month, with only $150,000 left in the bank. The platonic co-founders laid off all their employees save for two, moved the company into their home apartment which was subsidized by their parents and started again from the ground up.

In order to survive inDinero had to pivot. Mah and Su used their personal connections and market research to create a more refined business model and product offering. Ultimately inDinero acted as a back office operations software that would handle accounting and taxes for small to medium sized businesses.

In a recent interview with Inc. Magazine on her success Mah said,

I think if anything this [experience] has made me even bigger and bolder. I am more ambitious now than I was a few months ago. A year ago I was calling my mentors and saying, wow, maybe I won’t be able to build a huge business and its not going to be great – and over the past few months that attitude has completely shifted. Now I’m like, I can really crush it. I can do really great things in the world.

Mah also noted that although she might be a little bit more paranoid after coming back from the brink of failure, she has learned not to take anything for granted.

Today, inDinero is a growing force in the small-to-medium-size-business software space. Customers now pay three to four figures monthly for use of the the proprietary software and inDinero received another $8.8 million in funding which led to a staff of 150. In 2014, inDinero hit $2.9 million in revenue with a growth rate of 2,685% and Mah is confident that their growth will double by 2016.

For more details about the trials and triumphs of Jessica Mah and her co-founder Any Su read Inc. Magazine’s feature “How Couples Therapy Helped Bring This Company Back From the Brink” by Kate Rockwood.