On June 29 2022, The Bright Initiative hosted a major gathering of data leaders on behalf of Women in Data. The Bright Initiative is a global pro bono programme and organisation by Bright Data that uses public web data to drive positive change. The event addressed how data can be used to combat violence against women and girls. All attendees were members and allies of Women in Data - a membership of over 25,000 data professionals. The event resulted in a declaration of intent to develop ideas and policy recommendations to ensure that the full power of data is used in making society safer for women and girls.
A group of the UK’s most senior data leaders and policy experts took part in the meeting, held in London’s prestigious Langham Hotel. Participants included chief data officers (CDOs) from a number of UK Government departments and public agencies, as well as CDOs and senior data leaders from companies including Microsoft and IBM. The event was also attended by campaigners for gender equality, including President of the Royal College of General Practitioners Professor Dame Clare Gerada, who has previously led groundbreaking work on gender inequality in the healthcare system, as well as victims/survivors who were able to tell their stories and share their recommendations.
The meeting was convened following a Women in Data event in 2021 that brought an initial group together to consider how to combat the persistent threats women face to their safety in everyday life. The tragic murders of Sarah Everard and Zara Aleena are just two examples of the need for urgent action.
Keren Pakes, General Manager of the Bight Initiative, said:
“The Initiative’s missionis to make positive change with data and there are few examples of where this is more needed than women’s safety. The fact that women and girls continue to live under the threat of violence is an absolute disgrace but it’s not enoughjust to get angry - we have to do use our expertise to fight it.
“We know that data is one of the most valuable resources in the world, able to accomplish remarkable things if collected and utilized effectively. We see it as our duty to do all we can to ensure that the power of data is directed to saving women’s lives so we were pleased to facilitate this meeting of Women in Data leaders. The ideas and energy that were generated in the room set a clear direction for change that we are looking forward to pursuing in the months ahead.”
The meeting was led by Payal Jain, CEO of Women in Data, with presentations from Bright Data CEO Or Lenchner and Women in Data Committee member - and senior strategist at BAE Systems - Holly Armitage. Their presentations set out the scale of the issue - with Holly Armitage commenting that data is a ‘magic trick not currently working for women’ - and signs of what could be possible - and Or Lenchner showcasing a successful data initiative to combat sex trafficking.
The discussion that followed covered a wide range of issues and barriers that need to be cleared to ensure that data helps to drive change. In particular, participants looked at:
● Problems with data on the scale and nature of threats to women, due to underreporting as a result of lack of trust in relevant institutions;
● The need for data to be better shared within and between relevant agencies;
● The opportunity for data-driven insights to inform preventative interventions, including efforts to tackle the culture of ‘toxic masculinity’ that normalises aggressive behaviors.
Following the summit, the Bright Initiative and Women in Data have agreed to continue their partnership with a programme of work exploring the issues that arose in detail, further drawing on the expertise and enthusiasm of the senior figures that took part in the event. Bright Data, which powers all of the Bright Initiative’s work, has also committed technical expertise and engineer time to developing innovative new tools that can apply web data to enhancing women’s safety.
The culmination of the programme will be a fully detailed set of practical recommendations and accompanying tools that will be launched at Women in Data’s Annual Conference on 9th March 2023 the day after International Women's Day.