Elevating women and embracing equity: How 3 organizations make a difference
See how Zendesk partners are creating more equitable workplaces, advancing women’s careers, and empowering women across the globe.
Last updated April 3, 2023
In March, we celebrate Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day to honor women’s accomplishments and contributions to our culture and society. This year’s theme is “Embrace Equity,” which highlights the importance of acknowledging that everyone has different needs and circumstances, and we must take action to ensure true inclusion and belonging.
Women have achieved significant gains over the years, and yet more work must be done to create true gender equity—especially considering fundamental rights for women and girls are currently under threat. Women need to belong in a global community that promotes and supports them in all aspects of their lives, from health and education to family and work.
To help inspire further action toward a more just and equitable world, we’re shining a spotlight on three Zendesk Tech for Good partners that are taking strides to improve equity and drive meaningful change.
Spring ACT: Giving a voice to domestic abuse survivors
According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by a partner in the United States, and more than 20,000 phone calls are placed to domestic violence hotlines nationwide daily. But many incidents go unreported—victims may be too afraid to speak out, might not recognize the signs, or may not know how or where to get help.
Spring ACT strives to change that by empowering people to take action and connecting them to the resources needed to escape a dangerous situation. Rhiana Spring founded the nonprofit in 2021 after seeing first-hand how difficult it can be for people to find assistance when they need it most.
While she was working for the United Nations in West Africa, five refugees turned up at her office looking for help. For years, they had been unable to get help with many pressing issues, including enrolling a child named Emmanuella in school. After trying—to no avail—to mobilize organizations on their behalf, Spring decided to turn to her personal network. By the end of the weekend, she discovered three different solutions, and Emmanuella secured a place in school. All it took was one person who knew which specific group could help.
Inspired, Spring started developing a tool that enables those in vulnerable situations to find the help they need and get in touch with the right people. But in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and the ensuing uptick in domestic violence, Spring adapted the technology to focus on helping men and women in abusive relationships. And Sophia the chatbot was born.
Sophia is the first of its kind: a bot that can help anyone experiencing domestic violence anytime, anywhere. It provides complete anonymity and privacy—everything is confidential, and all interactions are encrypted, so no digital trail is left behind. People can interact with Sophia to learn how to gather evidence, assess their rights, and explore their options and resources. She serves as a guiding, trustworthy friend who can provide hope and a lifeline.
Since its launch in December 2021, Sophia has reached over 15,000 people from across the globe, offering a safe and anonymous way for survivors to seek help. “With the right support and funding, we hope to increase our impact and reach even more people in the future,” says Spring. “We believe that Sophia has the potential to make a real difference in the lives of many individuals around the world.”
Spring adds that the feedback from survivors has been overwhelmingly positive, with many expressing gratitude that a service like Sophia now exists. Many organizations are also interested in partnering with Spring ACT to bring Sophia to their local communities.
“Human rights and technology have the power to transform the world we live in,” Spring says. “By combining our passion for justice with cutting-edge technological innovation, we can create a future that is more equitable and just for all.”
If you’re a victim of domestic abuse, type “www.sophia.chat” into your browser or search for “Sophia Chatbot” in your messenger apps (Viber, Telegram, or WhatsApp).
The Mom Project: Upskilling women of color
As many as 2 million women—particularly mothers with young children—left their jobs or downshifted their careers during the global pandemic. Women of color were disproportionately affected, with most exiting the workforce due to caregiving and household responsibilities. Though the number of working-age women in the job market is on the rise, women still face challenges returning to work. Aside from gender and racial bias, they must also grapple with the transition of going back and showing their value to potential employers.
Allison Robinson knows all too well how difficult it can be to re-enter the labor force and juggle the demands of motherhood with a full-time gig. After having her first child in 2015, she started to imagine a future where women would not have to choose between parenthood and their careers, and The Mom Project was founded a year later.
Through its digital talent platform, The Mom Project connects professionally accomplished women with the flexible job opportunities they need to thrive while providing organizations with the experienced talent they want to hire. Job-seekers can find open roles at world-class companies (like Airbnb, Zendesk, and Amazon), get advice on resume writing and interviewing, and attend networking events.
The Mom Project also offers an upskilling scholarship program called RISE. Established in 2020, this initiative helps improve workplace equality by providing moms and women of color with technology certifications from sought-after organizations, such as Google and Microsoft. There are several certificate programs—from UX design, to project management, to digital marketing—that equip participants with relevant skills to keep them competitive in the job market.
The RISE program also includes community events and support with optimizing resumes and preparing for interviews. Once the certification is complete, participants get help with their job search and access to a diverse network of companies—all at no cost. In addition to advancing their careers, program graduates increase their earning potential and gain a path to economic prosperity.
“RISE is a purpose-built upskilling scholarship program designed to disrupt the status quo and provide economic opportunities for moms and women of color who are traditionally underrepresented in tech and other emergent industries,” says Chandra Sanders, Vice President of RISE. “RISE is here to challenge stereotypes and create access to advancement in one’s career by harnessing the power of community and support.”
To date, RISE has awarded more than 6,300 scholarships across 1,400 cities to individuals, with a reach of over 10 million people from underserved communities. RISE was also named a finalist in Fast Company’s 2022 World Changing Ideas and won The Difference Maker: Social Impact Initiative of the Year 2023 from Transform HR.
Sanders sees the impact of the program on women across the world, and she’s proud to work for an organization that’s creating more inclusive workspaces and building a more equitable world for women.
“Representation matters,” she says. “By hiring and promoting moms, companies inspire their teams to see the possibilities and strive for more. We are committed to our mission to help all moms reach their career goals.”
Elevate your career
Interested in joining RISE? Get more details about the free certification program and apply today.
The Asia Foundation: Accelerating women’s advancement in STEM
It’s no secret that women are significantly underrepresented in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). The pandemic didn’t help matters, as it drove women from the labor force in disproportionate numbers and widened the gender gap. Today, women represent less than 30 percent of STEM workers.
But The Asia Foundation aims to change that. In 2021, the nonprofit partnered with Zendesk to track and grow women’s leadership networks in STEM, particularly in East and Southeast Asia. STEM networks create a space for sharing, support, and mentorship—making them critical to overcoming barriers and providing opportunities for women.
As part of the collaboration, The Asia Foundation makes recommendations for how the government and private sector can better support STEM networks targeting women, who face challenges entering and advancing in STEM fields. The nonprofit also writes a research report that identifies promising networking approaches and practices supporting women’s STEM networks in Southeast and East Asia. The findings are used to inform potential future initiatives to develop the next generation of women leaders in STEM.
Today, women represent less than 30 percent of STEM workers.
“The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic continues to play out in countries and communities across Asia, with acute effects on women and girls,” says Jane Sloane, Senior Director for Women’s Empowerment and Gender Equality at The Asia Foundation. “The Asia Foundation is pleased to partner with Zendesk to identify structural barriers and the harmful gender norms that deter women from pursuing STEM careers. This includes identifying opportunities for collaboration among networks in the region or ways in which the government and the private sector can better support women in STEM networks.”
The Asia Foundation also recently launched STEM ConnectHER. This initiative supports early-in-career women in STEM through mentorship, speaker series, webinars, and resources for leadership and professional development. It’s an opportunity for women across Asia to connect with industry talent from leading global organizations like Visa, Cisco, Zendesk, and AT&T.
Between these efforts, The Asia Foundation is making strides toward addressing the underrepresentation of women in STEM—especially in leadership roles—and building more inclusive economies.
Step up in STEM
Learn how to navigate and advance a STEM career by signing up for the STEM ConnectHer program.
We can all make a difference
The nonprofit organizations highlighted here are just a small sample of the many groups challenging the status quo, fighting for gender equity, and effecting change. Each one of us can play a part, too.
We can call out gender bias, sexism, and inequality when we see them in our own lives and communities. We can support women-owned businesses, advocate for women in the workplace, and educate ourselves on the pressing issues facing women today. We can also participate in political advocacy and push for policies that promote gender equity.
So as Women’s History Month comes to a close, consider how you can continuously stand in solidarity with women everywhere and be an ally. Together, we can take action to create a more equitable and inclusive world for all.
“Often, we underestimate the power of our own actions and the difference we can make in the world,” Spring says. “It doesn’t always take grand gestures or vast resources to create positive change. Each of us has the power to make a difference in the lives of others, and it starts with our own two hands. We are stronger together, and by lifting each other up and taking action, we can break down barriers and achieve anything we set our minds to.”