Over the weekend, a cast of seemingly unlikely figures from the worlds of fashion, tech and social activism convened in Silicon Valley with a shared goal of working to solve a problem that has received increasing attention on the global stage.
The mission was to build tech-enabled solutions to report and end violence against women. The players included Gucci, Facebook, nonprofit organization Global Citizen and investment firm Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield & Byers, and the venue was Chimehack 3 at Facebook’s Menlo Park, Calif., headquarters.
While hackathons such as this one might not be immediately associated with Gucci, Gucci America president and chief executive officer Susan Chokachi said the cause for women and children was something the brand had been working with for more than a decade, and parent company Kering and its ceo, François-Henri Pinault, is a champion for girls’ and women’s rights, both in and out of the workplace.
She also emphasized the power of recognizable names and brands to raise awareness. Cofounders of Gucci’s Chime for Change organization, for example, are Beyoncé Knowles and Salma Hayek Pinault.
“We’re a brand of influence, [Facebook] is a brand of influence — everyone has a contribution that they can make,” Chokachi said, emphasizing in particular the global footprint of Facebook that is some one billion users strong. She said the idea for the organization was the result of a philanthropic music and film event in London that Gucci hosted three years ago, at which Knowles was a performer.
Yasmeen Hassan, who is global director of Equality Now, commended Gucci’s role in supporting the cause of violence against women, and said that when she began asking companies to support the organization, most were hesitant to address issues such as sex trafficking.
“That has changed, and Gucci was first. Brands said that it wasn’t positive, but it is positive, change is positive,” Hassan said. “Now, I find more and more of the fashion industry is coming into it. They all want in now.”
Before the participants began building concepts, Facebook’s Naomi Gleit, who is vice president of product management, hosted a panel discussion with Hassan, in addition to Global Citizen chief operating officer Liza Lambert Henshaw and End Rape on Campus managing director Anna Voremberg.
Each shared insights into the issues surrounding violence against women and what is being done — and what is lacking — to provide solutions. Hassan, whose work included international cases such as child marriage, female genital mutilation and sex trafficking, discussed the barriers to reporting cases of violence against women internationally.
The third annual hackathon is part of Gucci’s three-year-old Chime for Change foundation, which is a campaign to raise funds and awareness for girls’ and women’s issues around the world. Teams of young hackers are given less than 48 hours to develop something to be presented to the judges, with awards including mentorship, scholarship and incubator space — and the environment in which to create something that potentially goes into development.
In introductory remarks, Facebook chief technology officer Mike Schroepfer said hackathons, which are typically intense brainstorming sessions for engineers, are a long tradition at Facebook, while Gleit added that tools such as Facebook’s Safety Check, which updates contacts in times of disaster, and fund-raising on Facebook through initiatives such as the ALS ice bucket challenge, are examples of products created through hackathons by Facebook’s social good team.
Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers senior partner Juliet de Baubigny, who an advisory board member for Chime for Change, said the current climate represented a “tipping point for women and girls,” and as a proponent of women in tech, she was encouraged by the number of young women who were participating in the hackathon. “I constantly see technology advancements with the power to change lives,” she said, “and every woman and girl deserves the right to reach their full potential.”