Original article was published by Women in AI Netherlands on Artificial Intelligence on Medium
The Story of Digital Starling
WaiACCELERATE participant/founder: Iffat Rose Gill
Digital Starling is a for-profit, for-purpose company that brings together female-led founder teams with specialised digital assistants from under-represented communities. It came about as a way to bridge the digital gender gap, which remains wide. Indeed, Digital literacy is a prerequisite to almost every job in today’s world.
As businesses globalize and scale, more emphasis is being placed on conducting business online, leveraging the best enterprise software, digitally transforming your organizations, and reaching your customers through digital channels. However, as much as technology has brought us together in many ways, it has not closed the digital divide between genders. This is a significant factor in keeping women out of the workforce. In 2016, when the UN put the economic inclusion of women on the agenda, the gender gap in the workforce was 26% for G20 countries — and much higher in lower-income nations.
When founding Digital Starling, Iffat Gill drew on her experience as the founder of The Code to Change, a nonprofit organization that aims to close the digital divide by empowering women with digital skills. Since launching the organization in 2010, she has trained over 500 women to be tech-job ready, and in the process impacted the lives of over 3,000 women. For her efforts in the field, in 2020 she has been nominated for the GWE UNESCO award. With the dynamism of a new for-profit, for-purpose model and facilitated by A.I., Digital Starling will accelerate the virtuous wheel of change that Iffat began to put in motion with The Code to Change. Now, she is launching her newest AI-powered venture, Digital Starling.
Iffat has been advocating for the digital inclusion of women across the globe since 2010. Originally from Pakistan, Iffat was raised in Libya and Malta. Iffat’s father was a strong proponent of girls’ education, and an early adopter of home-based computers. Iffat spent hours playing with the computer, teaching herself how to use it, and quickly realized its importance in gaining her access to critical information. When her family moved back to Pakistan in her early adult life, she realized how unusual this was — that most girls her age weren’t even going to school, let alone using computers. Investment in girl’s education is not seen as worthwhile, drastically reducing their options for entering the workforce. It was this that prompted her to open her first skill center at age 21, for which there was an immediate and overwhelming response nation-wide.
With her new venture, Digital Starling, Iffat is tackling a two-sided problem: female talent is chronically underrepresented on a global scale, and many early-stage businesses cannot afford the talent that they need to scale. She has created a pipeline of skilled professional women in Pakistan who need high quality jobs, and are limited in finding them locally or as a newcomer to the freelance scene. Using an intelligent A.I.-powered algorithm, leveraging semantic extraction techniques, as well as other NLP approaches, Digital Starling matches female talent from the emerging markets with career opportunities from around the globe and in various industries. The pairing creates opportunities for businesses to recruit expert talent, and for women in the developing countries to get access to high quality jobs — all the while fighting the digital gender divide.
Digital Starling has yet to officially launch; however, the interest is demonstrable. She has received over 300 applications for 200 spots in the upcoming fall training, which will be open to all women in Pakistan who meet the selection requirements. The program has also already received job postings and requests from startup founders and well-established businesses worldwide. Iffat is working very closely with her dedicated WaiACCELERATE mentors, allowing her to scale her venture more rapidly than she has previously thought possible.
Digital Starling is the embodiment of Iffat’s decade-long journey to break down gender barriers and empower women to live independently and engage in meaningful work.
“Leveraging the power of AI, I will be able to facilitate valuable collaborations between professional women globally, at scale. As a female founder myself, I know how necessary it is to have support and community,” says Iffat. ”When women lift each other up, ‘the sky’s the limit”. Doors open that you never could have dreamed of, and you never know where the opportunity will lead.”
If you are an investor interested in Iffat’s Digital Starling, please contact Eve Logunova at firstname.lastname@example.org