FOUNDER, THE FEMALE LEAD
Edwina Dunn OBE is a data science entrepreneur who has always been fascinated by people's stories and motivations. As the co-founder of worldwide loyalty programmes like Tesco's Clubcard, Edwina knows first-hand what it feels like to work in a male-dominated industry and what it takes to navigate the many obstacles women have faced. Edwina started The Female Lead as a campaign that celebrates women's stories, and showcases the lesser-known successes of women, in order to support and encourage the next generation.
Edwina created The Female Lead to work across a variety of platforms; through short films, a book of 60 remarkable women donated free to 18,000 UK and US schools, social media content reaching over two million followers worldwide and an educational programme in over 700 schools.
Girls learn early on that society expects them to marry and have children. When they do, they are asked to be grateful for maternity leave and the benefits they are offered by organisations which enable them to go back to work and still be a mother. These benefits often take the place of promotion and pay rises. The benefits are added to the salary and the calculation of cost, to the organisation, is set against salaries of men. Quite often women don’t want to ‘rock the boat’ and seem ungrateful. And so, women fall behind men who may well be fathers but who don’t have to argue for benefits, just their promotions and salary.
"From a young age, girls are taught to be polite and to care about their appearance. When girls consume these messages, they are shown unrealistic targets of air-brushed lives served up by magazines and automated feeds on social media. The more they watch, the more they are sent. It’s often a toxic diet and it leaves millions of girls feeling inadequate and less than perfect. Too often this can damage mental health and this is on the rise at a worrying scale.
you can't see"
So, by sharing many stories of diverse women from across the world who have achieved interesting and amazing things at a young age or a later stage in their life, girls and women can study how they did it, they can take inspiration and turn this into their own journey. They can learn to take the lead in their own lives. If they do this, industry and government will benefit, not just philosophically or morally but financially. Keeping women at work longer, bringing them back to work after maternity, encouraging them to aim for a bigger role, all of this will deliver billions if not trillions of dollars to the economy.
In 2020 and 2021, The Female Lead begins its most ambitious and ground-breaking research to date, to explore why, after decades of legislation, gender equality in education, control over fertility and massive shifts in gender norms, women have still not achieved equal pay and progression in the workplace. Our new research will involve quantitative, qualitative and large scale social media data analysis. In collaboration with our research partners, we are analysing women's working lives, touching on the different dimensions of Work, Money, Relationships, Society and Self, that all in varying degrees, contribute to the persistence of women's under-representation in senior positions in the workplace. "
Does that make men more ambitious? No. But it does mean that women carry a silent additional burden which affects decisions on job offers and promotion. And then there’s menopause. And perhaps caring for elderly dependents after the children have grown up.
If we, at The Female Lead, can share the evidence of life and work today by gathering facts and listening to thousands of women, across the whole spectrum of school and working life, we can begin to shape more helpful policies and interventions. We help girls to see that there are exciting and inspiring women alive today who are not celebrities in the traditional sense but who are 3-dimensional, real-life characters who are successful, high achievers in a field that a girl might find appealing. “Seeing is believing.”
The future is uncertain and women want to see more than just stories - they are looking for answers to big questions; they want advice and guidance. If we are to rebuild our economy after Covid19, lets indeed built it better. Let’s make women more empowered at work so that more stay in careers longer and more rise to the top!
We have made some significant progress - in just 5 years - and have now reached a pivotal moment, not just in our journey but in the need to get back to work - to create economic recovery and meet UN SDG goals around diversity and inclusion. This is the year we must focus on evidence-based action, driving change which can improve the positive influence, economic impact and under capitalised value of women, rights across society.
At The Female Lead, we celebrate the women who’ve gone before us, who stand beside us and who will come after us. We honour their voices, their unique strength and the challenges they’ve faced.
As we look to the future, it’s more important than ever to think bigger, beyond our personal agendas and ambitions. We must acknowledge that we will go further and grow stronger together when we give up comparing and competing and choose to pull each other up.
Let's make an introduction, share a useful resource, post a recommendation on LinkedIn or share a few words of praise in the presence of a decision-maker. When women celebrate one another’s accomplishments, we’re all lifted up. #WeRiseByLiftingOthers
We reveal the factors that limit women's choices and fulfilment and amplify their voices in order to drive real change and improve economic outcomes.
We do this in four ways:
By sharing women's stories in our books, videos, podcasts, schools programme and articles
The Female Lead, in partnership with Studiocanal, held a special panel and preview screening of Radioactive, in advance of its UK release. We were joined by Rosamund Pike who stars as scientist and two-time Nobel Prize winner Marie Curie and the director Marjane Satrapi for an exclusive panel discussion. Radioactive tells the story of Marie Curie and her legacies - her passionate relationships, scientific breakthroughs, and the consequences that followed for her and for the world.
In a special moment captured on zoom, Rosamund Pike surprised 8-year-old Summer, who dreams of curing cancer one day. Watch the full video here
We surprised 8-year-old Illie, giving her the opportunity to meet her real-life superhero Brie Larson at the Captain Marvel Premiere in London.
Illie interviewed stars of the film on the red carpet, including Brie Larson, Jude Law, Gemma Chan and Samuel L Jackson. Our campaign exploded to become social and news currency, with the interview by Illie and Brie Larson being covered by The Independent, E-News, Good Morning America, Stylist, Huffington Post to name a few. Brie Larson shared the photo of herself and Illie on Instagram and commented ‘I did it for you, superstar’. The video received millions of views online across multiple channels.
Disrupt Your Feed was an 18-month research project between The Female Lead and Cambridge University psychologist Dr Terri Apter into the untapped potential of social media to enhance teen aspiration and promote positive mental health.
The Social Media Pledge was shared by over 150 influencers and reached 20 million users with 330 million impressions. The research was covered in the Sunday Express, Daily Mail, Telegraph and Psychology Today and many more! The research findings and insights are now shared with 18,000 schools and universities and are part of the Female Lead’s leadership programme.
Oprah Winfrey, Ava DuVernay, Storm Reid, Reese Witherspoon, Mindy Kaling. If we were to design our ideal line-up for a serious dose of female empowerment, chances are these women would be top of the list. Luckily for us, we were given front row seats to the real thing.
We were honoured to partner with Ava DuVernay and Disney UK to promote our mutual values and to help A Wrinkle in Time enrapture new audiences. Students from The Female Lead’s schools network were also invited to meet the cast, attend the special panel discussion and to watch the movie.
The Female Lead would recommend this film to all who need a dose of female inspiration and for a much-needed bit of goodness in today’s world.