March 14, 2023
Meet four women who are using apps and games to drive culture and create change
Teams at Rebel Girls, Dinosaur Polo Club, and Wisdom share how their experiences have shaped the visibility of their apps and games on the App Store
Every day on the App Store, the entrepreneurs behind best-in-class apps and games harness the power and access of technology to drive change and drive culture. And for the creators of Mini Motorways, Rebel Girls, and Wisdom, there’s more to app development than the final product—these women-led teams amplify women’s voices, and lead the charge for the next generation of women and girls looking to cultivate a career in tech.
After attending Stanford Graduate School of Business where she studied the stories behind the world’s greatest tech companies, Jess Wolf knew she wanted to pursue a career in this field. Today, she is the CEO of Rebel Girls, a global media brand that empowers girls through stories of pioneering women. Through the company’s app — winner of the 2022 Apple Design Awards — as well as podcasts and books, the company aims to inspire young women to dream big.
In their leadership roles at New Zealand-based game development studio Dinosaur Polo Club, Niamh Fitzgerald and Chantelle Cole set out to build a more inclusive workplace, fostering an environment where everyone can thrive and feel valued. Designed by a diverse development team, titles like the Apple Arcade hit Mini Motorways encourage users to take a closer look at the world around them and solve problems in creative and unusual ways.
Participant in Apple’s 2022 Entrepreneur Camp for Black Founders Dayo Akinrenade felt underrepresented and underestimated in the world of computer science after graduating from the University of Manchester — so she built her own community designed to prioritize and amplify women’s voices. The #1 audio social discovery app, Wisdom, connects like-minded users for deep conversations about far-reaching topics like careers, relationships, and fitness.
Below, Wolf, Fitzgerald, Cole, and Akinrenade share how they use technology to uplift women and effect social change.
What kinds of challenges do you face with your company and its products?
Jess Wolf (JW), CEO of Rebel Girls: We see a gender confidence gap starting at the age of six. That’s when girls start to believe they’re less intelligent and less capable than boys, according to a study published by Sciences. The study says that career aspirations are shaped by gender stereotypes. Additionally, between the ages of 8 and 14, girls’ confidence drops by 30 percent. We want every girl to open up the Rebel Girls app – or any of our books – and find dozens of role models they can see themselves in.
Dayo Akinrinade (DA), founder of Wisdom: My goal with Wisdom is to replace the inequalities of closed networks with an open and diverse community of experts and collaborative people. Wisdom provides women with a safe space to talk about topics that matter to them, such as women’s rights, domestic violence, leadership, and wellness. Our users who don’t identify as women see themselves as allies, offering support by participating in conversations or simply listening.
Niamh Fitzgerald (NF), Director of Operations for the Dinosaur Polo Club: Many women face issues such as pay and gender equality, barriers to driving, and inflexible working hours. But we believe that creating a work environment that is inclusive and supportive of all – regardless of their gender or sexual orientation – is central to creating a sustainable and thriving business. Standing up for diversity and inclusion is at the heart of everything we do, but we hope to one day get to a point where this is common to every business.
How have you seen your user community benefit from your product?
Chantelle Cole (CC), CEO, Dinosaur Polo Club: In the beginning, we set out to make something that would connect with people who value real-world systems—something that might encourage them to look at the world around them with new eyes and perhaps look for more elegant solutions to everyday problems. We never expected the way our games have become such a positive and meaningful part of people’s lives.
JW: We develop all our content and app for girls from 4 to 12 years old. Our storytelling empowers and inspires them, helps build their confidence, and we do it in a way that the whole family can enjoy. 86 percent of parents told us their girls’ confidence increased because of Rebel Girls, and 92 percent of parents told us our stories inspired their girls.
How have your experiences affected how you build your app and how you run your business?
Copy: My experience working across the creative industries – including music and print – began with shaping who I want to be as a leader. I wanted to get the best parts of it [people] who have inspired me through their values-based and selfless leadership, creating a culture that promotes mental well-being, values diversity, and addresses inequality head-on.
And the: In the time I have worked with minority founders, I have witnessed how lack of social capital contributes to the inequalities and systemic flaws of founders of minority groups, hence the inspiration for wisdom. We cultivate an open and diverse community where conversations center around advice and personal development.
JW: Early in my career, I read Carly Fiorina’s memoirs, Tough choices, and counts every page. As one of the first books I read about a female CEO, it inspired me. My favorite question to ask people is, “Who is the woman who inspires you?” It is disappointing that few people can answer this question. Women are still fighting to tell their stories, to tell them authentically. This is why we tell the stories of women representing more than 400 professions and from more than 100 countries; We work with hundreds of female and non-binary writers, illustrators, editors, and storytellers to tell these stories authentically.
What features of your app have you designed to uplift and empower girls or women?
NF: We like to call our community of players City Planners or Civil Engineers, and it’s a field dominated by men in real life. For young girls, choosing a game that is intentionally designed for all ages and genders may open them up to the idea that urban design and high-level strategy are things they can find a passion for. It’s important to us as a studio that our games feel friendly and welcoming to all demographics, so if they can inspire confidence for a young woman, that’s a success!
JW: Confidence is the biggest predictor of a child’s future success, and girls have less of it than boys. The media plays a huge role, and Rebel Girls changes the narrative and tone. We have an ecosystem of content where girls are portrayed in real-life situations where they win, are surrounded by a supportive community and friends, and don’t encounter gendered language.
And the: Wisdom is a place to ask questions and learn from extraordinary women from different walks of life – women you wouldn’t normally have the chance to meet. Any woman can start a conversation or participate in a Q&A on a topic that interests her, and it’s free. This is by design, so everyone can have a voice. We’ve also considered security from the start: we intentionally add friction to the sign-up process, have moderators 24/7, and make it easy to flag a piece of content. We leverage artificial intelligence to algorithmically evaluate user-generated content to reduce the likelihood of malicious content being posted.
What do you hope for the next generation of women techs?
And the: It is my hope that the next generation of techs can emerge as their authentic selves and thrive on technology that accommodates a variety of diverse driving styles. After all, driving isn’t a one-size-fits-all.
JW: Foundations raised 2 percent of venture capital in the United States in 2022. I want to see founders, innovators, and developers raise at least 50 percent of venture funding to make their products, impact communities, create jobs, and build the future.
NF: My hope for the next generation of women is that a focus on gender diversity and inclusion becomes a normal part of how every company does business, rather than something that sets them apart. Many areas of our lives involve some aspect of technology, and it only makes sense that a wide range of people and perspectives are involved as we innovate toward a future that works for everyone.