Richard Zriek, CIO, and Rita David, CEO, innoVationGirls
innoVationGirls is a company founded under the belief that we can prevent the cliff effect in adolescent girls by getting them interested in the STEM field between the ages of nine and 15. Cincinnati Future spoke with innoVationGirls CIO Richard Zriek, who launched the company with his wife, Rita David, about their game plan.
You say it took the birth of your first daughter to become hyper aware of the landscape for females in the world.
Zriek: It was like a “Matrix” thing. I started to see all of these fine details about how women are treated in the workplace and in culture. I started taking notes everywhere I went in the world. There’s something fundamentally wrong in our societies. When our second daughter, Isabel, was born, my wife and I decided to quit our corporate jobs in tech and innovation and to go on this journey of finding a way to make a difference.
That’s when innoVationGirls happened?
Zriek: innoVationGirls was really the birth of the final realization that we have to tackle two key constraints for girls to be successful: The first constraint is to get girls interested in STEM in the first place. We needed to understand the impact that society has on girls between the ages of nine and 15.
Those are the most critical years for young women who are experiencing all of the 'isms' in society. Those are also the critical years where they start losing their confidence. If we can give them confidence in their creative abilities, their intelligence and their ingenuity, then we can get them to cruise through these years. Moreover, they can become interested in STEM through high school and beyond.
The second constraint is that society is really not helping us move. Women are not being funded as much as men. Only 2% of all funding is going to female founders.
What is innoVationGirls doing to help the situation?
Zriek: We are creating a platform that takes exponential technologies. We layer them on top of each other, so we can expose these girls to STEM from a completely different angle. The first technology that we expose them to is systematic inventive thinking (SIT), a method that helps them break away from their current patterns of thinking to come up with innovative ideas on demand.