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Innovation For Women, By Women: 4 Startup Leaders to Celebrate this Women’s Day

“A balanced world is a better world.” We couldn’t agree more with this year’s International Women’s Day theme, and there’s a growing body of research to prove it. For example, a Boston Consulting Group study found that women-founded businesses deliver higher revenue than those founded by men. And McKinsey research shows that narrowing the gender gap could add $12 trillion to the global economy.

With 61 percent women-led startups, our 2018 Solver Class is more than balanced. Today on International Women’s Day, we’re highlighting four of our women-led 2018 Solver teams who are driving innovation for women. From upskilling garment workers, to improving maternal healthcare, to documenting sexual violence, these four startups are using tech to change lives and empower women in innovative ways.

Shimmy Upskill

Women make up approximately 80 percent of the garment factory workforce. As factories shift toward automation, many of these women will be forced to look for new jobs. That’s where Shimmy Upskill comes in. Shimmy Upskill’s learning software uses game mechanics and AI to teach digital pattern making and 3D modeling—both in-demand skills.

“It takes a worker from zero to digitally literate in about four hours,” says Sarah Krasley, CEO of Shimmy Technologies. “If a worker shows aptitude in digital pattern making, they can move into a higher-skilled, higher-paid position in a factory where they’re already employed.” The program builds on skills workers already mastered from sewing experience to accelerate the learning process. The result is a win-win system for both women workers and apparel brands.


Throughout Africa, existing eHealth solutions are inadequate, and many applications do not enable healthcare providers to deliver effective and affordable care. “E-Heza was created… to dramatically improve healthcare outcomes for mothers and children,” says Wendy Leonard, Executive Director of the Ihangane Project and leader of E-Heza.

E-Heza’s user-centered design approach avoids traditional barriers to product adoption, making it easy for nurses to log health data while examining patients. The solution provides real-time individualized data to help guide patient education. It also supports the data requirements of national governments—giving nurses the tools they need to adopt evidence-based clinical care protocols.


Every year, thousands of women are raped in conflict zones around the world. Most don’t report these crimes, and when some do, many cases fail due to poor evidence. To counter this trend, Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) created MediCapt, a mobile app that makes it easier to securely capture and transmit forensic evidence of sexual violence.

The app includes sophisticated encryption, cloud data storage, high adherence to chain-of-custody standards, and tamper-proof metadata, so clinicians can securely save the evidence and transmit it to police, lawyers, and judges. “PHR’s cross-sectoral model is transforming prosecutions,” says Karen Naimer, PHR’s Director of Program on Sexual Violence in Conflict Zones.


Nearly 3 million newborns do not survive their first month in low-resource settings, but 80 percent of these deaths could be preventable with the right tools. Enter Neopenda, which builds medical devices for high-growth emerging markets—starting with an affordable neonatal monitoring device.

Neopenda integrates continuous monitoring of pulse rate, respiratory rate, blood oxygen saturation, and temperature, and collects continuous sensor data at the point of care. “We have the ability to improve quality of care for over 16 million patients by 2023 and operate in over 4,000 facilities around the world,” says Sona Shah, CEO of Neopenda.

Feeling inspired? Get involved: Apply to Solve’s Global Challenges by the July 1 deadline.

Neopenda CEO Sona Shah pitches her solution at Solve Challenge Finals, September 23, 2018. (Photo: Adam Schultz / MIT Solve)

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