The theme for this year’s International Women’s Day (#IWD2016) is Pledge for Parity (#PledgeForParity) – the urgent call to action to accelerate gender pay. The World Economic Forum predicted in 2014 that it would take until 2095 to achieve global gender parity. Then one year later in 2015, they estimated that a slowdown in the already glacial pace of progress meant the gender gap wouldn’t close entirely until 2133.

Today, in celebration of International Women’s Day, Innovate Finance released a list of the 21 female founders and CEOs amongst our member companies. In addition, we have also launched the 2016 Women in FinTech Powerlist. Innovate Finance is accepting nominations from women who work in FinTech or nominations on behalf of female colleagues for a spot on the list which will be published later this year.

My personal opinion editorial published in City AM this morning outlines the need for improving the number of women in business and FinTech: getting girls interested early in school in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) subjects; offering after-school / work development and mentoring programmes; delivering more flexible working practices to promote better work-life balance; and, attracting more women to tech investment roles to gain broader perspectives on risks and rewards.

In addition to this year’s pledge, and Innovate Finance’s focus on Women in FinTech, I would like to draw your attention to a women I doubt any of you have ever heard of, Hanne Løvlie.

Hanne Løvlie was 30 when she was killed on 22 July 2011 in Oslo when Anders Breuvik detonated a bomb in the city centre killing 8 people, before travelling to a small island 40 minutes away called Utoya, and executing 69 members of the Labour youth camp. It is the worst mass murder outside of war in history.

In memory of Hanne, her family contacted the charity I work for with a wish to build a shelter for abused women. Hanne spent time as a student in Durban, at the University of KwaZulu Natal, where she was an outgoing and politically engaged student. During her studies she became aware of the big issue of violence against women in South Africa and spoke often of her wish to do something about this issue.

At Impande, we build crèches and community development centres where we focus on children, women and the vulnerable in society in KwaZulu Natal. The statistics are grim with more than 60% of the population under 30 due to mortality related to HIV and drug abuse. 36% of women claim to have experienced gender based violence and the prevalence of violence against pregnant women by their partners is estimated at 31%.

Hanne’s Shelter will be formally opened in a ceremony held over 2 days on the 19th and 20th of March in Gcilima, a community with high levels of violence. This is one of the first social institutions of this type set up inside South Africa.

In memory of Hanne, her family has fulfilled her wish.

On behalf of myself, my charity mentor and the Chairman of Impande, Rolf Olsen, and the entire Impande team, I would like to dedicate an International Women’s Day tribute to Hanne Løvlie, and Hanne’s Shelter (#HannesShelter) and the security and future hope it offers to women in South Africa.

Lawrence Wintermeyer
Board Member, IMPANDE