Meet Our Members: Alexandra Dimitrova
In this week's #SheInspires, we would like you to meet one of our amazing members, Alexandra Dimitrova!
Alexandra is from Sofia, Bulgaria and she is currently pursuing a double degree in Public Policy at Sciences Po and the University of Tokyo. From an early age, she has been passionate about gender equality and willing to stand up to unfairnesses that hurdle women in their everyday lives.
Read our interview with Alexandra as she shares with us her motivation for joining WE Int., her exciting experience at and key takeaways from the St. Gallen Symposium as well as how women in Bulgaria and Japan suffer differently from gender inequality.
What was your motivation to join WE Int.?
As a kid (I must’ve been 9 or 10) I was taking ‘advanced’ maths classes to get into a more maths concentrated school. First week in, my teacher informed us that girls are generally worse at the subject than guys and never manage to solve all the problems at the exam to get full marks. Instead of demotivating me that pushed me to study more and get as high score as possible, as soon as possible to prove that guy wrong. Sooner or later, I was successful in scoring the max score winning praise from the prof. Apparently, I had done pretty well for a girl. This all is to say that from an early age I’ve been willing to fight for myself and others. I’ve faced numerous more situations where frankly it has sucked to be a girl. Yet, I believe from the bottom of my heart that it is exactly through organisations such as WE Int. that we stand a chance of eradicating those unfairnesses that hurdle women around the world at every life, academic or career step along the way. It is that and the chance to learn more about the gender problem in Japan, meet some incredibly bright and inspiring international and Japanese minds, and the fun and educational socials that motivated me to join WE Int.
You were selected to attend the St. Gallen Symposium, often described as the Davos for the youth, met many powerful business leaders. Please tell us about your experience and what you’ve learned from it.
Yes, yes I did and had a wonderful time discussing the topic of Capital for Purpose at the 4-day event with both powerful business and academic leaders and the youth or as the symposium describes us the leaders of tomorrow. It was fascinating to explore the numerous thoughts on how to achieve the use of capital for purpose, from standardisation to liberalism and everything in between. Especially important is the conclusion we all agreed upon on the necessity for companies, governments and individuals to take on a broader definition of capital, one which also includes human, data, environmental and so on capital. When it comes to gender issues, I found two topics to be generally reoccurring - the lack of women in executive positions and dominant sectors, and the fact that investment seems to never reach female entrepreneurs. Although not necessarily revolutionary problems, I thought it to be extremely positive that everyone shared those opinion. It was also agreed that women not only need more support from those in power to reach to the top, but also must be given easier access to mentors who could empower their careers. I believe for Japan We Int. is brilliantly placed to do just that for young Japanese women and Todai grads.
You received Winds of Excellence Award writing an essay discussing the usage of data for purpose at the St. Gallen Symposium. Congratulations. Can you please tell us about your essay?
My essay looked into the intrinsic value data has, especially in the digital economy. For instance, in its most recent business results, Facebook reported that its quarterly average revenue per user was $6.18 doubling from 2014 with the social media making the most - $26.76 per user in North America. Similarly, to Google each user is worth $182. Online retails sites are the ones making the most from its consumers. Amazon and Alibaba make $733 and $621 respectively per user. Although these amounts are not entirely a result of the two shopping giants monetising customer data, it is believed that the websites’ ability to create value data-driven online marketing is a big help to their success. What is more, these companies – Microsoft, Facebook, Google, Tencent and Amazon, whose revenue is increasing as they acquire more customer data and become better at analysing it, were the highest valued companies of last year, evidencing how valuable consumer information overall is. Or, customer data is an invaluable capital in the 21st century. Although clearly our personal information is valuable for companies, very few have benefited by it. Today, we have seen an increasing business concentration as individuals who have more and more limited control over how their data is being used. What I proposed is for an international system to be created where users are allowed to easily access and share their data with causes, organisation, parties or companies they care about, thus giving us back the power to control who is enriched by our own personal capital – our data.
You’re from Bulgaria where the culture is very different from Japan. What’s your perspective on Japan’s gender equality movements?
I think Bulgaria and Japan both have very patriarchal societies, but women in these countries suffer differently. Bulgaria’s communist past means that there is a relatively high female participation in the workforce, including tech sectors, although this is not necessarily true for the positions of power. This is a bit different in Japan where women only now are starting to enter in massed into the business world. I also find the gender equality is a much newer issue for Japanese than it is for Bulgarians. Nevertheless, both countries do face very similar problems stemming from this male-controlled past, such as an extremely hush-hush approach towards rape and family violence, as well generally the perseverance of gender stereotypes throughout the society. That said, I think Japan recently has been a lot more open to discussing its gender inequality balance than Bulgaria. Apparently, we currently have bigger problems. I do believe that in doing that the Japanese are on the right track and I find that Japan’s particular demographic situation could be a great push for finding more immediate solutions. However, if Bulgaria’s past should teach us anything that is that true societal changes, which do not only include the right to vote and work, but also equality within the family and the public forum, are truly hard to achieve and require political continuity (something Bulgaria lacked), open conversation (something Bulgaria needs) and a lot of pretty cool ladies ready to fight (something we clearly have). Having met some of the students at WE Int., I believe Japan is at least one step closer to the utopia that gender equality is.
Alexandra grew up in Sofia, Bulgaria. She is currently a candidate for the double degree Master of Public Policy between Sciences Po and the University of Tokyo. She holds a BA from the University of Manchester in the UK and has spent a year at Fudan University in China. Alex is passionate about tech, innovation, sustainability and gender equality. Previously, she interned with the Bulgarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and worked as a journalist at the French travel comparison website – Easyvoyage. Next, she will be joining Barclays UK as a technology graduate.