Somi Arian is the CEO and founder of FemPeak, a platform to raise women’s socioeconomic status through technology. A tech philosopher, author, international speaker, award-winning filmmaker, and LinkedIn Top Voice influencer, she specializes in the impact of technology on society and the future of work.
I had the opportunity to interview Somi recently. Here are some of the highlights of that interview:
Jill Griffin: So, tell me about your business.
Somi Arian: Sure. I started a think tank for women in business and technology last year. The goal of it was to understand why women aren’t in the top tiers of business and technology. The world is run by 10 corporations, five in China and five in America, but none of them are founded and run by women.
When I wrote a book about the future of work, I realized that most of my references—91% to 95% of them—were from men, and I wanted to understand why. Other women want to understand this, too: over 50,000 women have joined our platform so far.
Griffin: That’s fabulous. What does the platform do for women?
Arian: It helps women excel in business, find new career opportunities, raise investments, and more. It consists of four hubs. The first is our knowledge hub, which helps women with six hurdles they may encounter in business and tech: lack of confidence, lack of financial literacy, lack of technical skills, lack of business or entrepreneurial skills, lack of support, and women’s health issues, such as childbirth.
In the knowledge hub, we have people we call Sherpanis, like the Sherpas who help you to get to the top of Mount Everest. Sherpanis are like female Sherpas, and our Sherpanis help women. For example, our confidence Sherpani is an MIT professor of astrophysics.
As another example, our family and relationship Sherpani is a former managing director of Marie Claire and Cosmopolitan. We have some really amazing women who have come on board.
We offer ”Conversations with Sherpanis,” which are virtual workshops. Women from around the globe attend and ask questions. Just yesterday, we held one on intellectual property and branding for female entrepreneurs.
Griffin: That’s very exciting! So, what’s next?
Arian: It’s exciting. Every year we’ll be building another hub. This year, we’re finishing the knowledge hub. Next year, we’ll be building our career hub, which will act like a talent pool. In 2023, we’ll be building our FemTrade hub, a marketplace for female-led startups to sell their products and services. And in 2024, we’ll be launching our investment network hub. And there are two more areas we’re currently researching. One is a crypto-based lending platform. The other is a FemLab, where we can invest in fem tech. It’s like a complete ecosystem.
Griffin: Yes. So tell me a little bit about your background and what led you to this vision.
Arian: I was born and brought up in Iran during the Iran-Iraq War. It was a very oppressive society. I came to the U.K. when I was 23 and studied at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, where I earned two master’s degrees in political science and the philosophy of science and technology. I then went into television, learned filmmaking, and became a full-fledged producer. Then I started my own marketing agency. From there, I raised investments to build the FemPeak platform.
Griffin: It’s amazing to me how you navigated out of an oppressive regime and then excelled at St. Andrew’s. Give my readers tips for how to rise because you’ve clearly risen.
Arian: Well, one way would be to visit FemPeak. We, as women, are nowhere near our peak. That’s why we use the Sherpani concept. Our Sherpanis will help you.
Growing up, I didn’t have this kind of network. I discovered early on that I didn’t have support. I quickly learned that happiness and energy had to come from me to the outside world. I couldn’t wait for the outside world to give it to me because it might never happen.
Griffin: That’s a wise view.
Arian: Once you know yourself, once you know where you need support, you’ll find that support. You can bring the people you need into your life.
Building your network has to be focused on giving value to others. When you do that, everybody wants to be around you. If you go to people and say, “What can you do for me?” that doesn’t work. Instead, ask, “What can I do for you?”
Griffin: Exactly. Regarding the resilience that’s required, tell me more about that.
Arian: I believe that if you do what you love and you’re happy doing what you love, you can work 15 hours a day, six and a half days a week. People often ask me, “How do you manage? Do you have work-life balance?” Well, the truth is, I don’t have work-life balance. I have work-life plans.
Griffin: For career women, the notion of balance is crazy.
Arian: Right? Einstein didn’t say, “OK, it’s 5 p.m. I’m going to go home, and I’m not going to come up with E = mc2.”
Griffin: But if you love what you’re doing, you’re really not working. You’re just exploring what you love.
Arian: Exactly. Of course, there are a few things I do that help. I don’t eat sugar. I try my best to sleep well. I have an Ōura Ring that measures my deep and REM sleep. I read. I try my best to look after myself.
Because I’m a tech philosopher, I rely on tech a lot. There’s a device I use called an Alpha-Stim. You put it on your ear lobes, and it sends waves to your brain, which calms down your brain and helps you relax.
I’m also invested in a company called NuroKor BioElectronics. which created pads you put on your body to help with pain management. Through that, I learned about microcurrents and how they can help your body regenerate. It’s pretty amazing technology.
Griffin: This is so enlightening. I really love what you’re doing for women. I mean, it’s vital that we support women of all races and colors because the world needs the love and heart we bring into the world.
Arian: That’s right. The way I see it, the reason I’m so fascinated with this concept is that in the 21st century, our technology is still designed by men. There’s a lack of female perspective.
Let me give you a quick example. My Ōura Ring can tell when I have my period. It lets me know my body temperature is higher than usual but asks, “Are you OK? Are you sick?” It can’t process that my temperature is related to my cycle because it’s not designed by a woman.
Griffin: That’s a great example for women to consider. I’m so glad we got to meet. You’re doing amazing things. Thank you so much.
Arian: Thanks, Jill. It was my pleasure.