Tiffany Pham, Founder of female-oriented social platform Mogul, is hoping to continue the momentum from the Women's March, by uniting millions of young women in protest across college campuses.
“It's a campaign that emerged organically and took off like wildfire across college campuses," said Pham, the Founder and CEO of women-focused media network, Mogul, of her #ReadMyLips campaign. “It's a campaign of women sending messages directly to the White House [voicing concern for Trump's administration]."
The #ReadMyLips campaign, which now includes students from thousands of schools, began with 24 universities including Harvard, Yale, NYU, Columbia, Cornell, Stanford, and Wellesley. According to Pham, participant statements are printed and placed inside statues- incidentally designed by Saturday Night Live veterans-and delivered to the White House.
“We want to ensure women's voices are heard," says Pham, whose life focus has been and continues to be empowering women through access to communication and content.
Pham's platform, Mogul, which she describes as a “social platform enabling women to connect and get opportunities from each other," now has 18 million readers (aged 18 to 34 years old) per week across 196 countries and 30,470 cities, according to Pham.
“Our community is made up of upwardly mobile rising stars," says Pham. We are aspiring to inspire incredible women who are doing incredible things."
“Essentially my vision for Mogul was inspired by my family," says Pham. “I had grown up in a family that had been for many generations in media and I wanted to follow their footsteps. From early age made my mind up I would provide information access to the world."
Pham, who grew up in Plano, Texas, and learned how to master English through television shows and movies, says she saw from a young age how important access to information was.
“I saw how media was such a powerful tool especially for learning and education and I never forgot that experience," says Pham.
It was during her time at Yale University that Pham decided she would create a company for women, with the goal of empowering them through access to information. Pham then attended Harvard Business School she worked for four years in media for various executives at BBC, HBO and CBS, across television and radio.
“I got to see a lot of different types of media," said Pham, who worked with the Mayor of Beijing on a new venture; an international screenwriting competition. “It was one of the first attempts to reach through cultural gaps between the US and Beijing at that time. I found top talent in the US and had them submit screenplays oriented around Beijing."
Through her project in China, Pham, who was working three jobs and producing films on the side, began to see through her goal of providing access to information across the world. A few months later Pham found herself listed in Forbes 30 Under 30.
“The final catalyst towards launching Mogul was one day I woke up and all these young women around the world started to write me hundreds and thousands of letters," says Pham, regarding the reaction to her feature. “I started writing back to every single letter and started to realize they were telling me my messages were changing their lives. I thought 'what if we could exchange information and share our journeys'?"
“Where were the women's voices?"
After a couple of weeks, Pham taught herself programming and built the first iteration of Mogul on a simple platform, which she launched in 2014. Pham's goal was to offer women that chance to upload-content in real time and see what's trending in terms of women's conversations around the world. According to Pham, Mogul had 1 million users in the first month, a number she attributes to a core database of passionate women who all shared it with their respective networks. Another impressive feat? According to Pham, the site became immediately profitable, and thus self-supporting and sustainable, thanks to its large reach.
“I ultimately knew that what I was creating, as a Millennial myself, would be supremely helpful," says Pham. “It would be for my own personal usage; for me, for my friends, for the young women writing to me. Ultimately I realize all these young women in my life were sharing it, and I saw how much it was resonating and realized how much it was needed. Reddit and Wikipedia (whose authors are 91 percent men) are similar platforms plats yet they are catering to mostly men."
Mogul currently includes two arms in its business model; Mogul Studios, which supports the creation of content with brand partners like IBM, Estée Lauder, and Samsung; as well as Mogul At Work, an employee platform where women can share information about their workplace, and where jobs are posted.
According to Pham, Mogul was commissioned by the NYC Department of education to train 100,00 teachers in gender equality training.
According to Pham, for each dollar generated by Mogul At Work, Mogul provides free access to 62 million girls in need of education, in partnership with the United Nations, beginning with India, Pakistan, Canada, Kenya, Myanmar, and Egypt.
“With world-changing partnerships such as with UN Women, we will be distributing free educational resources to over 62 million women across 93 countries, beginning with Kenya, Sierra Leone, Nepal, India, Pakistan, and the Caribbean," says Pham. “With the launch of our partnership, Mogul and UN Women will now be accelerating educational and economic opportunities for women worldwide. We are proud to make this global impact together."
According to Pham she is currently focused on continuing to grow her platform, with no plans to slow down.
“Our aim to take this to new heights," says Pham. “We built a strong foundations to make a big impact on women globally and that model is one that has enabled Mogul to become a highly sustainable, highly profitable social enterprise. We want to take it to next level, continuing to fortify and scale internationally, and through mobile expansion to new women abroad."
When it comes to the future of media, as a whole, Pham believes the democratization of content will continue.
“I believe that in the future everyone will be creating content in some way," says Pham. “In the end what will differentiate that content is authenticity. Brands are creating content, so are influencers, consumers, and businesses. That's why the Mogul platform has positioned itself to become a daily destination for all these corresponding parties. Mogul will enable them to reach women."
Gender divisions in sports have primarily served to keep women out of what has always been believed to be a male domain. The idea of women participating alongside men has been regarded with contempt under the belief that women were made physically inferior.
Within their own division, women have reached new heights, received accolades for outstanding physical performance and endurance, and have proven themselves to be as capable of athletic excellence as men. In spite of women's collective fight to be recognized as equals to their male counterparts, female athletes must now prove their womanhood in order to compete alongside their own gender.
That has been the reality for Caster Semenya, a South African Olympic champion, who has been at the center of the latest gender discrimination debate across the world. After crushing her competition in the women's 800-meter dash in 2016, Semenya was subjected to scrutiny from her peers based upon her physical appearance, calling her gender into question. Despite setting a new national record for South Africa and attaining the title of fifth fastest woman in Olympic history, Semenya's success was quickly brushed aside as she became a spectacle for all the wrong reasons.
Semenya's gender became a hot topic among reporters as the Olympic champion was subjected to sex testing by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF). According to Ruth Padawer from the New York Times, Semenya was forced to undergo relentless examination by gender experts to determine whether or not she was woman enough to compete as one. While the IAAF has never released the results of their testing, that did not stop the media from making irreverent speculations about the athlete's gender.
Moments after winning the Berlin World Athletics Championship in 2009, Semenya was faced with immediate backlash from fellow runners. Elisa Cusma who suffered a whopping defeat after finishing in sixth place, felt as though Semenya was too masculine to compete in a women's race. Cusma stated, "These kind of people should not run with us. For me, she is not a woman. She's a man." While her statement proved insensitive enough, her perspective was acknowledged and appeared to be a mutually belief among the other white female competitors.
Fast forward to 2018, the IAAF issued new Eligibility Regulations for Female Classification (Athlete with Differences of Sexual Development) that apply to events from 400m to the mile, including 400m hurdles races, 800m, and 1500m. The regulations created by the IAAF state that an athlete must be recognized at law as either female or intersex, she must reduce her testosterone level to below 5 nmol/L continuously for the duration of six months, and she must maintain her testosterone levels to remain below 5 nmol/L during and after competing so long as she wishes to be eligible to compete in any future events. It is believed that these new rules have been put into effect to specifically target Semenya given her history of being the most recent athlete to face this sort of discrimination.
With these regulations put into effect, in combination with the lack of information about whether or not Semenya is biologically a female of male, society has seemed to come to the conclusion that Semenya is intersex, meaning she was born with any variation of characteristics, chromosomes, gonads, sex hormones, or genitals. After her initial testing, there had been alleged leaks to media outlets such as Australia's Daily Telegraph newspaper which stated that Semenya's results proved that her testosterone levels were too high. This information, while not credible, has been widely accepted as fact. Whether or not Semenya is intersex, society appears to be missing the point that no one is entitled to this information. Running off their newfound acceptance that the Olympic champion is intersex, it calls into question whether her elevated levels of testosterone makes her a man.
The IAAF published a study concluding that higher levels of testosterone do, in fact, contribute to the level of performance in track and field. However, higher testosterone levels have never been the sole determining factor for sex or gender. There are conditions that affect women, such as PCOS, in which the ovaries produce extra amounts of testosterone. However, those women never have their womanhood called into question, nor should they—and neither should Semenya.
Every aspect of the issue surrounding Semenya's body has been deplorable, to say the least. However, there has not been enough recognition as to how invasive and degrading sex testing actually is. For any woman, at any age, to have her body forcibly examined and studied like a science project by "experts" is humiliating and unethical. Under no circumstances have Semenya's health or well-being been considered upon discovering that her body allegedly produces an excessive amount of testosterone. For the sake of an organization, for the comfort of white female athletes who felt as though Semenya's gender was an unfair advantage against them, Semenya and other women like her, must undergo hormone treatment to reduce their performance to that of which women are expected to perform at. Yet some women within the athletic community are unphased by this direct attempt to further prove women as inferior athletes.
As difficult as this global invasion of privacy has been for the athlete, the humiliation and sense of violation is felt by her people in South Africa. Writer and activist, Kari, reported that Semenya has had the country's undying support since her first global appearance in 2009. Even after the IAAF released their new regulations, South Africans have refuted their accusations. Kari stated, "The Minister of Sports and Recreation and the Africa National Congress, South Africa's ruling party labeled the decision as anti-sport, racist, and homophobic." It is no secret that the build and appearance of Black women have always been met with racist and sexist commentary. Because Black women have never managed to fit into the European standard of beauty catered to and in favor of white women, the accusations of Semenya appearing too masculine were unsurprising.
Despite the countless injustices Semenya has faced over the years, she remains as determined as ever to return to track and field and compete amongst women as the woman she is. Her fight against the IAAF's regulations continues as the Olympic champion has been receiving and outpour of support in wake of the Association's decision. Semenya is determined to run again, win again, and set new and inclusive standards for women's sports.