HeForShe: Ari Last | Founder & CEO, Bubble

Bubble Founder Ari Last HeForShe

Ari is a dad to Zeb, Thea and Ethan. The idea for bubble came from personally experiencing the difficulty in finding trusted childcare, and the hugely adverse impact it had on his life and every parent he knew.

Ari’s professional experience is with leading marketplace businesses. Prior to starting bubble, Ari spent three years at London Fintech MarketInvoice, joining as employee #8 and helping the company scale to over 100 employees and £1bn+ in funding. Before MarketInvoice, Ari worked for five years at global online betting exchange, Betfair, across PR, Public Affairs and Business Development in emerging markets.

Why do you support the HeForShe campaign? For example – do you have a daughter or have witnessed the benefits that diversity can bring to a workplace?

I support the HeForShe campaign because I’ve seen first hand both the negative implications of deep-rooted gender inequality – and the hugely positive change that a more level playing field brings.

The business I founded spawned in reaction to a classic gender bias in our society – the imbalanced perceived roles of women and men when it comes to childcare.

I’m the father of three children, I have two sons and one daughter. When my wife and I had our first child, like most new parents we were quickly faced with the problem of access to childcare. I noticed how it was a subject and challenge where a lot of focus and expectation was on Mum –  a reality directly contributing to the stress and burden many new mums struggle to cope with, and issues like the gender pay gap.

Solving this problem was one of the key reasons why I decided to create bubble, an app that makes it easy for parents to organise childcare.  Our service is now used by a lot of working mothers (many who freelance), and is having a massive impact on their ability to kick-on with their careers post having kids. What’s also been amazing to see is how the utility of bubble is enabling many more men to take on childcare responsibilities; dads who are now taking responsibility for organising care, and male sitters and nannies who are being increasingly booked to do it.

We’re seeing and hearing how this increased balance when it comes to childcare responsibility is having such a positive impact on people’s lives, which on a personal level has reinforced how greater gender equality will bring huge benefits to our society, economy and our children.

Why do you think it’s important for men to support gender equality in the workplace?

It’s important because in doing it, our businesses, relationships and our children will be better off.  The more advocates there are, the more you can impact change at all levels. We know from our own customer feedback that a key reason why fathers don’t take on more childcare responsibility is out of fear of how they will be ‘perceived’ in their workplace. That’s one stigma we need to smash.

How welcome are men in the gender equality conversation currently?

I think it’s fair to say that there is a fine line to walk. More men need to get involved, but we need to be listening – not talking. The only way things can change is if we really understand the points of view and issues of women looking for equality. We shouldn’t pretend or assume to know all the answers. We need to listen and then act. I think we are absolutely welcome as long as we actually act on what it is we are being told, and we voice our opinions with respect and willingness to learn.

Do you think groups/networks that include the words “women in…” or “females in…” make men feel like gender equality isn’t really their problem or something they need to help with?

I don’t think so, and if it were to encourage a man out of the conversation, then they’re missing the point. Sadly, discrimination doesn’t heal itself naturally, if it did, then it wouldn’t exist in the first place. Concerted, deliberate and proactive efforts to fight against the inertia that facilitates discrimination is what’s always required to reverse it, and women need support networks and championing. So groups like these are very important to meet and connect with others in the same situation. It’s not about the name, it’s what the group does that is important. There are plenty of groups with these sorts of names that welcome men to attend their events – you just need to dig a little deeper to find that out.

What can businesses do to encourage more men to feel welcome enough to get involved in the gender debate?

Policies and benefits that help tackle the issue of gender inequality need to be insisted upon, rather than seen as nice to haves. Take paternity leave for example. We know dads are barely using it, and we know it’s largely because they don’t feel – even on a subconscious level –  that there’s a genuine acceptance in for them utilising it. We change that by management insisting on it being taken, rather than just accepting it – and by leading by example too. It’s also vital in a business context, that we’re always keeping our eye on not just the benefits to the individual, but to the business as well. The business case for gender equality is so strong, it should be at the forefront of the discussion, not an after-thought.

Do you currently mentor any women or have you in the past?

Mentoring is perhaps too strong a term (the knowledge-sharing typically goes both ways!), but since launching a stat-up I’ve advised several women who are setting up themselves.

Have you noticed any difference in mentoring women – for example, are women less likely to put themselves forward for jobs that are out of their comfort zones or are women less likely to identify senior roles that they would be suited for?

To be honest it’s not something I’ve personally noticed, though attitudes and barriers likely vary depending on the sector you’re in. The women I’ve been fortunate enough to work with are talented, smart and filled with conviction. Any notion that they shouldn’t or can’t be running companies of all types and sizes is absurd.

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