Jenny Quigley-Jones is a Partner Manager, YouTube and social entrepreneur who recently led a successful crowd funding campaign for her brand More Than Simply Pretty a company that provides T-shirts that change minds, look awesome, inspire jealousy and give young women access to education. Here the 26-year-old gives us an insight into what motivates her and tells us why she’s leaving Google to work on financial inclusion in the Middle East. 

What are you working on at the moment?
At the moment, I am preparing to leave my role at Google to focus on financial inclusion in the Middle East. Financial inclusion means getting people access to bank accounts, loans, insurance and educating them about the possibilities. I’ve been thinking a lot about the things that change people’s lives and actually empower them – and I kept coming back to money and security.

In the past I worked with Syrian refugees in the Middle East and when they arrived in Europe. The thing that amazed me is that they are incredibly resilient – they want to build a life and provide for their families. I visited Za’atari refugee camp in Jordan and was shocked to find over 2,500 shops run by Syrian refugees. They weren’t told to start shops – they innovated and chose to. There are 4 wedding dress rental shops in one camp. Pizza delivery, shisha cafes. People are innovating with or without our help. Can you imagine the plans and impact they would have if they had the opportunity to get bank loans?

Who is the woman that most inspires you?
Rania Succar spoke at Harvard Arab Week two years ago. She was working at Google in Silicon Valley at the time and now works at Intuit on Quick Books. Outside her busy job, she founded an NGO called Jusoor. It challenged the ways traditional organizations were offering education to Syrian refugees in Lebanon. Children were dropping out of school as they could not transition to the Lebanese curriculum – which included French and Arabic. Jusoor trained Syrian refugee teachers to get these children up to the required standard and reduce the drop-out rate. They were also offering scholarships for computer science in the US to Syrian refugee students.

Rania proved that if you’re willing to dedicate time to something, you can balance a private-sector job with running an innovative organization. She also showed that innovation comes from the intersection of two fields – for her it was tech and humanitarianism. If you’re willing to try, work hard and innovate, you can do amazing things.

What does feminism mean to you?
A belief that people of all genders have equal capabilities, deserve equal respect and are of equal worth.

Do you think there’s equality between men and women in your industry?
Sadly not. Tech is often heralded as a success case, but the revelations from Uber show that we are far from that ideal.

The theme of this years IWD is #BeBoldforChange. So, if you could change one thing about the world what would it be and why?
Balancing house work and emotional care work. If both were respected equally, I think the gender pay gap would be massively reduced!

What is the best career advice you’ve ever received?
Don’t be scared to ask for things or speak up. I’ve felt a lot of pressure to sit quietly and follow systems, but that isn’t the way innovation happens. Women are often told to make those around them feel better, but not challenging a system makes it worse for those who follow you. Your complicity when something is wrong will impact people down the line.

Poet Suli Breaks gave me some great advice. It is cheesy, but “Follow your passion”. He told me to be brave and I’m (partly) leaving a very nice, secure job at Google because of it.

What’s the best thing about being a woman in 2017?
Being part of the conversation. Even though things seem horrendous politically now, at least the world has been jolted into conversation. I never thought there would be women’s marches in my lifetime – like on January 25th, 2016 – but here we are, at a pivotal time.

What advice would you give the next generation of talent who would love to be in your position?
Find your problem, research it to death, and don’t let go.

Follow Jenny on Twitter @jenqj