Jillian Kowalchuk is the founder of Safe & the City (SatC).

Safe & the City (SatC) is a London-based software technology company that uses geolocation tech and Met Police data in its app with the aim of preventing sexual harassment against women and girls on the streets – from wolf whistling to serious crimes such as rape. The app will be launched on 8th March.

Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role

I was born in Canada but spent my early years in Yemen, where my family was based until the Civil War of 1994. Spending time abroad and away from my native country as a child propagated this type of nomadic lifestyle throughout my life. I am an avid solo traveler and visited over 50 countries to date. I’ve also worked in various countries, including Uganda, Japan, Australia and New Zealand and now the UK. During these travel and work experiences, I was exposed to the different situations and living conditions of people. These immersive experiences also made me familiar with serious issues to these countries or cultures not always open for discussion, but still profoundly impactful.

This is where my passion lies to improve equality and address difficult topics. It was because of that I pursued my MSc in Public Health from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and utilised my psychology degree to advance behaviour change programmes to prevent infectious diseases, like HIV/AIDS. After my studies, I worked as a global public consultant at various private and public organisations, as well as a researcher at UCL London.

I am now the Founder and CEO of Safe & The City, an active advocate for gender equality, and on a mission is to eradicate a different kind of epidemic, and one usually invisible to many – sexual harassment.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

My career path has been a windy one. After my second year of University, I lost several close family members, including my Mother and Father, which made me determined to dedicate my life to a field I could be passionate about and fulfilled by, but this experience also left me feeling confused in where to begin as a young adult. After finishing my Psychology degree, I knew a few answers to this puzzle, that I needed to be equipped to positively impact and help others. I decided the best course of action was to immerse myself in a multitude of fields to gain invaluable life experiences, travel the world and ultimately to learn about myself and find my dream career. I experimented in various fields and countries spanning social work in New Zealand, sales in Australia, teaching in Japan, to a business analyst in Canada. This hit an apex when a close friend graduated from Public Health and the knowledge I accrued, led me to focus my career aspirations in this field.

However, like many things in life the plan doesn’t always go to plan and soon after graduating from London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, with a focus on HIV/AIDS prevention and behaviour change campaigns, and moving permanently to London when Brexit happened, many of the public jobs were cut.

With London rich with data and support for innovative businesses, I started to learn how I could structure my diverse skillset into a field where I could realise the impact I wanted to have.

Tell us about the Safe & the City app?

Safe & The City is a GPS safety app, which aggregates annoymised open data on crimes, street lighting, business opening hours and crowdsourced experiences of sexual harassment, violence and potential environmental /urban instigators to these (i.e malfunctioning street lighting, dark passageways, etc) to provide alternative routes where women feel safer. We display this data to our users and provide data-driven insight on problematic streets, how to mobilise resources and create a safer community by everyone walking through it.

As a socially-driven enterprise we will use data to prioritise individuals’ safety starting in London. From our learnings here, we will develop a minimum viable model (MVM) to scale to other global cities to quickly and effectively respond to the dynamic, demanding and challenging nature of metropolitan cities. We are in our early stages with a small team need so in need of funding/investment, strategic partnerships and supporters who are aligned with our vision that every woman and girl has the right to feel safe while walking.

Do you think campaigns such as #MeToo and #TimesUp can actually bring about change?

Absolutely, I think sharing and storytelling our experiences through different mediums, like social media, can raise awareness, educate and spur conversations on the topic. However, it can be a fine line and we’ve seen many campaigns quickly come and go so the key is to find tangible everyday solutions, like Safe & The City, where it is no longer the trending topic but we can relate to the environments we walk through or locations we know to understand sexual harassment are everyday realities for many people.

If you could change one thing for women in the workplace, what would it be?

This is a challenging question, in part because of a lot of the barriers women face in the workplace, like sexual harassment, are masked, hidden or dismissed. My hope would these could be front and center to the discussion so solutions could emerge as a collective.

How would you encourage other women and girls into STEM careers?

It makes a very small impact to focus energy, resources and time to encourage individual women and girls to move into STEM careers. I believe we need to profile other women in STEM so diversity is early on recognised to children and create policies, incentives, and targetted efforts, to not only encourage the study of STEM subjects but maintain and grow into leadership positions in their career to bring their perspective to solve difficult challenges we all face.

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

It’s hard to qualify one achievement as I appreciate the journey that’s gotten me to where I am today. However, I would have to say launching Safe & The City has been my greatest achievement to date because it is a unique concept I developed, inspired others to join me on this journey and putting it into millions of people hands to start to see the difference it will create.

What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?

The launch of Safe & The City will be a milestone of achievement, but one with many unforeseen challenges as well. Our aim is to create an impactful, successful and scalable business to move into the Global South and other vulnerable communities to start tackling social issues that affect our safety in public and workplaces we have the right to feel safe.