My name is Justyna Nowicka. I am the CEO of Aspireapp.co and I am… A Woman.
*Shocked gasps from the audience*
Here I am world, the proud owner of her very own start up. I’ve got my ‘I’m running a tech start-up badge’ pinned to my chest and am gleefully shoving it down the throat of anybody who even dares to mention a passing interest in it. Yet something is bothering me lately; now that I’m in the coveted position of CEO of a start-up – I am suddenly aware of a lot of commentary on women in tech. Every time I open Aspire’s Twitter feed @Aspireapp.co there seems to be no end of blogs, reports and general drama relating to women’s position in the industry.
So here it is, my controversial opinion… Ready?
Maybe we should stop focusing on the perceived inequalities of the industry and instead start focusing on what makes you kick ass within that industry. Look, think of it like this: if you are a woman in tech you may experience some form of passive or open discrimination. Should you let it slow you down? Hell no!
I believe ASPIRE is going to change the recruitment industry. Am I doing this for women everywhere? Nope. Sorry women everywhere, I’m doing this because I can see which way the wind is turning. Somebody will do this, the industry is ripe for revolution and I think I have the ability, the drive and the vision to make it happen.
Ah, the controversy…
There’s been a lot of controversy in the news this week about the Google employee’s anti-diversity memo. In case you didn’t see it – a senior software engineer at Google posted an internal memo rallying against Google diversity policy. It accused Google of pushing women and minorities into positions beyond their skill set to meet diversity requirements. Do I agree with everything he said? No, but I do agree that positive discrimination is just as bad as negative discrimination.
A little girl with 4 brothers.
My 4 older brothers and my father always treated me equally. My dad gave equal opportunities to each of us and expected equal results. It was through my family that I learned about confidence, drive and commitment. Crucially, I was taught that you should always expect to fight for what you want in life. When I first came to London, I secured a job on the same day I arrived. I was the third person in what is now the 30+ people strong MAXIMeyes Group and had a crucial role in growing and shaping the company. Admittedly, I was supported and rewarded at every stage by the (male) founder but this doesn’t diminish or define my success.
Does it bloody matter?
As a female CEO of a start-up I join the ranks of a rare 17%. From 2012-2017 on average 17% of start-ups are founded solely by a woman. Does that make ASPIRE more or less important I wonder? On the one hand, I probably tick a box on a VC’s checklist ensuring that they have at least one woman on their books. On the other hand, I guess I’m less likely to be picked overall compared to a man. Am I losing sleep over it going into a pitch to secure investment? Not a chance. I worked damn hard to get the opportunity to be here and I am going to make the most of it. That, in my mind, is the important thing. If you want something, work hard for it. Maybe being a woman makes me better at some things and maybe that doesn’t matter. Could it be that drive, belief, intelligence, confidence, commitment or all the above are more important?
There are studies that suggest that brain chemistry differs between the two sexes, which could account for some of the perceived differences. There are also studies which state that our biological make-up is essentially a mixed bag either way. So why not spend less time worrying about it and get on with the job in hand?
Do butchers discriminate?
Did you know that 78% of ‘Labour based jobs are held by men? That’s brick layers and bin men and so on. Only 8% of over 5,000 RNLI (Royal National Lifeboat Institution) workers are women. Out of 7,000 butchers in the UK only 3 of them are women (2013). There are 300,000 truck drivers in the UK, of whom 1,600 (0.5%) are women. But why am I not seeing this on my Twitter feed? I believe it’s because these positions, while skilled and respected, aren’t making headlines. There is no bin man with a net worth in the millions or a butcher on Forbes’ annual rich list. You may be surprised to find out that 0.04% of butchers are women, but I see very few people taking a stand. Is it because women are inherently bad at butchering? Does it even matter? Is it important to us as a society that we have equal men and women butchers, mechanics or train drivers?
Stop waving the “sexism flag”.
Tech is massive right now, industries are being disrupted and turned on their heads left, right and center. With this success and press also comes scrutiny and drama. My theory is simple: stay above it, focus on what makes YOU a success, whoever you are, a man or a woman, or a non-binary. Focus on what YOU bring to the table. Whether people believe that you’re a good communicator because you’re a woman or just simply because you are an intelligent person, the important thing is you’re a good communicator. ASPIRE was in part inspired by this mentality. By utilizing big data, it can link potential employees with work positions that suit their strengths, their personality, their dreams – who cares about the gender?
I do believe that by flying the “sexism flag” you can end up providing some people with a way in or out of a position that maybe they aren’t suited for. I also think that positive sexism takes place almost as much as the traditional kind.
Mostly, I believe that if you really, truly want something – you will find a way. No matter what people’s opinion is on what is going on in between your legs.