5 women. 5 countries. The same story.
Equal rights and women in business is a pretty hot topic right now. It’s also something we feel really passionate about. With the EU pay gap between men and women at an average of 16.2% per hour, it’s obvious why there’s a need for international women’s day. But will there still be a need for it in 10 years time? To try and answer this question, we’ve spoken to 5 different women with experience in 5 different countries to see if women really are facing the same issues worldwide.
There are over 126 million female entrepreneurs worldwide
The role of women in business is going through an exciting shift. Although in the UK women account for under a third of people self-employed, most of those started after 2008. Women now account for 17% of business owners in the UK, and if you take a look from a global perspective, over 126 million women run their own business worldwide. And most impressively, 30% of all US businesses are owned or run by women. Yes, we know we’re still in the minority, but we’re getting there, and that’s exciting 🙂
“Many male end-clients think that translation is “easy” as it’s such a female-dominated industry”
Having a female managing director ourselves, there’s no better person to give a perspective on women in business than Agata Rybacka. As our industry is very feminine, there really isn’t anything special about being a female business owner. Agata did note, however, that when dealing with end-clients, many male business owners do seem to think that translation is “easy” compared to industries like IT because of the fact there are so many women working in our industry.
With over 15 years in business, Agata has seen her fair share of pregnancies and discrimination issues. She’s come across lazy parents (both male and female), and parents who will do anything to provide for their kids. Having had to deal with women quitting their jobs the moment they find out they’re pregnant, she does understand why businesses tend to prefer hiring men because of stability, but Agata strongly believes it doesn’t have to be that way. As children have to be born and it’s something men simply can’t do, if dealt with right pregnancy and children don’t have to be a problem.
“Women have to work harder to prove themselves in such a male-dominated industry like IT”
With plenty of women’s support groups out there for women in business, we thought we’d get some more opinions. We had a chat with Iwona Gruszka who owns her own business helping women start and grow their business online. She teaches them how to use technology tools and put together solid strategies to maximize growth.
Iwona’s passion for working with women is clear – she loves how motivated they are and how willing they are to admit when they need help with something. For her, results are what matters – not someone’s sex.
Iwona gained a wealth of experience working in the USA and really appreciated that there are so many more equal opportunities in the US than if you compare it to Poland. However, having been involved in initiatives that help women in IT, she found that women had to work harder to prove themselves in such a male-dominated industry.
In both Poland and worldwide, women are seen as less professional by certain people and constantly need to prove themselves. Luckily times are changing, as many women are setting up support groups through Facebook for example, and the energy and enthusiasm to support each other is just amazing. As Iwona has heard on many occasions that women lack support setting up a business (even by friends and family), she feels that these support groups are more important than ever. More women are starting their own businesses after having children, which is brilliant.
“Polish businesswomen must fight for social acceptance”
Polish businesswoman Emilia Barska was also kind enough to share her views and experience about being a businesswoman in Poland. Generally, in Poland, women tend to be homemakers rather than business owners. You get 1 years paid maternity and have the option to take up to three years unpaid leave. This has left many business owners reluctant to hire young women. They think that as soon as they get pregnant they’ll never turn up at work again because of both the pregnancy and later on because of having to look after sick kids etc. However, considering the labour market right now, employers can’t afford to be picky.
Emilia told us that although women are taken seriously, they have to fight to make their dreams happen. Society as a whole often doubts a woman’s ability to run a business. In Poland, women really have to prove themselves. Women often decide to have a normal job with a stable income just because of the stability, even though they get paid less.
Fear is something that Emilia noted on more than one occasion. But why, in 2018, are we scared to follow our dreams? Having worked with numerous women, she noted the lack of support. Being able to support each other and not judge each-others life choices would be a dream come true.
“The Czech system is amazing for raising kids. But if you want to be more than a homemaker, you’ve got a fight ahead of you”
To give things a more international twist, Sarah, who manages our marketing and is also the managing director of Retro Digital, shared her thoughts with us. Being a mother of 2 and a business owner from a Czech/Irish business background, she’s noted that even though the two countries have very different systems, women are facing very similar issues.
In the Czech Republic, women get 4 years maternity leave which makes employers (sometimes far too openly) reluctant to hire young women as they don’t want to have to take temps on for such a long time. Women do also face a lot of judgment if they do go to work as men (and other women, too) often feel that a woman’s place is at home, raising kids.
Although the social stigma of being a working mum in Ireland isn’t there, childcare is a very big issue that’s driving women out of the workplace. As you only get 26 weeks paid maternity, unless you’re on a very low income, you have to pay for childcare yourselves after that. As most childcare providers are privately run, the costs make it pointless going back to work as you’ll be paying more than you earn, or at least as much as you earn, for childcare.
“Flexibility is the key when it comes to work, so I really appreciate different opportunities Aploq’s giving us. I can’t imagine a better place to work at this point of my life”
Here at Aploq, we understand we have no right to ask our staff about when they plan on having kids etc. We’re really lucky, though, that being such a close team we’re very open with each other. We really appreciate it when our team members come to us and tell us they’re pregnant or trying for a baby. That way, we can put measures in place to make it as easy for them as possible. We’ll start training their replacement so that they’re not too stressed with work and the team can adapt as easily as possible. We are genuinely lucky that all our team members understand these kinds of issues and are willing to help their colleagues out, no matter what.
There are 6 “Aploq babies” in total. We know what it’s like having kids and the fact they do get sick etc. As a mother herself, Agata is a firm believer that motherhood is the most vital job in society. She feels it’s an employer’s responsibility to be understanding of both mothers and children’s needs. And our proofreader, Agnieszka, goes to show that Aploq’s family-friendly attitude is paying off. She told us:
“before becoming a mother of two, I never thought I’d be able to manage the challenges I had to face for the last 4 years but it made me a completely different person, empowered me, I feel stronger than before and I can tell myself straight in the face that I’ll manage anything without being sarcastic. Being a mum also taught me how to learn from my mistakes and improve without dwelling on them. And flexibility is the key when it comes to work, so I really appreciate different opportunities Aploq’s giving us. I can’t imagine a better place to work at this point of my life”.
Times are changing, but not fast enough
So, are things changing for Polish businesswomen? And women in general? The answer is yes, but it’s slow. It’ll take decades before women will be accepted as breadwinners just like men. Right now it’s unfortunately unthinkable that a woman will be as successful and as well-paid as a man. It looks like international women’s day is here to stay. But with more support, we can pull together and fight the social prejudice against women in business.