Leadership with a feminine accent. Katarzyna Szulim CEO of PR and Marketing Agency “Commfort Safety” talks about empathy, finance, new technologies and intuition in business
Do female business owners have a much harder time than men when it comes to raising funds from investors, or do they use other sources of funding?
The current situation we are facing across the world is having a huge impact on how businesses operate. That is why owners of well-known brands are looking to investors for help. Women also utilise a similar solution. Raising finance from investors works on the same principle, regardless of gender. How we present our company has a big impact on the interest among investors. It is therefore worthwhile to present your agenda in an interesting manner to raise new funds. Only that way, you can achieve a complete success.
Why are women twice less likely than men to launch startups?
Female startup founders do not attract as much interest as founders of the opposite sex. It’s unfortunate, but true. Funding for female-founded startups is still in short supply. What can help them is certainly more funding opportunities and a larger group of mobilised, supportive individuals.
Is the stereotypical, conservative gender division of roles still in place?
It depends on the industry. Considering all the technical professions, I think so. I will elaborate on this with a specific example. The owners of a mine or a construction company would sooner hire a man than a woman. Why? Primarily because a man is perceived as stronger than a woman. Personally, I think women could also handle such demanding situations. We are tenacious and can cope with the challenges we face. On the other hand, there are considerably more women working in Public Relations, Marketing and Social Media, although, as far as my Agency is concerned, these proportions are more balanced. Recently, a fair number of men have joined the ranks of Commfort Safety, which makes me very happy. As you can see, in this respect, it all depends on the industry and slow skills.
What is your take on quotas? Do they help women, or are they simply unnecessary?
For any change to occur, quotas are not enough to improve women’s participation in business life. While they have helped to reduce existing inequalities in many countries, it is not the only way to improve the current situation. Better reform is needed, resulting in the introduction of a proper support programme. I think such support should be provided via solutions that promote flexible working hours or additional assistance related to childcare. It would also be worthwhile to start investing in women’s professional and individual development.
What traits did you display during your school years, were you active in student councils, as a class president, etc.?
Each of us certainly remembers those times. As a child, I was also an active person. I was involved in the school council and as an editor for the school newspaper. My activity was easy to spot – everywhere I went, I left my unique voice and my opinion. The student council is an organisation providing a very important link between students and teachers. Through it, young people receive practical life lessons. Participating in such projects is definitely a good thing for their future. It is here that I was able to learn the basics of management or even diplomacy and negotiation skills. In addition to this, I was also able to gain additional knowledge and experience helpful in adult life. In retrospect, I see that everything happens for a reason. It is worth not forgetting that.
Have you met a business mentor along your life’s path, someone who has inspired you to pursue this particular career?
Yes, and more than one. I think we all have such people in our lives. Why is it worth having one? There are many reasons, really. One of the most important things is that a mentor is able to point out the right steps or activities in order to emerge victorious from any given situation. In essence, it is a person worth following. As far as I am concerned, I have met such people at practically every stage of my life. Whether it was university or my first jobs, I have always had very warm and exceptional life guides around me.
Sometimes they happened to be my direct superiors, sometimes my co-workers. More recently, a kind of mentor for me is anyone who simply possesses a sharp tongue, a practical outlook on life and a big heart. I am happy to be surrounded by people who look in the same direction as me and are not afraid to be themselves, in this often virtual world.
But the greatest mentors I have are my Parents – to them I owe the place I am in right now! I bow low to their life wisdom and multifaceted perspective. Thanks to them, I know that anything is possible.
Are women open to new technologies and how do they handle them?
Of course they are. Just as well as men, I think. It is commonly accepted that new technologies are a man’s world. However, this stereotype is being increasingly broken by women. The pandemic has shown us many possibilities. Moving our professional lives into the on-line sphere was no longer so difficult for us. Through professional development, we are constantly open to new opportunities. This is why it makes sense to develop your skills. You can already see that most of the marketing strategy activities are carried out on popular social media. Women have also embraced the new technological solutions that make them accessible online.
Do the key qualities of a good leader, such as empathy, understanding or even a pro-social view of the organisation, work to the advantage of women?
I am sure of it. The prerequisite for success is to have the potential and to use it in your work. The qualities of a good leader, such as empathy or understanding, come in handy when dealing with difficult situations in the company. It is common for an employee to struggle with certain problems in his or her personal life. It is obvious that we should not take advantage of such a situation at work. A bad day can happen to any of us. An understanding attitude on the part of the boss is the guarantee of good cooperation. Psychologists emphasise that stress does not help to achieve the desired goal. It is acting under pressure that prevents us from focusing on our work and fulfilling our responsibilities. Based on the above, it is clear that empathy, understanding or even a pro-social view of the organisation are key elements in building a leadership position today. This is not to say that only women should have these qualities. Many men in management positions possess these traits and are open to new experiences.
How do women handle analytics or finance by relying on their emotional intelligence? Can this approach be described as the future of leadership and does it therefore belong to women?
A good leader needs to know everything. In today’s volatile times, we need more confidence and the ability to adapt to rapid change. From the information I have gathered, it seems that women are better at handling the economic and social spheres. This is their strategic skill in today’s ever-changing business world. Women business managers often analyse and implement good financial solutions. They have leadership skills. I do not know if the future of leadership belongs to the world of women. What I am sure of is that with their better developed empathy, they are able to get out of a situation effectively. They support and motivate other employees in their further professional development.
Katarzyna Szulim, owner of “COMMFORT SAFETY”, a PR and Marketing Agency operating on the market for many years. In June 2023, she was awarded the Eagle of “Wprost” in the Leader of the Region category. For more than 15 years, she has been conducting consulting projects in the areas of product communication and crisis communication. She specialises in electromobility, IT, medical, educational, health and corporate social responsibility projects. She represents boards of companies from the private and corporate sector, as well as the public sector, in front of the media.
Last Updated on August 28, 2023 by Anastazja