Women’s and men’s points of view are not opposite, but complementary. An interview with Agnieszka Rylska, Board Member at Go4Energy
Is the stereotypical, conservative gender division still in place?
Referring to the industry and sector in which I operate, I am pleased to say that a lot has changed here and this gender division has largely disappeared. Whether in management, managerial or leadership positions, or positions of lesser experience, such as consultants or assistants, the partition of roles that I observe is based on knowledge, experience and aptitude, and not dictated by gender.
This pleases me immensely, given that people in the industry have engineering qualifications for the most part, which at one time were associated more with the male part of the society. The changes that can be seen in the industry today were something I had anticipated – when I was a student at the Warsaw University of Technology, in my department and field of study, I noticed that the majority of students were women, which, I admit, surprised me at first, having a stereotypical image of a male engineer in my head. However, it now occurs to me that the future of the engineering industry is no longer stigmatised by gender and soon there will be a bunch of qualified women entering the market to work in the industry, hand in hand with men.
What is your take on quotas? Do they help women or are they simply unnecessary?
I think quotas first and foremost help companies and are necessary in order to have a correct and complete perspective on the running of businesses and projects. It is no secret that women’s and men’s points of view on the same issues or areas are different, but these should not be seen as opposing views, but as complementary, coherent and holistic.
Of course, I will be generalising here, but men typically look at business or project management through Excel sheets. Women look at the issue more broadly, taking into account human, soft factors, not measurable with Excel. Excel, of course, is very important, because at the end of the day it is a business that is supposed to be profitable. However, working in services, where people are the ones who create the company, deliver and sell projects, and are responsible for contact with clients, ensuring their wellbeing, sense of opportunity for development and satisfaction with their tasks is equally important. Even if everything in Excel matches up at first, but the people who make up the company and are assigned to carry out individual tasks and projects are not motivated, satisfied, do not see the sense of the tasks being carried out, Excel will not hold together at the end of the project.
Considering these two areas of company and project management – strictly financial and budgetary and human resources – which are both indispensable, I think that maintaining gender parity is extremely important, given that men mainly focus on the former aspect and women fill in the latter.
Confirmation of the importance of this topic is provided by the ongoing work of the European Parliament in regulating this area, as well as by the examples of countries such as the Netherlands, which did not wait for the EU directives to come into force and decided to regulate the problem of equality in employment themselves, by introducing a law on a more balanced ratio of women and men on management and supervisory boards. The main objective of the law was to guarantee equal access to management functions for women and men. For the time being, the law applies to entities that are considered ‘large’ companies, in the private, as well as in the public sector. However, it is certainly a good start and sets the right direction for change.
Are women too timid to compete for top positions? Perhaps they do not realise their professionalism?
Here, unfortunately, I would certainly answer this question with a yes. Moreover, I believe that women are too uncertain of their skills when competing for any position, extending this issue to more than just top jobs.
When conducting numerous recruitments, one cannot help but notice that the CVs sent by men who take part in the recruitment process for a given position, with specific requirements and qualifications, seldom meet even 50% of them. Women, on the other hand, in order to send in their candidature for a position, in my mind, they feel that they have to make sure each of the requirements is covered and fulfilled to a perfect degree.
Honestly, I have no idea where this comes from, but I do realise that this problem is something that does not only affect the industry I work in, but is widespread – as evidenced by numerous conversations with my female colleagues on the subject.
Therefore, from here, I want to make a call to all women – be more self-confident in your skills and abilities. Especially as soft skills, which no diploma or certificate can confirm, are becoming increasingly important in recruitment. Therefore, let’s be aware of them and use them in the recruitment process.
Hard competences, firstly, will be needed less and less due to the development of AI. Secondly, they can be learned, which is much harder to do with soft competences.
What qualities did you display during your school years? Were you active on the school council, were you class president, etc.?
During my school years I was active in the roles of class president, treasurer and maintained the class register. I found it easy and enjoyable to take on leadership and listening roles. Moreover, since I was elected as the class register caretaker, it meant that the teachers had confidence in me too. I think this has persisted to this day, that I can get along well with both my peers and people much older or younger than me – both professionally and privately. I think that a sense of responsibility for a group of people, trying to reconcile all interests and find compromises, already in my youth, performing these class functions, allowed me to shape, even unconsciously, the very qualities, aptitudes and skills that I developed as I grew older and that have led me today to the management position I took on at the age of 32.
Have you met a business mentor during your career, someone who helped you to strike out?
It’s hard for me to pinpoint one person who has significantly influenced my career path. I think I have met a lot of people who, in a sense, have been an inspiration, motivation and a good example for me whether it is running a business or executing projects. By choosing and assimilating those qualities and behaviours that impressed me, I tried to shape my attitude and career path in such a way as to be the kind of person I would like to work with myself. And the same can be said the other way round – by observing the behaviour and attitudes of the people I encountered on my educational and professional path, I saw qualities and behaviours that were alien to me and caused my disapproval and discomfort, and I promised myself that I would definitely not behave and adopt such business postures. I think each of us should be an example to others, especially in management positions. Before we demand from others, we should demand from ourselves and be more of a mentor than a boss to our employees, because they make up the company.
AI is good at analytics or finance, but lacks emotional intelligence. Does the future of leadership, in view of this, belong to women?
For the moment, definitely yes. The challenges facing the male gender, certainly in the near future, when managing companies or teams, will focus on taking a broader view of the human and soft aspects, because financial analytics can be handled by AI, with only our supervision. In addition, a trait of a good leader, increasingly appreciated and desired, is the ability to analyse the market, to anticipate and read the direction of change, to take a pro-social view of organisations, and to use both one’s own and people’s soft skills. It is challenging because they are harder to measure and often referred to as personal or interpersonal skills, and finding them requires talking to employees and going beyond the familiar and already mentioned Excel charts.
Board Member and Sustainability Department Team Leader at Go4Energy, a company dealing with real estate consultancy, energy consumption analyses and sustainable certification of facilities. Within the company’s structure, she is responsible for the sustainable certification of buildings and office spaces, as well as research and analysis of indoor environmental quality, where she focuses on aspects related to human health and those that affect the comfort of facilities.
She graduated from the Faculty of Environmental Engineering at the Warsaw University of Technology, and devoted her master’s thesis to the topic of HVAC Commissioning Process. She also completed postgraduate studies in Project Management at the Warsaw School of Economics and a CSR Manager course. She holds the Commissioning Authority (CxA) title and was the first of 10 people in Poland to obtain the WELL Accredited Professional (WELL AP) qualification.
Enthusiast of an ecological approach to both living and construction. Member of the National Association for the Support of Sustainable Building (OSWBZ.org) and the ArchiWomen group.
In 2018 and 2019 she was nominated in the Top Woman in Real Estate competition, in the categories Activities for Green Building and Project Management.
Last Updated on August 7, 2023 by Anastazja