Stop at Nothing, Give Your Everything.
Though gender equality is often flaunted as a desired goal in the tech world, a closer look paints a troublesome picture. In terms of access to funding and opportunities, the reality women face is daunting.
“The world is an imperfect place”, says Inbal Cohen, Berlin-based startup CPO/CTO who made it to the top. “What we do with those conditions is what counts”, and Inbal generously agreed to share from her perspective and impressive experience, what exactly it is that we should be doing.
Excellence requires the right mindset-
Inbal Cohen, CPO/CTO
Find a place that suits you
The structure of much of the marketplace is flawed, says Inbal. It may have been different if there were more women in management positions, but until then, the reality is that not every place is going to be the right environment for you.
Some environments can be downright hostile to women, but the situation is more complex than just that: small startups, for example, may be pressed between offering their workers appropriate benefits and keeping their business afloat, and so may not be the best choice for young mothers, a group that tends to find itself at a disadvantage in the work market.
That doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of other places happy to provide us with a positive environment. As discussed in my last post about the Career Trap, Inbal agrees that we should be choosy about our work environment, and know to say “no” when faced with one that doesn’t suit our expectations.
Go for great
I like to joke that I am looking forward to a world where there are as many “just ok” female CEOs as there are male ones. Many of us know all too well, that in order to reach a senior position, women are often required to do backflips that are just not required of their male counterparts.
Inbal sees another angle. ”I am not here to encourage mediocrity. Not everyone has to be excellent. But if you want to be excellent you have to adopt the right mindset. Many times you will see others doing a crappy job and getting things you could only dream of getting. Sitting and thinking ‘I should be getting those things because I’m good’ just won’t cut it. People aren’t paid to think they are great.”
Don’t stop at no
One part of that mindset is how you handle failure. Inbal points out that no one ever makes it with their first idea for a startup. You try 20 times and get rejected until something finally works. You learn from your failures and implement your conclusions.
“I’ve seen so many women give up after they hear a ‘no’ or two, or get negative feedback. I’ve been called a rhinoceros more than once for my attitude. OK, so I’m a rhinoceros- I embrace it and move on.”
“I personally think criticism is very important. I see many women complain about being criticised, but I think if you’ve made mistakes or done something wrong, you should embrace that criticism and learn from it. If you want to be excellent you need to really reflect and be honest with yourself on what you did wrong and what you could have done better. That’s the only way to learn the best way to achieve the results you want.”
When I ask Inbal to summarise her philosophy she uses the metaphor of a game:
“It’s clear that life isn’t fair- the rules of the game are not necessarily in our favour. The question is what you choose to do. You can choose not to play, or you can choose to play and complain the whole way.
I believe in a third way- playing the game and taking what you can from it. I try to complain as little as possible, and to do everything I can to make the game my own. I think that’s a place that exists, and the way to it is to be very honest with yourself, and to be prepared to shift and pivot to correct your course.”
I have my own reservations about playing given the existing rules. I’m a staunch believer in saying “these rules are crap- I want other rules, and here’s why you should give them to me”. And I believe that charging a price from those who perpetuate those unfair rules is the only way to move forward (so I don’t at all mind complaining enough for them to think twice about behaving unfairly).
To me that is the main goal of Negotiatress- renegotiating our space and role in society, insisting on a better deal for ourselves rather than endlessly adapting and jumping through hoops. Maybe the difference between what we’re saying is semantic, maybe it’s much deeper. But I think we both can agree that a world should exist where women’s paths to success are as varied as their personalities. And at the end of the day, the more trailblazing women like Inbal are up there showing the rest of us what is possible- the better.
Inbal is an executive product, innovation, and leadership expert, located in Berlin. She has a decade of experience in building teams, departments, and products in mobility, fintech, and community-building.
See you next post!
Founder of Negotiatress