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Women in business: The secret to a healthy work-life balance is commitment to gender equality

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Women are seriously underrepresented in tech, but there’s no denying that they are starting to make a name for themselves within the industry. Digital female health is one of the fastest growing sectors, with period and fertility trackers encompassing the second largest category within health apps, falling just behind running apps.

I firmly believe that it is essential for women to empower each other to take up space in the industry and continue breaking gender stereotypes in order to pave the way for others, and this is what we are now seeing with the emergence of women-focused, women-led companies, such as Thinx and PokitDot.

While this is encouraging, one of the biggest obstacles to women in business is that many countries have created an environment where there is a preconceived idea that if you are a woman at the top of a company, you can’t be a mother. We need only think back to the news that Yahoo’s shares fell following CEO Marissa Mayer’s pregnancy announcement to see how little confidence there is in a woman’s ability to successfully maintain a work-life balance. 

Personally, the idea that women must choose between a career or a family is not a premise that I am willing to accept. Being a CEO and a mother of two, I am testament to the fact that, while it can be challenging to manage and hard at times, women absolutely can have both. 

Growing up in Denmark, and having a business in Berlin, I have been fortunate enough not to face such inequality. I was raised in, and work in, a society where men and women are seen as and treated as equal. It is common, not just in Denmark, but in many Scandinavian countries, for both men and women to take lengthy leaves of absence when a child is born. In fact, in some areas it is actively encouraged. In Sweden, many employers encourage their male employees to take six months leave, enabling them to bond with their child and support their partner. 

This system works. It eradicates gender preference in the workplace as employers economise and plan for both men and women being out of the office for long periods of time. By creating a culture of equality in parental leave, pregnancy, motherhood and being a woman simply cannot be stigmatised. I apply this culture to my own business.

At Clue, we are constantly experimenting with our work-life balances in the company. For instance, I hired a personal assistant (who also is my best friend) to take care of my daughter who was four months old when I came back to work. By having them both in the office I made sure I breastfed and held my daughter many times a day, and was confident that someone I trusted was taking care of her when I was in meetings or working. I could imagine that model working for others who become mothers at Clue – the next being one of our data scientists, who has just given birth.

This culture is reflective of our philosophy at Clue as a whole. By creating an environment that enables our employees, both male and female, to have a work-life balance and to work in an environment where neither their personal life nor their professional life is impacted, we are able to retain and nurture the very best talent. 

Being a parent is part of many people’s lives, and, regardless of whether you carry the child, family planning and fertility is relevant to 100 per cent of the population. Even if you don’t experience a menstrual cycle yourself, you are almost certainly close to someone who does. For this reason it is essential to us that our team is a balanced gender mix, as we don’t view period tracking as a woman-only area but something that affects everyone. In this same vein, traditionally male-led companies must realise that female voices are both essential and valuable.

The best companies, and the businesses that will be most successful in the future, will be those that create solutions for working parents, and that cultivate a culture of acceptance and equality.

Ida Tin is CEO and co-founder of woman-led digital health startup, Clue.

Concerned with issues surrounding gender diversity in business? Don’t miss the Real Business First Women programme:

Drawing on years of the First Women movement and the phenomenal network of pioneering women the Awards has created, this programme features The First Women Awards and The First Women Summit  designed to educate, mentor and inspire women in all levels of business.

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