We’re featuring women who are shattering stereotypes in their personal and professional lives. From artists to engineers, women who have forged their own path inspire us and women everywhere to accomplish whatever we dream of being.
Gabi Cohen knew from the moment she entered tech that the field was male-dominated. By the time she finished her MBA and worked her way up the corporate ladder, she was the only woman on the management team at her company. But now she’s at the center of a shift. She’s the VP of marketing at StartApp, a six-year old mobile technology company based in New York. And StartApp has achieved a goal many other tech companies are striving to achieve —half of their employees are women.
Gabi, you’ve worked in several companies where women were a small minority. Now that you are at StartApp, where the gender split is 50/50, what’s different?
Having 50 percent women in the company makes discussions different. It reduces the tension and ego-based conversations. And it also allows us to make more well rounded decisions because we have different perspectives and ideas being brought to the table.
I think our balance between genders creates a positive environment in the office, and that leads to openness and better communication among employees. And I think that having a gender balance indirectly affects men’s approach to work/life balance, giving them the encouragement and legitimacy to take on a more active role in their home environments.
Tell us more about why you think it’s so critical to give both men and women more opportunities to balance work and families.
I strongly believe that the one thing that we all have to work on today, as leaders and as a society, is understanding that people, especially parents, have an important commitment, and important contributions to make, to their own families. If we don’t take actions that enable both parents to manage work-life balance, women will not get the opportunities they deserve to be seen as equal candidates for jobs based on their professional skills. Family commitments and child care will continue to fall squarely on their shoulders.
What advice would you give to other women who want to shatter stereotypes?
I’d tell women that shattering a stereotype starts with us—with our understanding and belief that it is indeed only a stereotype, that we are equally as good and sometimes better.
I’d also say that you should adopt your own leadership style, using your talents along with your intuition, emotional intelligence, sensitivity, ambitiousness and self-confidence. Do not feel pressured to hide your “feminine qualities.” The classic male management model is not the only model, or the better model, and you do not have to emulate it.
And finally, what responsibility do you think successful women have to help other women?
I think you need to be a role model for other women and show them that it is possible to be a leader, a respected professional manager, an influencer, and also a partner and a mother, if that is your goal. Help build the next generation of women fulfilling themselves.
At the end of the day, once you have achieved some success, don’t be embarrassed to feel proud of yourself. Pat yourself on the back—shattering stereotypes is not an easy job!
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