We give a voice to those who have, so far, been silent

Projects in Poland
We give a voice to those who have, so far, been silent

Do women in Polish companies really face discrimination? How does the discrimination work?

At the Kulczyk Foundation, for some time now, instead of talking about discrimination, we’ve preferred to talk about balance and the need to maintain it. Discrimination has derogatory connotations, it gives the conversation a confrontational character from the get go. And we’re not here to point fingers or accuse anybody. We need to keep in mind that language shapes the world. Which words we choose has a huge impact.

Our goal is to change the world, and for that we need women as well as men. It’s important that men also understand our cause and join the effort to bring about this change. That’s how our team at the Kulczyk Foundation works – many girls are also joined by guys. I used the word ‘girls’, so I had to follow up with ‘guys’ (laughs). We need them to understand, not only because in the majority of companies the governing and decision-making bodies are still mostly made up of men, but also because change brought about in harmony between these two worlds has a shot at being long-lasting.

There’s another important thing. We are no longer fighting for anything. We are focusing on regaining the balance – hence the name of the competition. We are working together to bring harmony and teamwork. To create working conditions in which women and girls can have equal opportunities. That will be enough to empower them to show their agency and strength.

There’s another group of unaddressed issues that are less talked about in the context of equality. What are these issues?

One of KF’s goals is taking note of issues that aren’t being given enough attention and changing that. My employees often joke that the word ‘impossible’ doesn’t exist in Kulczyk’s dictionary... (laughs). This was the case with menstruation, now it’s the same with menopause. Which issues are underrepresented keeps evolving, and we are careful observers of the world around us. Before we act, we ask the women who have been silent until now, and give them a voice. The reality in which we are used to staying silent is quickly changing and I’m glad the Kulczyk Foundation can be a part of that. We conduct thorough research, and through our reports, broad round table talks, support programmes, and ‘tailored’ competitions, we aim to spread information. These projects are our modus operandi – the first push, which immediately creates a domino effect.

What do you want to achieve by holding competitions for employers?

Through our ‘RównoWaga Employer Awards’ (Polish: ‘RównoWaga. Prokobieca firma roku’), we want to change the reality of the places where women spend a large part of their lives. It makes our blood boil that in workplace restrooms, toilet paper, soap, often hand cream and other products are readily available, but there aren’t any pads or tampons. Schools, universities, restaurants and other public spaces are no different. It just goes to show that these spaces are designed by men. And that’s not an accusation. It’s hardly surprising that they see the world through their own eyes. We want to explain to them and make them aware that we share this world, and that both women’s and men’s needs should be considered. This is no fight or tug of war. It’s striving for harmony and balance.

As women, we have a lot to offer to the world: tenderness, empathy, intuition. It’s we who have this innate mother’s wisdom or sisters’ loyalty. It’s we who have this innate feminine energy that gives us the strength to give birth, and so we can help this world with its rebirth. I have no doubt that if all of us don’t change our attitude towards women and towards our Mother Earth, we have no future ahead of us.

How can competitions like this one influence a broader group of employers?

Employers are willing to, and are beginning to, change the reality of their workplaces. Receiving nearly 100 submissions the first time the competition was held assured us that together with the Kongres Kobiet Association and Confederation Lewiatan we did a good job designing it. We know that people want change! No matter their gender! However, we cannot and will not do this as a fight or a battle of the sexes. That doesn’t work. As Michalina Wisłocka said: ‘We all come from a vagina.’ As a side note, I find it amusing that although she said it many years ago, whenever I speak about it publicly, like recently at the Forbes Summit on Philanthropy in New York, it leaves people slightly puzzled. I quote this sentence on purpose – in part to shock people, to draw their attention, but most importantly to make all of us think.

At the same time, I want to say it loud and clear that only those employers who can make full use of the immense energy, wisdom, engagement, loyalty, and commitment of the women who work for them, who are managers, specialists, and their colleagues, can achieve success! They will also gain a great advantage over their competition thanks to the unlimited inner power than women hold.

Are there any countries whose example we could follow?

Yes, the number of examples is constantly growing, and they are not that distant! Let’s take Great Britain, where I had the opportunity to personally witness a true menopausal revolution, thanks to which over the last couple of years the local healthcare system issued many guidelines on supporting women through their menopause symptoms. The support that women who work in British healthcare, among others, that is to say nearly a quarter of a million women, can receive include the option to work remotely or have their workload temporarily reduced. What’s more, the chief executive, who was in charge of developing the guidelines, reiterated on numerous occasions that menopause is not an illness, but rather a normal stage of one’s life, therefore workplaces should introduce reasonable solutions to minimise the discomfort that comes with it, and as a result also to permit leaving the workforce early. To give you another example, Spain has introduced a 3-day menstrual leave that can be extended for up to 5 days. It’s part of a wider package that also included the handing out of menstrual hygiene products and contraceptives to girls at their schools. I hope these types of solutions are possible also in our country, and it’s something that we’re aiming for!

What do I wish for the Foundation as it continues to pursue its goals?

Harmony and balance. The acceptance of the masculine and the feminine. Seemingly opposing, yet complementary. Acknowledging that we need each other, because only together are we whole. Realising this heals and empowers the introducing of changes. We don’t have the audacity to say that we can heal the world on our own, but at the Kulczyk Foundation, we are convinced that by starting this domino effect, we can accomplish much more than we think. We’ve been doing this for 10 years, and the abundance of good that we’ve been able to bring about together with our partners, beneficiaries, and people who sometimes unknowingly trigger the fall of another row of dominoes, has exceeded our wildest expectations. The impossible becomes possible. For that I am grateful.

Wywiad opublikowany został na rp.pl

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