31 October 2019
In September, SparkOptimus hosted the quarterly boardroom session of TheNextWomen, to discuss the topic of ‘bias’ with female founders from a variety of industries. TheNextWomen is an organization that “provides female founders, professionals and experts access to its very significant knowledge, capital & network” to enhance their success. SparkOptimus Co-founder & Managing Partner Alexandra Jankovich is an active member of TheNextWomen, and was delighted to host this boardroom session at our office.
Boardroom sessions are quarterly events that provide an afternoon of in-depth discussions and keynote speeches on a specific topic. The topic this quarter was ‘bias’. Although bias helps us to make our daily lives manageable, it can also limit our views and options. Keynote speaker Sophie van Gool – founder of Moonshot: data-driven Diversity & Inclusion – showed us how bias is engrained in our daily lives and in our work environment. She described helpful steps to tackle this bias in the workplace, such as starting by identifying the key processes where bias can have a negative effect on diversity & inclusion, and then systematically putting structures in place to counter this bias. After a short break, the second keynote speaker, Wies Bratby – founder of Women In Negotiation – convinced the participants of the importance of claiming your worth in the workplace through negotiations. She provided insights into the common reasons we tell ourselves that negotiating is not important – and then debunked these myths one by one. Magali Deloof, one of the Associate Partners at SparkOptimus reflects: “one of the points that resonated very strongly with me was that the claim ‘you cannot have it all’ is entirely misleading. You ‘must have it all’ to feel appreciated and motivated in the workplace – have a job that is fulfilling and a salary you deserve”. Wies challenged us to explore our own motives for ‘keeping quiet’ by asking some critical questions and she provided some tips on how to start getting rid of these mental blockers that can hold us back.
The variety of industries, backgrounds and experience represented that afternoon led to some interesting discussions on the topic of ‘bias’ among the group of business women. For example, a recruiter for NGOs told us she has never had a woman negotiate about the salary offered by an NGO, even at CEO level. These discussions continued during the networking drinks at the end of the afternoon, where the participants reflected on the afternoon and their experiences throughout their careers. I had an interesting discussion with a Nigerian entrepreneur, reflecting on how there is such a huge cultural difference between having discussions with Dutch people – who do everything to keep the atmosphere neutral or pleasant – and Nigerian people – where it is very normal to raise your voice and seek confrontation, without this damaging the relationship.
This ‘boldness’ is something that many of us aspire to have, and I believe the insights that Sophie and Wies shared with us will be helpful tools to find it in ourselves and in others. Alexandra: “The afternoon gave us all food for thought on how to improve our own business environments, and I want to work hard to take SparkOptimus a step further in this so that we can harness the talent of such a diverse group of ambitious people”.