This week, the co-working space The Mill will host the Meet Riga TechGirls! Launch Meetup, and in preparation for this event, we offer you an interview with one of Latvia’s brightest startup representatives Egija Gailuma, who has established her own start-up company Poker Art but is also involved in several other interesting projects.
Why are there a relatively small number of women in the startup environment?
I believe this has less to do with some sort of inequality aspect, and more to do with specific interests. Women have different interests and characters. Women are naturally more unsteady in regards to taking risks, which is a part of establishing a startup.
Establishing a startup does not mean you will have a secure and successful future/career. Establishing a startup means taking a huge risk with much potential, but one which can quickly become a huge failure at any moment. Very often women with good ideas are afraid of losing everything they have, and this is mostly due to their psychological frame of mind.
Is the relatively small number of woman helping to unite those few that are in this environment?
Yes, of course. I believe that there is very strong and real support among the women within the Latvian startup environment.
How are FemTech activists encouraging other females to start their own businesses?
As examples. I think that today more and more women wish to achieve something which they can be proud of and create something with added value, thus showing that women are already doing this and is nothing painful. This encourages young woman to at least consider possibilities in the business world.
What are the main problems women are facing in this environment?
I believe that the startup environment is the most suitable for women if they wish to start their own business, as a person’s gender/age is not important. The most important thing to have in this environment is an idea, energy and the ability to accomplish your goals.
This environment is different from the classical business environment, which frequently drags along with it a not-so-nice culture from the Soviet-era. In the startup environment, not only women support other women, but men also go through the same processes and will support others just the same.
I think that the main task of FemTech should be encouraging women to transform their ideas into a business, instead of demanding equality. I believe that everyone is already equal in the startup environment, and everyone supports one another.
Have you ever noticed different attitudes towards men and women?
I have never encountered such a situation within the startup environment, but in places run by persons with post-Soviet thinking and culture I have encountered various situations. Everything is dependent on the environment you are in.
There have been situations when speaking in a group of about four or five persons I was ignored, even though I had not arrived as an assistant – such things happen with people who were raised in a time when each gender had strict guidelines on how they must act and behave.
In such cases, you must be able to smile at the narrow mindedness of such persons and continue doing what has to be done – there is no point in pouting or becoming mad. An ambitious and intelligent woman will be able to continue moving forward in any environment.
How do startup projects/ideas launched by women differ from those launched by men?
I would say it is impossible to compare. The only thing I can say is that men represent ideas which are more technical, while women possibly have more creative ideas, but this is certainly not something which is definite taking into account that most of our FemTech women are working with technologies.
But because women are more creative and men are more technical, an ideal team for any startup business is a combination of both genders – this has been proven many times, that teams which include both genders are more successful.
What is the most important realization you have gained working in the startup environment?
Not to be discouraged by every hardship or failure, as nothing will change by being disheartened – you must continue to work and be happy about each and every one of your small victories!