This interview has been reprinted from TheCarousel.com.
Providing a platform for women in business
There’s a passion that drives Kasia Gospos, Telstra Influencer and creator and publisher of website Leaders in Heels: the empowerment of women, especially women in business.
It stems from her first job in Australia. “I came to Australia on a transfer with the company I was working for at the time. I was a management accountant and the company was in the mining sector. One day, a colleague, a woman, came to talk to me. She was upset because she’d missed out on an opportunity to apply for a promotion. No-one had told her, and she felt that, as another woman, I was one of the few people she could talk to about her experience and what she was feeling, even though I wasn’t her manager. She explained that she hadn’t felt able to push back on the missed opportunity.
“Two things struck me: how hard it was, still, for women to break through in business; and how wonderful to be approached for support and advice.
“I realised that there was an opportunity to create a new support mechanism for women in business, a web media asset to which women could turn to for guidance, mentors, shared experiences, and insights. And I felt empowered to do something about it”.
“My experience is still that women, all too often, feel uneasy about pushing, or feel unable to do so. With Leaders in Heels, we aim to change that in some small way.”
Kasia sees Leaders in Heels as the latest step in a personal journey that has seen her migrate from her native Poland, switch careers a number of times, develop her skills as an entrepreneur, and still hold down a full-time role.
Her interest in the role of women in business started with her early networking on her arrival in Australia. She had the opportunity to meet and network with a number of women business leaders.
She left the mining company to join the beauty industry – her background and qualifications in financial and business analytics has meant that her skills are transferable across any number of industry sectors.
“I worked for a market research company that analysed consumer buying habit for beauty products. We provided in-depth analyses for companies like L’Oreal and Estee Lauder. And to prove that you can love both cosmetics and technology, I also got to develop skills in SQL, web development and design, and in community management. “
Technology is also at the core of Kasia’s personal journey, in a particularly personal way.
“My father was an early adopter of PCs, and was one of the first people in his company to use computers to analyse and diagnose problems at work. So computers were always a feature of my home life, and were always part of the background noise at home. Believe me, they weren’t quiet in those days! But I found them comforting, and would fall asleep to the noise of whirring computers.”
Unfortunately, a career working with computers was not to be.
“He died when I was 13, and I lost my mentor. So although I wanted to do an IT degree, I felt I was at a disadvantage and my self-confidence left me. So I chose to do finance and banking instead. Perhaps I went for the safer option, I’m not sure.”
It took her many years before she found her confidence once more, when she was starting up Leaders in Heels. Kasia hired a developer to create the site, but he was a scam artist who took her money and disappeared.
“I went online to research how I could build a website on my own. I found there were a lot of resources that were freely available. I built my first website using Google Sites. It was pathetic! It was so limited. Then I discovered WordPress and used those online resources to teach myself how to build a site myself. It was hard and a very steep learning curve. Every single plugin or feature takes forever to work out the first time. But there was an aspect of it that I found fun as well, almost like a problem-solving game.
“Achieving something that seemed so impossible—realising I could do things myself—was the most empowering feeling! I’ve spent much of my professional life since then seeking new ways to work with technology, be it analytics, web design, or social media.”
Leaders in Heels started as a simple blog. But under Kasia’s care and direction, it’s grown from her team of one to a whole group of women with backgrounds as varied as Kasia’s own, including fellow Telstra Business Influencers Yolanda Floro and Leanne Yong. That’s not to say there weren’t challenges along the way, either.
“There was one point last year where I installed a plugin that took up a lot of resources on the server,” Kasia recalls. “The hosting provider was constantly locking our account for using too much bandwidth. In the end, they forced me to upgrade and pay quite a bit more for hosting… while the website kept crashing under the load. And it was at such a busy time, when I was applying for sponsorship for the 50|50 Future Leaders event. That was a really stressful time in my life!”
It paid off, though, because in late 2014, Leaders in Heels held 50/50 Future Leaders event, at which a number of the nation’s top leaders discussed gender equality in the workplace. They’ve taken an even bigger step this year, running a larger, month-long event called Red Heel Day.
“As women, we tend to be hard on ourselves,” Kasia says. “We criticise ourselves while forgetting all the hard work we put into both work and family life. And we tend to keep quiet about our own achievements because it’s too easily seen as bragging. We wanted to put aside a month to celebrate these women, and encourage them to set aside a day to celebrate themselves and all they’ve accomplished.”
It all culminated in a large celebration and networking event in Sydney where over a hundred women came together to be encouraged by other inspiring women, reflect on and celebrate their achievements, and participate in activities to help them refocus and look ahead to their next goals. To her surprise, #RedHeelDay even ended trending on Twitter!
“I wasn’t going to speak at the Red Heel Day event,” Kasia admits. “I’m terrified of public speaking. But I had the chance to hear the speeches before the event, and one of them by Ozlem Beldan posed the question of whether you wanted to be safe, or whether you wanted to be of service to others. It made me ask myself how I could encourage other women to take risks, be bold and be brave, if I couldn’t overcome my own fears!”
So apart from Leaders in Heels, what else is Kasia working on?
“Earlier this year I released the Make Your Mark notebook. It’s been professionally designed, as I worked together with an incredible graphic artist. I love the style of stationery outlets like Kikki K, and wanted to create a notebook for women that was not only beautiful, but also inspiring and empowering. It’s full of quotes that I love, and activities to develop each of the traits of a Leader in Heels (you can read about them on our Manifesto!)”
This incredibly busy woman is still going, too!
“I’ve always got a project going on,” she says. “After the notebook, I got to work on a new ebook called Get Your Life Back. The tagline is, How to streamline and automate your business processes and life so that you have time for what you really love.”
“Having too much on my plate is a problem I’ve always struggled with, and I’ve seen a lot of other smart, talented women with the same problem. I wrote the book to share all that I’ve learned about how to regain that balance in my life—and the big secret is automation. The thing is, innovation and automation are more about your attitude towards change, and how you perform your work, rather than the tools you actually use.”
She’s talking from experience. “After I started Leaders in Heels, it became my second full time job, and I definitely had (still have!) a problem with balance. I knew that I had to do something about this: either slow down, or learn to work smart by automating all the tedious, repetitive and time-consuming processes in my life.”
There’s a hint of mischief and a definite sense of more to come as she says, “Let’s just say I still haven’t slowed down!”
Be inspired, empowered and educated, and join a community of supportive, like-minded women at Leaders in Heels! You can find more about LeadersinHeels by clicking here.
Reporting by Leanne Yong and Alan Smith