Dominika Flaczyk

I am creating a foundation for continuous development

Dominika Flaczyk, the Honorary Patron of the #ToTylkoPłeć campaign, is the CEO and founder of the training brand Profesja. She has been successfully operating in the training market for over a decade and has initiated many socially important projects. Currently, she is building her own Training Center, which will be officially opened in early 2022. As both an optimist and realist, she knows that only consistency and development will lead her to achieve her goals.

Analysts emphasize that any economic crisis affects women professionally more than men. In your opinion, how did the pandemic affect gender inequalities in the job market? What can we do to improve the situation?

Thank you for asking this question. It is a personally important and relevant topic for me, as a single mother of two school-age children. I can not only rely on statistics and forecasts but also draw on my own experience. The pandemic, like any crisis, has highlighted the continuing unequal division of household duties performed by both genders. The belief that women should give up their professional activity or career in a crisis situation still persists. I am not alone in this situation. During the lockdowns, my professional activity was significantly hindered due to childcare responsibilities. Unfortunately, as an entrepreneur and owner of a sizable company, I could not afford to shut down operations. On the contrary, during the crisis, the company and its employees needed my increased support. As a disciplined and well-organized manager, mother, and homemaker, I managed to reconcile all these challenges, but not without cost - the cost was sleepless nights, giving up my academic work - my doctorate remained untouched, and I suffered physically weakened psycho-physical form due to excessive effort, as I did not provide myself with sufficient balance between my needs and the demands of the situation.

Few women I know are so determined to persevere in this difficult situation without compromising their health or their professional plans. They often choose other people's ideas for themselves and try to meet the expectations of those closest to them, often against their own aspirations, plans, and desires. It's an incredibly difficult and important topic, and I believe we should speak openly about it. During the pandemic, we did not receive adequate central support. Schools and kindergartens, which help us while we work, were either closed or completely unprepared to provide support, especially psychological support, where both children and their families needed it the most.

Not to mention the escalating domestic violence, where during the pandemic, perpetrators often felt unpunished, and their victims could not even seek refuge at work, which in extreme situations is often a lifeline for victims of violence. Social welfare centers and crisis centers could not keep up with the demand for help, and their tools and resources are often limited. I know this situation from a personal as well as a professional standpoint. Currently, we are implementing a socially significant Family Constellation Program project as part of the Profesja Group, which aims to provide educational support for workers in all institutions dealing with domestic violence in Poland and providing support under the Blue Card system. The project's goal is to create and implement an innovative educational program based on a systemic view of the family, offering a broader perspective on effective coping with violence and preventing its effects. It provides real tools for social workers, psychologists, and therapists dealing with this issue.

I believe that what we can do is gradually change not only the mentality and legislation, but also educate from the earliest years about the principles of equality - teaching soft skills, the art of mediation, and effective communication starting from preschool. We should point out differences, common characteristics, and the perception of reality from both genders' perspectives. Then we can talk about equality when we establish a real dialogue based on respect and understanding. Such changes take time, but they are inevitable. It is our role - mine and the next generations' - to continue these changes based on dialogue. This issue is so important to me that I am educating myself as a psychologist, and I have completed therapeutic schools, obtaining the title of a systemic coach. Social and educational activities, including in the field of equality, will always be an important area for me alongside business activities.

Can you provide me with some examples of gender-based inequalities in the labor market that you have encountered in your professional career?

Unfortunately, with many examples. That's why when starting my own company, I placed particular emphasis on equal opportunities for advancement for both men and women in my employment. Initially, I collaborated only with women within the company, which was mainly due to the nature of the industry at that time. In the following years, as the company grew dynamically, men also appeared in administrative and managerial positions and were treated equally in every respect as women.

From the beginning, in my company, over 10 years before the pandemic, I offered both flexible working hours and remote work, and for mothers of children under 6 years old, 80% working time for 100% salary, inspired by the Swedish model of government support - even if it cost me more as an employer, the most important thing was the well-being and efficiency of my team.

As for my own experiences, several times during my professional career, I encountered manifestations of gender inequality, such as the glass ceiling trap, manifestations of bullying and even sexism, and unequal pay for the same position within one organization. Such behaviors applied to work both in a foreign corporation and in Polish companies, although in principle, their greater intensity occurred in a Polish company run by an older man from my parents' generation. In my family home, things were also different - mainly due to unconscious patterns passed down through generations. Fortunately, however, I grew up in a family where women and men had equal access to education, even if they did not have the same right to vote on other matters as men.

How do you perceive the situation of women in the Polish job market? And what would you change in this regard if you had the opportunity to do so?

The situation of Polish women in the labor market is still unsatisfactory, as outdated and unhealthy stereotypes such as the "Polish mother" mentality continue to prevail. There is still a gender pay gap, which amounts to several percent annually in the remuneration of women and men holding the same position within organizations, both domestically and globally. However, it is encouraging that the number of women running their own businesses has increased in the last decade. This is due to the promotion of entrepreneurship by NGOs, women's entrepreneurial clubs, and media outlets promoting gender equality, such as your editorial office, "Success is a Woman."

European Union projects aimed at equalizing opportunities in the job market, such as support for vocational activation, grants for starting one's own business, or training supplements that cover the costs of day-care or nannies for children while mothers pursue education, profession, or internships, also play a significant role. I have had the opportunity to conduct dozens of such projects throughout the country, and they continue to generate significant interest even after the post-crisis period.

I would definitely like to continue this activity, despite the increasing self-contributions and low profitability, if not unprofitability, of such projects by private entities. I think our authorities should rethink the functioning of this system so as not to lower the level of, and access to, non-school education, particularly for women. It should be noted that for the state, this not only means a decrease in the unemployment rate and achieving EU equal opportunities policy indicators but can also result in happy families - as a happy mother means happy children.

What can we, as successful people, do to reduce gender inequalities in the Polish job market?

I believe that as successful businesswomen who have broken through the glass ceiling and achieved professional success, we have a social responsibility to support and inspire our colleagues who are still on the way or considering starting their own business or acquiring a new profession. Despite having many personal and professional responsibilities to balance on a daily basis, I still find time to publicly speak about issues facing women. I believe that my experiences can show that anything is possible if one desires it strongly enough and has the determination to achieve it. As the leader of the Social Participation Foundation, one of my goals is to provide education, knowledge, and support to women in difficult situations. I have received unexpected thanks from strangers or acquaintances who have never admitted to being in a difficult situation before because they either didn't realize it themselves or didn't want to admit it to anyone else and didn't know that there was another way. Nobody had shown them before, and we learn best through examples. It greatly delights and gives meaning to my work and existence when I can share my knowledge and experience with those who need it.

How, based on your experience, can women collaborate and support each other on their way to individual success?

Women have an enormous power of collaboration and empathy, and I believe that we should use it with good intentions. To make it possible, we need to learn not to compete or envy each other, but to learn and inspire from each other, pulling each other up instead of down. I have experienced both sides and I know how difficult it is to break the beliefs and stereotypes that are embedded in our minds. I think that women in Poland are already doing quite well in terms of mutual support and joining together in many women's organizations. I myself have belonged to several of them. However, there are still too few of us in high positions or in nationally prominent positions that would have a real impact on our political and social situation. Few of us still have the courage to openly communicate our needs and opinions. I think that education on family life, entrepreneurship, and skills, starting from an early age, could do a lot, while ensuring open dialogue with young people, including in the area of equal rights and respect for both genders.

If you had the knowledge you have now when starting your business journey, what would you do differently? What advice would you give to your younger self at the beginning of your career path?

I would repeat to myself every day that "I am not a green dollar bill or a chocolate bar to please everyone." This sentence embodies my wasted years, months, and days trying to please everyone around me, completely ignoring my own needs. For years, I trained everyone around me to expect me to be available at their beck and call, and whether I had the strength and desire or not, I always put other people's needs before my own. This was crushing to my psyche, and the issue is still relevant to many of us, especially women in Poland. The worst part is pretending to myself that everything is okay when it's not. Pretending that I don't see someone abusing my kindness and empathy and manipulating me.

Unfortunately, I brought this "servant to everyone" image of myself from home, and it took me years to work on myself and realize how unsupportive this pattern of behavior is. And as a result, another piece of advice would be to "do your own thing" without looking at others. I was often held back in my development by those closest to me. Resigning from toxic people around me allowed me to spread my wings. My dear ladies and gentlemen, we are not trees, we can move to a more convenient place for us (laughs).

I encourage readers to reflect on the patterns and beliefs they grew up with. Not everyone has had such difficult experiences, and maybe some women have had even worse ones than mine, but regardless of the past, let's look at our lives from a bird's-eye view from time to time to see if it's worth changing course for the better. The past does not have to determine the future.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to top