PledgeMe’s Anna Guenther on gender and business

During April, over a long weekend I attended a Women’s Studies Association conference in Wellington. Where there were discussions, presentations, and communion around such topics as women being oppressed, violence against women, women with disabilities, and sexuality.

On a much more upbeat note, the final session of the weekend was a panel discussion with young influential women. One of these women was Anna Guenther, Co-founder of PledgeMe.

After Diversityworks Trust’s recent success using PledgeMe to raise funds to print their children’s book “My Friend is a Superhero!”, I thought it was rather timely that I was listening to Anna Guenther’s personal views on starting PledgeMe and being a woman.

When Anna introduced herself she said that ‘when first asked to speak at this conference I thought “but my boyfriend is more feminist than I am”.

Anna said that generally she did not notice or consider her gender within her business practice. However she then went on to say that her original business partner, a male, had a different perspective. He had told her that ‘a business person needs to be aggressive and male.’ Anna quickly pointed out she was not aggressive or male, and this person was no longer her business partner.

Anna said she often doesn’t know the gender of someone who is doing business with her, because so much is via email. And it really doesn’t matter.

During question time Anna was asked “With regards to the approach you use in your business – do you have a different style when working with men and women?”

Anna’s key message in her answer was; One of my business advisers once said he wanted kindness to be a boardroom strategy. I believe kindness should be the forefront of business.

She added; Sometimes being nice is seen as being a weakness, and I don’t know why.

In my opinion, this response to a very gender centric question defused the gender tension, but still gave an answer in relation to a particular style of business, and a style that she had adopted.

Anna was then posed the query: You’re individually empowered and you’ve said that gender doesn’t make a difference to you, but statistics show that tech startups (like PledgeMe) are dominated by men. What’s your view on that?

Anna replied: “I can’t explain why that is.” She then pondered for a short moment and continued on to say; She wants to start a women’s tech group, to teach more women about technology/computers. And she feels more women need to get and be educated globally.

Anna’s insight and take on gender and business, in my opinion is admirable.
Business can seem like a battle of the sexes, depending on the industy. But after listening to Anna, I feel hopeful that business can be business in it’s own right, without gender being a factor in the equation.

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