By Joana Lameira – Swood Team
At Swood, the month of March is totally dedicated to women! We decided to interview prominent female figures and share their experiences and opinions regarding women empowerment, female leadership and gender equality. Our goal is to highlight women who hold higher and/or influential roles in different fields of endeavor, passing on their testimony and encouraging more girls and women to follow their own path. After all, woman is an incredible being capable of anything!
Julia Cohen, co-founder and CEO of Swood, is our first interviewee. She was born in Rio de Janeiro, but has been living in Portugal for 5 years. She has a degree in Journalism from Pontifícia Universidade Católica do Rio de Janeiro and in Languages and Business Relations from Universidade de Aveiro. She also has a post-graduate degree in Logistics Management and is currently finishing a Masters in Management. She has worked in several areas, founded her first company 3 years ago and today is the face of Swood.
A friendly, intelligent and firm person who uses all her potential to implement the vision and mission of the company and make all kinds of decisions in order to drive Swood forward. She is a clear example of female leadership in an environment that is still mostly male.
Read the full interview below and get to know Julia’s opinion on the subject of female leadership.
Swood Team: Although there is more and more talk about female empowerment and leadership, the truth is that there are still few women (compared to men) occupying higher positions or with more responsibility within organizations. What are your thoughts on this and why do you think this is?
Julia Cohen: “I think that if on the one hand, little by little, women have managed to fight for their space. On the other hand, society as a whole is still very sexist. These are hundreds of years on a foundation where the man was the leader, the one who makes a lot of money, head of the department or the company. So achieving a real transformation is complex and difficult. Despite the growth in the fundamental feminist movement, there are still many people, and even women, who do not understand its importance. I particularly find this very sad, because we only seek the same opportunities. I really believe that we women will gain more and more prominence and visibility, but for this to happen faster we should all always support each other.”
Swood Team: Taking on a leadership position, specifically in the world of entrepreneurship and fintech, do you think there is an increased need to show commitment and dedication to be taken seriously?
Julia Cohen: “Fortunately I have not yet experienced any awkward situations in this ecosystem – and I hope I don’t! However, I have heard many stories, and I know that there are women who have experienced some difficult situations. On several occasions I have been the only woman in the environment. Perhaps because of my personality, this usually ends up giving me more strength than shyness. I have never felt that I needed to prove myself more because I am a woman, but I have also always prepared myself enough so that no one can even consider that possibility.”
Swood Team: What benefits might there be with an increasing presence of women in leadership roles?
Julia Cohen: “I believe that we women have an excellent balance between caring and toughness. That is, we know how to demand seriously from people, to charge them if necessary. But we also have a gentle side, perhaps from maternal instincts, of trying to understand the situation. A truly good leader learns to use these two sides, and I honestly believe that for us women this is easier. In addition, our ability to do several things at once, looking at the fish and the cat simultaneously, makes us more productive and efficient. Thus, with more women leaders, we will not only encourage increasingly more girls to get where they want to go, but we will also contribute to a more equal society.”
Swood Team: Who is your inspiration model?
Julia Cohen: “I am very attached to my family and I get a lot of inspiration from them. My parents are my safe harbor and I constantly ask for advice and share experiences with them. But since the theme is Women’s Day, I think it is appropriate to highlight some women who often inspire me. For sure, my greatest example is my mother. She is a strong, hardworking, fair, understanding, studious, and intelligent woman. I am very proud to have her as a mother and one of my best friends. I also get a lot of inspiration from my only aunt and some close friends. I am fortunate to have a circle of friendships that are not only supportive, but serve as great inspiration.”
Swood Team: As a woman, what advice do you give to future generations of women who aspire to reach leadership positions like Julia did?
Julia Cohen: “I guess the first piece of advice would be: you are capable of EVERYTHING! In many cases we are our biggest discouragers. So the first fundamental step is to believe in ourselves. Then I would say: be ready to work hard and don’t compare yourself to others. Getting to the top, of whatever it is, takes work, determination and perseverance. Finally, I would say something that my mother always told me: life is made of choices. So be aware that every choice has its consequences. In other words, it is not enough to stay on the fence. Take a stand, decide what you really want, and go for it.”