Inspirational Woman: Kate Pljaskovova | Co-Founder, She Wins

Kate Pljaskovova Kate is a co-founder of She Wins, a company empowering women to negotiate for their true value and teaching businesses about their biases and processes that prevent them from negotiating fairly with women.

Basically fighting the gender pay gap from both sides of the table.

Tell us a bit about yourself, your background and your current role

I’ve always loved solving big problems. I went to study diplomacy at Uni with an aim to solve the conflict in Middle East where half of my family lives, but then I got distracted in my first year and entered the world of tech startups. I started as a head of HR at a tiny company of 6 engineers, which we grew to 150 people in just 4 years and in between got acquired by a Silicon Valley startup. After that my appetite for tech increased and when I finished my masters I decided to abandon diplomacy completely. I became a tech nomad – I moved to Berlin, then landed in San Francisco and ended up in London about 3 years ago and here I started my previous company focused on measuring and improving mental wellbeing in corporates.

That’s where I learned a lot about negotiating for my value, I made all the obvious mistakes and I felt really uncomfortable many times. My business partner negotiated me down to 10% of the company where I was not in control of the resources and responsible for delivering basically everything apart from fundraising. Couple of years later I needed to negotiate again, this time on my way out. And guess what? That didn’t go well either. This time I got really angry and started talking with many people about their experiences of negotiating on their own behalf. Unfortunately my findings confirmed that women are more likely than men to struggle with standing up for their value – which is one of the reasons for the gender pay gap in the UK. During my research I also met my amazing co-founder Clare and together we decided to start She Wins to fight this problem. We strongly believe (and research confirms it) that we need to engage both sides of the negotiating table to succeed. So we have a dual mission – we empower women to negotiate for their value and teach businesses how to negotiate fairly with women when hiring and promoting them.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I did when I was a teenager – I decided to become a diplomat and worked quite hard to get to the best Uni in Czech Republic and then organized my internships in diplomacy that actually allowed me to understand that the civil service is not for me. I decided that one day I wanted to start my own company and did everything to maximize my learnings. I also have my own personal objectives and key results (OKRs) for each quarter. Some are work related, some are for personal development and some just for fun.

Have you faced any challenges along the way?

All the time! I like solving problems, but sometimes it can get overwhelming so over time I learned that I don’t need to be solving them all on my own and I started asking for help. I’m an optimist by nature and a huge fan of growth mindset so it’s easy for me to reframe most challenges as an opportunities to learn.

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

Starting two companies focused on huge problems troubling our society – mental health and gender pay gap.

What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?

One thing that I love about starting new businesses is doing lots of stuff I haven’t done before and believe I’ve become really good at learning new stuff and putting them to practice really fast. I don’t rely on learning from books and internet only, I get most of my lessons and inspiration for solving problems from talking to people, whether it’s customers, partners, competitors or other founders.

How do you feel about mentoring? Have you mentored anyone or are you someone’s mentee?

I think it’s incredibly important to ask relevant people for advice. What works best for me is to frame a question or a problem I’m trying to solve and then find the best people that can give me their advice or perspective. I prefer that from having a single mentor. I’ve given advice to some women starting their businesses before, but it was always informal.

If you could change one thing to accelerate the pace of change for Gender Parity, what would it be?

Gender Parity in pay is the soul purpose for She Wins. We believe that meaningful change will happen when women recognize their value and have skills and confidence to ask for what they want and deserve. The change also needs to happen on the other side of the table – employers can do a lot to improve their processes and individual biases to make the negotiation fairer to women around compensation, promotion or flexible working.

If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self what would it be?

Always believe in yourself.

What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?

We set a big mission for She Wins and that is to empower 1,000,000 women to negotiate for their true value in the next 5 years, so that’s a big challenge ahead of us. I’m very lucky to have an awesome partner in crime for this, my co-founder Clare.

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