Meet Nadia Makova from Russia
Nadia Makova is an entrepreneur who defies the stereotypes of women as simply housewives and mothers.
Nadia Makova uses the word “energy” to describe herself and she is absolutely right to do that – it is indeed an honest definition of her personality. She is a successful Russian entrepreneur, the CEO and managing partner of leading educational media Theory & Practice and a founder of several businesses in the communications and media industry. While she is changing this field in Russia, she also tries to defy the traditional, patriarchal understanding of what a woman should and should not do and enjoys having both a family and a business.
The head of the Russian office of Google, Julia Solovieva, shared the results of research on gender stereotypes in Russia done last year, and it turned out that 72% of Russians (including women) still believe that a woman's place is in the kitchen, that she should be a good wife and mother. Nadia faced that same obstacle. “There is a super heavy challenge for all women entrepreneurs – the perception of what their social role is, the role of mother and housewife”, Nadia says. For the last few years, she has been working in Moscow, but her family – her husband and son – stayed in St. Petersburg, so they spend part of the week apart. The entrepreneur explains how she could feel herself being judged because she was splitting her time between her career and her son and not devoting herself completely to the latter. In contrast, the same situation is considered to be absolutely normal for a man; to work in a different city and to only come home on weekends doesn’t evoke disapproval. Yet she explains that her confidence in her own abilities helped her ignore these ill-intentioned reactions. Her belief is that the biggest challenge is to change the perception of a woman – as not just a mother and housewife, but most importantly, a person with their own passions, desires, and path. “It is important to have the strength to say: “I don’t care what you say or think. First, I am a person and then I am my gender. I know my priorities and I know I am doing the right thing for me and my family, so please do not push me”, Nadia claims.
She has been changing the communications industry in Russia for years, organising professional conferences and publishing a business-to-business magazine in both Russian and English, distributed across Europe. She was among the founders of the Moscow Advanced Communication School with a faculty teaching event marketing which didn’t exist before. Also, she was invited by one of the leading social impact investors in Russia to become managing partner of Theory & Practice – a leading Russian media focused on lifelong learning.
All her work has made her content and thriving. “I am actually proud of the fact that every project I lead gives people useful content and inspiration to do things better for themselves. For example, people can meet each other at my conferences or my festivals and create new projects. People can read the media and be inspired to change their careers, even if they are women and have five kids”, Nadia says.
Her drive to constantly move ahead and to bring progress to the communication business in Russia is accompanied by having a personal life. Yet being a woman in a leadership position has its own specific traits. “Yes, [it is hard to be a female boss], especially when you have kids'', Nadia claims. Teams also treat female project managers differently. “When they speak to a woman, they can tell her: “I don't feel well now, I have issues with my boyfriend, etc.” They would rarely say that to a male manager”, she explains. Thus, women in leadership positions should remind themselves that their team members are not their kids because if they become too soft, results will suffer. “It is better to be strict and to drive your team to do their best '', Nadia says.
Meanwhile, she does quite a lot to inspire other women with her own example that women can have a career and family at the same time. “My advice to businesswomen is not to be afraid to set ambitious goals and to improve themselves every day to achieve these goals. The glass ceiling is very often just the one we set only for ourselves. Of course, there are numerous gender perception problems in society that must be solved, but the first ceiling you should overcome is the one you set yourself”, Nadia says with a smile.
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