Interview: Judyta Kwaśniewska

Krakow Post: What is the idea behind your business, Galaktyka Kobiet (“Women’s Galaxy”)?

Judyta Kwaśniewska: I had thought about opening Galaktyka for a few years, because I was a patient myself of an cosmetic doctor, and I spoke with her about doing something about three years ago, every time I visited her. There is a big pressure now on women to be beautiful. It’s a huge market, and all of the newspapers and magazines show you these women that are basically not human anymore. Even though I know about this and I’m a psychoanalyst I also fall for this trend, and up to a certain level I think it’s fine. You have to take care of yourself; there is nothing wrong with that. But if you only care about the surface, you lose yourself.

I saw that this is the moment when my psychoanalytical background and my business background, and the fact that I’m a woman who likes to take care of herself, can all be combined. So I thought, we have to do something new, because there are a million aesthetic medicine clinics everywhere, and every month new ones are opening, even in Poland. And there are also some, though not many, personal development centres, though no one had ever thought about combining these two things together. So I thought that this could be a niche on the market.

I wanted to make a place in which we treat the body and the mind and the soul. The problem with most [cosmetic] places is that they only treat the surface, but they’re not concerned with whether the women are really happy after a treatment. So I thought that we needed to send a new message to the market. If in a few years, the way you look is only a matter of how much you can pay, then it’s of no value. The real value is what you have in your brain.

Women are a big issue now. We are starting to take over managerial positions, and yet we have no tools to deal with this situation. We definitely know how to take care of the way we look, because the market is saturated with beauty salons, with skin clinics and so on, but we still do not have many centres for women where we can learn from each other and learn from other women how to be successful in this new economic situation, in which women are taking over.

And yet, my belief is that we can combine these two different areas of women’s lives: taking care of ourselves, and taking care of our professional development and skills, and one should not exclude the other. Often, if women are in business, they work so hard to get to their positions, that they lose their femininity; they think that’s the way to become powerful, which I think is wrong, because if we become just like men we lose ourselves. And that’s what Galaktyka is for: to find a new model for women and a new look for women, because we have a new role in society now.

KP: How does the business work?

JK: Galaktyka combines three different services; we offer aesthetic medicine, because it offers quick treatments with results; we also have a cosmetic studio, because your skin still needs normal daily care, especially for women who may not eat properly or sleep properly because they are working hard, so we try to teach women that they still need to take care of themselves; finally, we take care of the body. I didn’t want to have a fitness centre because I think the market pushes this to the extreme; people go to the gym several times per week, trying to get these bodies that are impossible to attain. I decided that we would have no fitness equipment here. You can take care of your body as humans have for thousands of years, like in China or India. So, that’s why we only have yoga, tai chi, belly dancing – which is a very feminine way of moving and taking care of your body – and Pilates. We don’t have to be a size 34 to be successful in business, but our bodies have to serve us; they are the carriers of all of our thoughts, wishes, and goals.

Last but not least, we have KobieTao, the personal development centre, which I’m really trying to push now, because it was the main idea behind the whole thing. Galaktyka serves femininity and power; that is my idea. There is this stereotype, that if a woman continues her education, and she is very intelligent, then she is not attractive. Just the same, if a woman goes into business and attains a high position, then she is also not attractive, not feminine. But that’s not true.

That’s one thing we want to address in KobieTao, but that’s not enough. Behind this, there have to be skills and competences. Because women in Poland have only been in business for a few decades, we still don’t have all of the skills we need. The most important thing that I believe is lacking in our attitude as women towards business is that we do not have the culture of networking. I hope that KobieTao and the personal development centre will be a centre where women come and inspire each other, develop together, and connect.

KP: Do you think this is a problem unique to Poland, or one that is faced by women worldwide?

JK: I think in Poland especially, because in Poland men in business are also not that adept at networking, though they’re learning. Business is a new thing in Poland, after all, as we have only had a free economy for the past 21 years. But I think women are worse off at the moment.

I also do think that it’s the same for women around the world, maybe to a lesser extent.

KP: Of course, there’s always been the traditional “boys’ club” in business, but never a “girls’ club”.

JK: Yes, exactly. The funny thing is when we make something like this, like Galaktyka, or a women’s meeting, we are immediately called feminists. If men connect and network, no one says they’re male chauvinists, they’re just men, who like to be in a club. But when women do it, they’re fighting feminists. We need a few more years for this mentality to change, to show that we’re just equal. We’re different, but we can be equal. We can do the same things and we can learn from men, from their good practices. Obviously, when we meet, we talk about different topics, so there are differences. But, the idea of meeting and connecting and inspiring each other is copied, because men have been doing it for ages.

There is no management style that is appropriate for women. If a man is a CEO of his company, and he doesn’t listen to his people, he makes very quick decisions, talks in a very authoritative way, then people say he is very masculine and very macho and a strong leader. If a man asks his people for their opinions and listens to them, then people say he is democratic and people-oriented. Because men have always been in power, people are used to the different models they use. But if a woman is in power, and is very authoritative, like let’s say Margaret Thatcher, then people say that she’s not feminine. If she’s listening to opinions and being democratic, then people say she’s too feminine. There is no appropriate way to be in power as a woman.

KP: So the culture has to separate these qualities from gender?

JK: Right. But I think one can be powerful in a feminine way. Western women who are like this today are pioneers and can serve as good role models, and Polish women need to see them, because we have been raised very traditionally.

KP: Have you thought about using Galaktyka as a forum for encouraging political action – for example, for pushing paternity legislation like the kind that exists in Sweden?

JK: I would prefer Galaktyka to have more of a focus on professional workshops and trainings, but I do want to do something in addition, such as forming an international association of business and professional women. I would like to have something like this for women in Poland, which would also be an international association, because we live in the EU, which is an international environment, so it’s foolish to limit it only to Polish women.

There are a lot of things we need to learn from women in other countries. Women in other countries have been in business longer than Polish women, and are already treated differently. This is what I want KobieTao to be most involved in. Even though we have to respect this business culture, we cannot forget the human aspect, so I want to offer a variety of courses and workshops.

I don’t want Galaktyka Kobiet to be a very political place, because politics is always a difficult topic, and it doesn’t necessarily impact women at work on a daily basis. However, something like an international association of business and professional women could be a good lobbying tool for pushing some of these issues forward.

KP: Do you think that the large numbers of Polish women going to work in the UK and coming back will quicken this process?

JK: I think it will be a long process still. The funny thing is that people come back after 10, 15 years of working abroad and it’s like they forget everything within a couple of years. And these are people who travelled and saw different standards and worked in different ways, but there are a lot of people in Poland who have never had the opportunity to work abroad. Perhaps that’s why – they come back and find this wall that you cannot break through, and you just have to unite with the rest, otherwise you will be so frustrated at being different you will either have to leave again or take on the values that are represented by the majority of the population.

I think it will take another generation in Poland. We’ll see. Maybe our children will work in a different way and have different values.

I also think that my daughter will be treated completely differently by the culture than I was, because I grew up in this environment where my teachers in school – female teachers, because in primary school they were all female – would tell us during class that certain things are not for girls. Even though there were many girls that were good at mathematics, they were advised not to go to a technical university, because it’s not a very feminine place.

Another thing I was always taught at school were double moral standards, and double standards for family roles. Even though we want to go to work now, or men even expect us to go to work and contribute to the family budget, we are expected to take care of the home as well. This has to change in every household.

See also: Women at Work

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