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Dorota Warakomska – journalist and publicist

Everyday life is easier for women working in corporations. A benefit system, company electronic equipment, gym cards and medical packages all help find motivation, even if the boss is not appreciative. During forced isolation and remote work most of these women, full-time employees of large companies and clerks, must have worried about what lies ahead. Many of them are still afraid that their companies will cut costs, reduce salaries and downsize.

But they were still better off than self-employed women, those running micro- and small companies or freelancers, struggling with their own business... During the pandemic they were deprived of work and were forced to close down their businesses (e.g. hairdressers, cosmetologists) or turn down clients, isolated in their homes, many gave up on using their services (e.g. training and consulting companies). Either way, most of them were faced with extremely difficult decisions overnight. What to do? What to live off? How to survive? Yes, it was about basic physical survival. Shut down the company? Suspend it? Will I be able to negotiate a rent reduction? Will I have enough savings to pay the bills, to live? Before the Social Insurance Institution transfers European funding, should I spend my own savings on my employees’ layoff pay?

Struggling for almost three months with these dilemmas, they didn’t even allow themselves the comfort of dreaming or to apprectiate what they have. How do I know this? I’m going through it myself, and I like asking questions, delving into matters and listening. And I have a lot of friends and acquaintances all over Poland, in almost every profession. That’s how I know that regardless of whether we enjoy the comfort of employment or struggle with everyday challenges, we all need the same thing: confidence, understanding and appreciation. 

Lack of confidence is our “feminine” curse. Am I sure I made the right decision? Am I doing the right thing? Maybe I’d better back down... Lack of courage to take risky decisions and lack of faith in our own strength are killing us. And each one of us, overwhelmed by the multitude of things to do and problems to solve, wants to be aware that what she does matters. We all want to see that others appreciate our effort and our contribution.

And the contribution is considerable, because the “traditional roles” and “natural calling” into which we (as women) are forced by education, culture and loved ones, means both invisible housework and emotional work. Performing the function of the emotional ambulance, a person who comforts, supports, who is ready to drop everything to save others, is an additional huge psychological burden for many of us. Similarly, cleaning, washing, ironing and cooking are taken for granted. Unappreciated.

So, how can we support working women during the pandemic? How can we give them confidence and show them that we understand and appreciate what they do?

The easiest way, of course, is to buy their products and order their services, by choosing consciously. Deciding to choose a specific person because they need our support more than the competition. But also because of what they represent and what values they follow. It’s really worth walking a bit further to the store or waiting a day longer for the delivery, knowing that someone valuable has earned money thanks to us. And in the time of the coronavirus, customer loyalty is worth twice as much.

Let’s go back, still in compliance with the sanitary rules, to our sports and artistic trainers, coaches and mentors. Let’s see if they resumed their work, let’s sign up for their classes. I encourage those who can afford ordering food to use from this option. Many of my corporate acquaintances do this. They admit in conversations that it is mainly about supporting their favourite places and the people running them. An additional advantage is saving time.

Of course, this is about the financial dimension of supporting female entrepreneurs, their physical survival. But there is also support in psychological survival and for this you need positive words addressed to all women, working professionally and at home. “Not bad”, “all right”, “I’ve seen worse” are not enough. Even people who are frugal in showing emotions can muster a bit of enthusiasm, admiration and joy. They can thank and appreciate.

We can all offer help. Household members, in the obvious way and outsiders, for example, by publicly praising, promoting and advertising. I run a Facebook campaign under the #NewSolidarity and #IfNotUsThenWho slogans and I can see it working its magic: tears of emotion and joy or a real smile of satisfaction caused by appreciation and praise. Disbelief that so many good and nice things are being said about this very woman... And, to be clear, I write only the truth, I present facts, I don’t sugarcoat.

Yes, taking the time and paying attention is substantial support, a conversation is too. A conversation about what’s important for this woman, about her feelings, worries, joys, problems, ways of dealing with them. Letting her talk. Women find conversation itself soothing. You don’t have to give advice. Just let her unburden herself. Listen.

It’s also worth changing the language of conversation. Don’t say to a tired woman who has been worked into the ground both at home and at work: “Don’t worry about all this faff”, “You have too much on your mind”, “Don’t overwork like that”. Because she doesn’t want to do less, she wants to receive emotional support in what she does. Therefore, it’d be better to say: “I care about you, I’m ready to help”, “I admire you, you give so much”, “Show me what I can do for you / what we can do together”...

And finally – let’s support ourselves. Let’s not think or speak badly about ourselves. Let’s appreciate what we do, let’s not diminish our own contribution. Let’s not scourge ourselves because of minor mistakes. Too bad. We’ll do better next time.

“Tenderness and freedom. Let's build balanced relationships” is a campaign run by Kulczyk Foundation along with “Wysokie Obcasy” and “Gazeta Wyborcza Foundation”.

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Every day, 400 journalists at Gazeta Wyborcza write verified, fact-checked stories about the coronovirus pandemic for you.

They are on the front lines in 25 Polish cities. They work on the ground, reporting from hospitals and airports.

We have decided to open online access to our news stories and special guides focused on the issue of public health, for free.

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