UX guru Leah Ryz on her passion for problem-solving and the need for empathy in business
As part of our Women in Micro Business series, we sat down with UX professional Leah Ryz to find out why putting your gender at the core of your business dealings can be counterproductive, and why her business heroes are a little closer to home.
Who are you and what is your business?
My name is Leah Ryz and I am a (UX) User Experience Specialist. I help businesses of all sizes, define and improve their improve value proposition and ensure that they are meeting their online users and/or customers’ needs.
I also help my clients identify the very best UX people and wean them off expensive third parties who are doing for the business what the business should be doing for itself.
What challenges can women expect to face in business?
I think women generally have a hard time dealing with the stereotype of being oversensitive or overcompensatory at work. This is especially true if you are senior and even more so if you are an assertive character.
Why are we not allowed to show emotion at work? It’s where we spend half our life.
Do you think there are enough women running their own businesses?
It’s hard to answer because I don’t have any stats that I can rely upon, however, there definitely needs to be more women at board level. It can get quite boring, seeing the same 5 faces sitting around a boardroom table
What do you think are the advantages of having more women in business?
There needs to be more empathy in business and I think women are particularly good at being empathetic. In addition, it is incredibly difficult for women to get back to work after having children and I think if more women are in business and are in a position to change this for someone returning to work, that’s a very positive thing.
Have you ever had any discriminative experiences because of being female?
I once had an absurd comment where my male manager asked me to confirm that I wasn’t “one of these women that overcompensates at work” and warned me that “back at the office” it was very male-dominated and that he hopes I don’t have a problem with this.
Other than this, I am sure I have faced discrimination in the past, however, it is unclear to me whether this was directly as a result of my gender or something else. I’m not afraid to speak out and sometimes that hasn’t made me very popular
How do you handle knockbacks?
I take the opportunity to process them and take some time out to evaluate why they have occurred. I evaluate the events to see if there’s anything I can learn from the experience. It’s a very quick process and after that, I simply move on. I have found that there has always been a silver lining.
What advice do you have for other women wanting to start their own business?
Try to see yourself as a businesswoman rather than a woman in business. Yes, it’s true, discrimination still exists, but if you go into business putting your gender at the core of your business dealings, it will be counterproductive to what you are trying to achieve. However if you do face discrimination and you know that this is a result of your gender or anything else, speak up about it. And lastly but most importantly, be kind to anybody and everybody, regardless of their own gender or lifestyle
What can the business community do to help more women entrepreneurs?
Be a listening ear. There are thousands of women who face discrimination every day but do not have the confidence to speak up about it. We all need to communicate more and share our experiences with one another.
I recently did another interview, where I was given the option to be anonymous about my experiences. I chose to not be anonymous because I am not ashamed of some of the challenges I have endured and I hope that the sharing of my personal stories in and outside of business can help another person who is experiencing the same or similar
How do you hope your business to develop in the future?
I’m really happy with what I’m doing at the moment because I love problem-solving and I am working on some really interesting challenges. I am always learning despite many is experience and I can only hope to continue growing in the wonderful field of UX.
Praseeda Nair is the editorial director of Business Advice, and its sister publication for growing businesses, Real Business. She's an impassioned advocate for women in leadership, and likes to profile business owners, advisors and experts in the field of entrepreneurship and management.
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