Welcome back to our ongoing series, Women in Tech. Today, we have the pleasure of sitting down with Malvina Goldfeld, an accomplished tech executive who currently serves as the Chief Product Officer at Podimo. This company, based in Copenhagen, is making waves in the world of podcasting and audiobooks through their subscription service.
With a history of successful roles at major tech companies like Meta and PayPal, Malvina is no stranger to the landscape of the tech industry. She brings to the table a wealth of experience and wisdom on navigating the unique challenges of this male-dominated field.
In our conversation, Malvina candidly addresses the disparity she observed between men and women in the workplace, especially when it comes to parental responsibilities. She also opens up about her own journey in establishing an equitable division of parenting duties, which has allowed her to continue pursuing her professional passions.
Malvina discusses the pressing issues facing women in tech today, emphasizing the need for early intervention to encourage girls to take an interest in technology. She shares her experiences volunteering with initiatives that aim to bridge the gender gap and inspire young girls to explore the tech industry.
Further, Malvina touches on the importance of creating supportive structures for working parents and the economic benefits of such measures. She also sheds light on how diversity can be better promoted in the tech sector across various countries and cultures.
As we delve into the world of AI-driven personalization in podcasting, Malvina shares her vision for creating more opportunities for female voices and diverse content in the podcast space. She also offers insightful advice to women in tech who aspire to leadership roles, touching on her own experiences and strategies that have been instrumental in her career.
Join us as we delve into this rich conversation with Malvina Goldfeld, exploring the intricacies of being a woman in tech and uncovering valuable insights along the way.
Malvina, as a successful woman in the tech industry with diverse experiences across multiple companies, how have you navigated the challenges that come with this predominantly male-dominated field?
I did not feel at a disadvantage due to my gender throughout university and the earlier phases of my career. On the contrary, I felt empowered by being different. I began my career in consulting with McKinsey & Co where the vast majority of my colleagues were men and I did not notice meaningful differences at that point.
It was only when I joined PayPal, which had a more balanced gender mix, that I started seeing the differences, primarily between men and women with children. It became clear to me that social and personal expectations of women and men in parenting roles were vastly different. Many of the mothers would leave work at 3pm to pick up their kids 3-4 days a week, while fathers would only do that 1 day a week (their wives did that for them).
I was astonished to see this, and it then became clear to me how this impacts men and women’s career trajectories. I couldn’t understand why women would make this sort of sacrifice or accept this as the default state.
Later in life when my partner and I started speaking about having our first child, I made sure that we had a very concrete conversation about caretaking expectations – truly splitting parenting responsibilities 50/50, including morning drop offs, pickups, staying at home with sick children, etc. Our equal partnership and him leaning in as a father was a key factor in my ability to pursue my professional passions – and also the reason why we ended up having 4 children.
Throughout your career, you have worked to level the playing field for people globally. In your opinion, what are some of the most pressing issues for women in tech, and how can the industry work together to address them?
I think the most pressing issue for women in tech starts with young girls, their confidence, and interest in technology. To truly address the gender gap in tech we need to start as early as middle school (or earlier), when we see girls gravitate more towards humanities and boys towards technology.
A humanities background is valuable in any profession, as a leader needs to be able to communicate and inspire the team, but there is still a perception that tech is a male domain, which deters girls. Some years ago when living in Israel I volunteered with a project called “Cracking the Glass Ceiling” which connected women in tech with 8th grade female students.
Over the course of a semester, we worked together to build websites using Wix, which does not require any tech skills. The girls worked in pairs and built websites on topics they were passionate about – from literature to music to the environment.
We then brought them to visit our companies – PayPal, Google, Facebook – and meet women in different roles from engineers to marketers, product managers, country GMs and more. There are other awesome initiatives in this space like Girls Who Code. More of these are needed around the world.
The second area that must be a focus for both policy makers as well as business leaders is to enable parents to build and develop successful careers. This includes government-sponsored childcare, maternity and paternity leaves, flexibility in working hours, remote work and more.
There is countless evidence pointing to the economic advantages of enabling parents to do meaningful work, and for businesses this results in higher employee satisfaction and retention. It is necessary to create the right economic and social support structures for mothers and fathers, and specifically to also empower men to lean into parenting and play a central role in their children’s lives.
Given your international background, how do you think diversity and inclusion, especially for women, can be better promoted in the tech sector across various countries and cultures?
When I was at Facebook, we spent a lot of time and effort trying to increase the number of women and underrepresented minorities in different roles. A key initiative which yielded significant results was a requirement to include at least one diverse candidate in the final interview round for every role.
It’s important to note that the requirement was not to hire a certain % of women or minorities. We wanted to ensure we could hire the best person for each role, but as people tend to reach out to their networks when hiring, and our networks tend to look similar to us, this requirement forced all hiring managers and recruiters to look harder to find at least one strong diverse candidate to make it to the final round. This worked well, as a large number of those finalists ended up being the best fit for the role.
As CPO at Podimo, a platform for podcasts and audiobooks, you’ve shared your vision for AI-driven personalization in a recent interview. How do you think this advancement could create opportunities for more female voices and diverse content in the podcast space?
I’m excited about the possibilities for AI-driven personalization to promote more niche or long tail content. Without a personalized experience, content and entertainment platforms tend to recommend the most popular content which ends up driving more and more users to those shows and creates a highly unbalanced ecosystem with few creators generating the vast majority of content plays and therefore, revenue.
With the latest AI technology, we will be able to cater to our users’ diverse interests and promote excellent content that might be less mainstream but a more precise fit for that user’s taste. This will create opportunities for a more diverse slate of creators.
As a mentor for younger colleagues, how do you specifically encourage and nurture leadership qualities in women, helping them to take on greater responsibilities and make meaningful decisions in their roles?
I care deeply about mentoring young talented women. In many of the conversations I have had in the past, the women who wanted to speak to me had a strong intuition or interest in a more challenging or senior role, but had doubts – whether self confidence issues, impostor syndrome, or concerns about her ability to combine family life, pregnancy, or other responsibilities with a more demanding role.
I think our gut instincts often lead us in the right direction, and a big part of empowering others is to help them manage their “inner critic” – that voice which tells you that you will fail, that something is too risky. Sharing my own experience, the doubts and concerns I had and how I managed those is one way to help others figure out their own approach.
I’m specifically very passionate about encouraging talented women to move into product management roles. A lack of technical background makes many hesitate, but I find that often women can be particularly strong PMs – their EQ, empathy, communication, team building and leadership skills are critical in product roles, and the technical elements can often be learned with the right motivation. If you’re interested in this topic of making meaningful big steps or changes in your life, one book I recommend is Playing Big by Tara Mohr.
What advice would you give to other women in tech who are interested in pursuing leadership roles, especially in product and business development? Are there specific strategies or resources you found helpful in your own journey?
Three pieces of advice here:
- My best advice would be to meet and connect with people who work in areas you’re interested in, and who are great people generally. You can pursue this any time, whether you’re searching for a specific opportunity or not.
- Always be learning – from your own experience, the successes and mistakes, and from others. There is incredible content online. From following people in the field you’re interested in on LinkedIn, to Substack blogs on product or business, to podcasts (of course!), a growth mindset and constant curiosity are crucial for your growth. One of my favorite podcasts on product is Lenny’s Podcast where he hosts different product and tech leaders.
- Dare and express interest! If you don’t ask for it, people might not think that you’re interested in that leadership role. If they think you’re not ready – that is valuable feedback, and you can use the opportunity to ask what areas you should focus on in order to better position yourself next time.
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