Tress: Young Women In Tech Making Magic

Kelechi Udoagwu, Friday August 26th 2016


This all-women startup has received international acclaim and funding from top accelerators – MEST and Y-Combinator. Started in Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology (MEST), they came together with a love for dreaming, learning, building, traveling and innovating. Hear them share their experiences about working with their girlfriends, and breaking international boundaries as African women in technology.

What is Tress?

Priscila: Tress is a social community mobile app for black women all over the world to find hairstyle inspiration and information about the hair. Information like name of weave or products used, location of the salon where it was done, and how much it cost to buy and fix.

What are some differences between working with men and working with women?

Priscilla: With women, you have to be sensitive because we are generally more intuitive and have a lot of emotions. You have to be aware of your actions but not in a bad way. For example if I come into the office and Cassie is extra quiet, I know that something is on her mind, and I need to figure out how to get it out of her. A guy may not pay attention to these things.
Something else I like is how passionate we are about every detail of Tress. Everyone participates in every decision made. Whether we’re talking about logos or content or users, everyone chips in to support. All hands are always on deck.

Cassandra: We ladies have our mood swings and personal issues, like cycles, and when you work with ladies, they understand that. They understand your biology and can empathize but a guy would sometimes think you’re trying to dodge certain tasks. They make it seem like you’re seeking for attention or just being difficult.

Esther: I work well with either sex. As long as we get the work done, I’m fine. I don’t like a lot of external factors when I’m trying to work. I’m not interested in that. Like if you want to gossip and I’m working, I’ll ignore you. I’m not saying only women gossip though, guys do too. I’m just as ruthless with both. I love working with my team though. We understand each other. I don’t know if it’s because they’re females or because of their personalities.

Would you say women bring personal issues to work?

Priscilla: It's a yes and no. Yes, women bring personal issues to work, but men do too. We can't phrase the question to say that only women do, that won't be fair.
Because of our responsibilities, women can’t control what people see. For example, if I’m pregnant and I need to get up and throw up, everybody can see that. It's my personal business but I can't hide it. Another example, children. Women are charged with taking care of children and sometimes we may have no choice but to bring them to work. People will see that and say you always bring your kids to work. But it’s the role society has placed on us.

I read Sheryl Sandberg’s book. In it she said she never realized how far the car park was from the office until she was pregnant. And so, she made a rule that pregnant women should pack closest to the office. Can you imagine if a woman employee had gone to the board of directors to ask that pregnant women pack closest to the door? They would say she’s a troublemaker and bringing up issues that don’t exist.
What self-limiting belief do you think African women have? And what advice do you have for them?

Priscilla: There is a lot of societal pressure on women. Women are expected to aspire to marriage. So girls go to school, and chase non-ambitious jobs while waiting for a husband. They are comfortable standing behind the men in their lives and they just go for the easiest things e.g get a job, get married, follow the conventional path. I believe that women should set goals for themselves, not just aspire to be sidekicks for the men in their lives. Marriage shouldn't be the main focus or end goal of young ladies.

Cassandra: I can only speak about tech and software. When I was younger, I felt I couldn’t do things on my own, I had to get help from guys because I felt they learn faster. I don’t know why I had this perception. In my final year in university, I built a project all on my own, I learnt 4 frameworks and it was good. I was really proud of myself. Now when I see people achieve things, I believe I can too. I don’t rely on anyone anymore. Relying on people suppresses your independence and growth. I think ladies need to break out of that rut. We need to try to try, and we will achieve.

Esther: I think the worst self limiting belief women in Africa have is believing their place is to be someone’s wife. Some girls spend all their efforts trying to get married. That’s all they think about and work towards. Boys are trained to be go-getters, rule the world, go after what they want while the girls are trained to support the men. I think that’s very limiting. Women in Africa can aspire to a lot much more. You can be something, do something. Pick a goal and go for it. It doesn’t mean you won’t still be someone's wife, but if your life goal is to get married, we just can’t be friends.

You can read the full interview here on True Africa | Written by: Kelechi Udoagwu