Maria Raga, current CEO of Depop, the Instagramesque app that allows you to sell your clothes online, believes the climate in Europe for working women has changed exponentially, and the barriers to entry no longer exist.
The curated content on the app makes for very clean viewing and easy buying. It leans into the influencer aesthetic that makes up much of millennials feeds on their favorite photo-sharing app, Instagram. “It's a product that's extremely social and mobile," says Raga. “Being able to shop and express (yourself) digitally, but in a social environment." Depop is thus in part driven by creativity and in part by engagement: the more followers you have on your Depop account, the more clothes you'll sell, naturally. Having a solid base on Instagram will always help you gain followers on Depop - the two work almost symbiotically.
Raga, originally from Valencia, Spain had spent three years at popular discount site, Groupon, before moving to Depop, where, under her management as CEO, the company has raised $20M in their most recent investment round, Series B.
And she says, there was nothing stopping her from getting there. “I never, ever felt discriminated (against). I cannot say I had to push harder or had to change perception, ever." Having rose through the ranks of European tech and e-commerce, she asserts that the veritable 'gap' has absolutely been breached and those barriers to entry women used to face are now gone.
SWAAY spoke to Raga about Depop, the millennial driving force behind its success, and how her career has informed her opinion of the modern workforce.
“I never, ever felt discriminated (against). I cannot say I had to push harder or had to change perception, ever."
A principle driver for the app, especially in Europe, has been the rise to prominence of the millennial-heavy influencer industry, through whom Depop can amalgamate customers. Given that influencers get a tonne of free press products (that they don't necessarily want or need), the option for them to resell based off of their photos already taken with said product, makes for very easy money.
It's evident the millennial generation are consumers who are heavily influenced by what these pseudo-celebrities are wearing on their Instagram feeds. “They are looking for someone to inspire them (millennials)" Raga comments. “That's why influencers have become so big, it's the timing. The fact that we have a product that suits the new generation, which happen to be a segmented population, and the fact that people don't really know how to approach them because they are completely different to the older generations in how they shop and how they use digital."
The Modern Marketplace:
Depop relies on its look, feel and accessibility to stand out from a market of marketplaces that are, on the whole, a little clunky. Take Ebay or Amazon for example. Buying clothes off either is a pain and an eye sore to look at. When you have all of your favorite people online cordially organising your wears in a pretty, curated grid, why would you have need for scrolling through pages of product with varying price ranges on these bigger sites?
Traditional means of selling - brick and mortar stores, advertising in print magazines or newspapers - are on their way to becoming relics of a bygone age. This of course means that sites willing to evolve and focus solely on this kind of emotional marketplace will profit from this new online space of buying, selling and sociability. When you buy off Depop, you're buying from a person - perhaps someone you wish to emulate, or have been following for a while. There's a connection there you don't get from buying, say from ASOS, or Nordstrom. It's engagement, in a uniquely intimate online setting.
Maria Raga, Depop CEO
What is tricky however about working with those reliant on these social channels for money-making, is that once a change is made to the interface or set up of the app, there is war. "The moment that you try to improve your flaws, you end up pissing off some people," laughs Raga. "Or you might jeopardize the nice look and feel, on top of the fact that people don't like change. We experienced this when we launched our new app in July, the amount of complaints that we got about the font, being too bold, you're always going to get that."
As for direct competitors, the size and scale of Depop has meant their entrance into the U.S market has gone down very well. "It's not an easy space. It looks easy to get in, but once you get in, you realize to really get to scale, you have to have a big community," says Raga. Depop's community now comprises of 25% U.S customers, heading up competition like Poshmark and Tradesy.
"Managing a marketplace is hard - you have to be looking at the buyer's side, and the seller's side. Many businesses just look at one, and focus on that."
Raga was resolute in her belief that being a mother never once hindered her ascension to CEO in an industry notorious for its bro-ish nature.
"The moment that I became a mother - everything changed," she remarks. "My priorities in life changed, the amount of time that I dedicated to myself, to work changed. For sure, it made me a better manager, because it gave me a lot of perspective in life, you don't take things as seriously. You have more empathy, more patience."
She does however posit, that while women are increasingly found in executive positions, or leading companies, that they will never be there to the extent or number of their male counterparts, because of motherhood, and their attachment to their child. As the choice becomes more readily available to stay at home or go back to work after a baby, she posits women will continue to make the choice to bring their children up themselves.
"The two most powerful women in Europe at the minute are Theresa May and Angela Merkel, (neither of whom) have kids," she says. "Women, like men have a choice to make there, that's very much inherited in their biological DNA. It's just harder for women to decide to do that."
This is not necessarily a negative thing, she states. Priorities and where they lie as women continue to breach the gap, will wind down to individuality and preference, rather than what society, or your company, deems correct. "I don't think it's a bad thing that women take a couple of years off their careers and go back," says the CEO. "With life expectancy going up, we're going to have enough time to work. If women want to take time off now and then continue, and the men do the same after and continue, it's completely fine. "
As for reaching those estimable heights, Raga is adamant it's up to the women themselves to achieve executive positions, rather than blaming men for blocking their way there. "It's up to them. It's not up to the men to open up. It's up to the women to be willing to do it. If they want to do it - the road is there."
Gender divisions in sports have primarily served to keep women out of what has always been believed to be a male domain. The idea of women participating alongside men has been regarded with contempt under the belief that women were made physically inferior.
Within their own division, women have reached new heights, received accolades for outstanding physical performance and endurance, and have proven themselves to be as capable of athletic excellence as men. In spite of women's collective fight to be recognized as equals to their male counterparts, female athletes must now prove their womanhood in order to compete alongside their own gender.
That has been the reality for Caster Semenya, a South African Olympic champion, who has been at the center of the latest gender discrimination debate across the world. After crushing her competition in the women's 800-meter dash in 2016, Semenya was subjected to scrutiny from her peers based upon her physical appearance, calling her gender into question. Despite setting a new national record for South Africa and attaining the title of fifth fastest woman in Olympic history, Semenya's success was quickly brushed aside as she became a spectacle for all the wrong reasons.
Semenya's gender became a hot topic among reporters as the Olympic champion was subjected to sex testing by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF). According to Ruth Padawer from the New York Times, Semenya was forced to undergo relentless examination by gender experts to determine whether or not she was woman enough to compete as one. While the IAAF has never released the results of their testing, that did not stop the media from making irreverent speculations about the athlete's gender.
Moments after winning the Berlin World Athletics Championship in 2009, Semenya was faced with immediate backlash from fellow runners. Elisa Cusma who suffered a whopping defeat after finishing in sixth place, felt as though Semenya was too masculine to compete in a women's race. Cusma stated, "These kind of people should not run with us. For me, she is not a woman. She's a man." While her statement proved insensitive enough, her perspective was acknowledged and appeared to be a mutually belief among the other white female competitors.
Fast forward to 2018, the IAAF issued new Eligibility Regulations for Female Classification (Athlete with Differences of Sexual Development) that apply to events from 400m to the mile, including 400m hurdles races, 800m, and 1500m. The regulations created by the IAAF state that an athlete must be recognized at law as either female or intersex, she must reduce her testosterone level to below 5 nmol/L continuously for the duration of six months, and she must maintain her testosterone levels to remain below 5 nmol/L during and after competing so long as she wishes to be eligible to compete in any future events. It is believed that these new rules have been put into effect to specifically target Semenya given her history of being the most recent athlete to face this sort of discrimination.
With these regulations put into effect, in combination with the lack of information about whether or not Semenya is biologically a female of male, society has seemed to come to the conclusion that Semenya is intersex, meaning she was born with any variation of characteristics, chromosomes, gonads, sex hormones, or genitals. After her initial testing, there had been alleged leaks to media outlets such as Australia's Daily Telegraph newspaper which stated that Semenya's results proved that her testosterone levels were too high. This information, while not credible, has been widely accepted as fact. Whether or not Semenya is intersex, society appears to be missing the point that no one is entitled to this information. Running off their newfound acceptance that the Olympic champion is intersex, it calls into question whether her elevated levels of testosterone makes her a man.
The IAAF published a study concluding that higher levels of testosterone do, in fact, contribute to the level of performance in track and field. However, higher testosterone levels have never been the sole determining factor for sex or gender. There are conditions that affect women, such as PCOS, in which the ovaries produce extra amounts of testosterone. However, those women never have their womanhood called into question, nor should they—and neither should Semenya.
Every aspect of the issue surrounding Semenya's body has been deplorable, to say the least. However, there has not been enough recognition as to how invasive and degrading sex testing actually is. For any woman, at any age, to have her body forcibly examined and studied like a science project by "experts" is humiliating and unethical. Under no circumstances have Semenya's health or well-being been considered upon discovering that her body allegedly produces an excessive amount of testosterone. For the sake of an organization, for the comfort of white female athletes who felt as though Semenya's gender was an unfair advantage against them, Semenya and other women like her, must undergo hormone treatment to reduce their performance to that of which women are expected to perform at. Yet some women within the athletic community are unphased by this direct attempt to further prove women as inferior athletes.
As difficult as this global invasion of privacy has been for the athlete, the humiliation and sense of violation is felt by her people in South Africa. Writer and activist, Kari, reported that Semenya has had the country's undying support since her first global appearance in 2009. Even after the IAAF released their new regulations, South Africans have refuted their accusations. Kari stated, "The Minister of Sports and Recreation and the Africa National Congress, South Africa's ruling party labeled the decision as anti-sport, racist, and homophobic." It is no secret that the build and appearance of Black women have always been met with racist and sexist commentary. Because Black women have never managed to fit into the European standard of beauty catered to and in favor of white women, the accusations of Semenya appearing too masculine were unsurprising.
Despite the countless injustices Semenya has faced over the years, she remains as determined as ever to return to track and field and compete amongst women as the woman she is. Her fight against the IAAF's regulations continues as the Olympic champion has been receiving and outpour of support in wake of the Association's decision. Semenya is determined to run again, win again, and set new and inclusive standards for women's sports.