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."
For decades, women have been unknowingly suffering from PSD and intergenerational trauma, but now Dr. Valerie Rein wants women to reclaim their power through mind, body and healing tools.
As women, no matter how many accomplishments we have or how successful we look on the outside, we all occasionally hear that nagging internal voice telling us to do more. We criticize ourselves more than anyone else and then throw ourselves into the never-ending cycle of self-care, all in effort to save ourselves from crashing into this invisible internal wall. According to psychologist, entrepreneur and author, Dr. Valerie Rein, these feelings are not your fault and there is nothing wrong with you— but chances are you definitely suffering from Patriarchy Stress Disorder.
Patriarchy Stress Disorder (PSD) is defined as the collective inherited trauma of oppression that forms an invisible inner barrier to women's happiness and fulfillment. The term was coined by Rein who discovered a missing link between trauma and the effects that patriarchal power structures have had on certain groups of people all throughout history up until the present day. Her life experience, in addition to research, have led Rein to develop a deeper understanding of the ways in which men and women are experiencing symptoms of trauma and stress that have been genetically passed down from previously oppressed generations.
What makes the discovery of this disorder significant is that it provides women with an answer to the stresses and trauma we feel but cannot explain or overcome. After being admitted to the ER with stroke-like symptoms one afternoon, when Rein noticed the left side of her body and face going numb, she was baffled to learn from her doctors that the results of her tests revealed that her stroke-like symptoms were caused by stress. Rein was then left to figure out what exactly she did for her clients in order for them to be able to step into the fullness of themselves that she was unable to do for herself. "What started seeping through the tears was the realization that I checked all the boxes that society told me I needed to feel happy and fulfilled, but I didn't feel happy or fulfilled and I didn't feel unhappy either. I didn't feel much of anything at all, not even stress," she stated.
Photo Courtesy of Dr. Valerie Rein
This raised the question for Rein as to what sort of hidden traumas women are suppressing without having any awareness of its presence. In her evaluation of her healing methodology, Rein realized that she was using mind, body and trauma healing tools with her clients because, while they had never experienced a traumatic event, they were showing the tell-tale symptoms of trauma which are described as a disconnect from parts of ourselves, body and emotions. In addition to her personal evaluation, research at the time had revealed that traumatic experiences are, in fact, passed down genetically throughout generations. This was Rein's lightbulb moment. The answer to a very real problem that she, and all women, have been experiencing is intergenerational trauma as a result of oppression formed under the patriarchy.
Although Rein's discovery would undoubtably change the way women experience and understand stress, it was crucial that she first broaden the definition of trauma not with the intention of catering to PSD, but to better identify the ways in which trauma presents itself in the current generation. When studying psychology from the books and diagnostic manuals written exclusively by white men, trauma was narrowly defined as a life-threatening experience. By that definition, not many people fit the bill despite showing trauma-like symptoms such as disconnections from parts of their body, emotions and self-expression. However, as the field of psychology has expanded, more voices have been joining the conversations and expanding the definition of trauma based on their lived experience. "I have broadened the definition to say that any experience that makes us feel unsafe psychically or emotionally can be traumatic," stated Rein. By redefining trauma, people across the gender spectrum are able to find validation in their experiences and begin their journey to healing these traumas not just for ourselves, but for future generations.
While PSD is not experienced by one particular gender, as women who have been one of the most historically disadvantaged and oppressed groups, we have inherited survival instructions that express themselves differently for different women. For some women, this means their nervous systems freeze when faced with something that has been historically dangerous for women such as stepping into their power, speaking out, being visible or making a lot of money. Then there are women who go into fight or flight mode. Although they are able to stand in the spotlight, they pay a high price for it when their nervous system begins to work in a constant state of hyper vigilance in order to keep them safe. These women often find themselves having trouble with anxiety, intimacy, sleeping or relaxing without a glass of wine or a pill. Because of this, adrenaline fatigue has become an epidemic among high achieving women that is resulting in heightened levels of stress and anxiety.
"For the first time, it makes sense that we are not broken or making this up, and we have gained this understanding by looking through the lens of a shared trauma. All of these things have been either forbidden or impossible for women. A woman's power has always been a punishable offense throughout history," stated Rein.
Although the idea of having a disorder may be scary to some and even potentially contribute to a victim mentality, Rein wants people to be empowered by PSD and to see it as a diagnosis meant to validate your experience by giving it a name, making it real and giving you a means to heal yourself. "There are still experiences in our lives that are triggering PSD and the more layers we heal, the more power we claim, the more resilience we have and more ability we have in staying plugged into our power and happiness. These triggers affect us less and less the more we heal," emphasized Rein. While the task of breaking intergenerational transmission of trauma seems intimidating, the author has flipped the negative approach to the healing journey from a game of survival to the game of how good can it get.
In her new book, Patriarchy Stress Disorder: The Invisible Barrier to Women's Happiness and Fulfillment, Rein details an easy system for healing that includes the necessary tools she has sourced over 20 years on her healing exploration with the pioneers of mind, body and trauma resolution. Her 5-step system serves to help "Jailbreakers" escape the inner prison of PSD and other hidden trauma through the process of Waking Up in Prison, Meeting the Prison Guards, Turning the Prison Guards into Body Guards, Digging the Tunnel to Freedom and Savoring Freedom. Readers can also find free tools on Rein's website to help aid in their healing journey and exploration.
"I think of the book coming out as the birth of a movement. Healing is not women against men– it's women, men and people across the gender spectrum, coming together in a shared understanding that we all have trauma and we can all heal."