Scratch’s sharp-witted PR leader, Anya Nelson, voices that despite what some people presume about women being too emotional to hold leadership positions, it’s actually a crucial part to the decision-making processes that propel your business forward.
For this Women’s History Month Q&A, Anya shares some of the challenges that come with balancing motherhood and career. But in her experience, doing both is possible. Read on to follow Anya’s path into B2B tech PR, how she battles imposter syndrome and how influential women never fail to impress her.
Q: What sparked your interest to work in the tech industry?
A: I kind of fell into it. After I graduated from Boston University’s Master’s program in 2010, the economy was still in a recovery mode, so I wasn’t particularly picky. I had several agency internships throughout grad school where I dabbled in CPG, fashion and entertainment PR, so when an opportunity presented itself to go into tech PR, I jumped on it. The tech was for the Media & Entertainment industry specifically, but I loved it right away. I loved how technology was used to bring good content to people and level the playing field for the creators. It made things more accessible for those who wanted to tell stories through photography, filmmaking, vlogging, etc. And naturally, I wanted to tell their stories.
Q: Why is it important for women to be a part of the tech industry? Why are women underrepresented in tech?
A: Women are definitely underrepresented in tech, especially in leadership roles, but things are changing and it’s exciting to see more girls who are into coding at a young age, or curious to learn about quantum computing, for example. It’s funny, I used to go to this big trade show in Vegas every year, which is the world’s largest event for the broadcast/pro video/filmmaking industry, and the amount of testosterone was through the roof. But each year, I saw more and more female faces — network directors, emerging filmmakers, studio executives. I think not just in tech, but in every industry, it’s important to have an even representation of societal groups. If your makeup is 100% homogenous, what kind of creativity can you drive? If everyone thinks the same, there’s no catalyst for innovation and change.
Women are often blamed for being too emotional to hold a CEO job. I think it’s the opposite — emotions are good for decision-making. More and more companies these days are acknowledging empathy as one of their core values. Without empathy, you can only take your business so far. It’s a numbers game until it isn’t — people want to have an emotional connection to the brands they’re engaging with, so if anything, women are very well-suited to enable that connection.
Q: What does being a woman in tech mean to you?
A: It means that there’s no single industry where women don’t belong. Well, maybe men’s underwear modeling.
Q: Being a woman in tech isn’t easy — what challenges do you face in a male-dominated industry?
A: I honestly don’t anymore. I got to a point where I don’t see them as women-specific challenges — they are just challenges, at least in my case. The pandemic brought about a lot of change, and working parents have a lot to juggle — but it’s a parental challenge. Progressive fathers, like my husband, would never put their career priorities over their partners’ just because they’re men. And I think that’s becoming more common these days.
One sore spot I have, however, is pregnancy/maternity. When I had my girls, back to back, it was definitely hard to juggle the work, hormones and career aspirations. I sometimes felt written off and deprived of opportunities, but I also think a lot of it was just in my head, because we’re programmed to think that way. Today, organizations are much more proactive about ensuring pregnant employees and new mothers feel appreciated and valued, especially in tech, which is still pretty male-dominated. Women need to know that they’re not expected to choose between motherhood and career, because we can 100% do both. That’s why I’m so happy to partner with organizations like Ovia Health whose mission is to create such environments for the employers and their employees.
Q: Do you think women’s decisions are received differently than men? How can women make sure their voices are heard loud and clear?
A: This goes back to my argument around emotional decision-making. But it’s all about the art of the argument, no matter whether you’re a woman or a man. It’s about empathy, respect, and the ability to not just listen but to hear and relate. You have to be open to dialogue. It’s great to have an empowered voice but not at the expense of muting others.
Q: How do you deal with imposter syndrome and internal doubt?
A: That’s such a good question and something I think about a lot. I’m a pretty confident person but sometimes I can’t help but wonder if I’m experienced enough, or smart enough, or educated enough to give advice to a CEO of a multimillion-dollar company. But then I remind myself — I became a partner at an agency, where I started as an intern, in 3 years at the age of 28. Nothing was handed to me — I simply deserved it with hard work and good intuition. I think the important thing here is to stay humble and realize your success depends on a lot of things, including your support system. So tapping into that support system when you start doubting your self-worth is the way to go and has always helped me. No one is a bigger fan of me than my husband. He’s always been so encouraging and so proud of my achievements. Surrounding yourself with people like that would kill any glimpse of self-doubt.
Q: How do you balance being a mom and having a kick-ass career?
A: It’s definitely not easy, especially during the pandemic. But it’s possible. It requires a lot of discipline, setting up and sticking to routines, and creating boundaries. And most importantly, it’s about taking care of your mental health. Whatever it takes. My mental health depends on exercise — I lose my sanity if I don’t work out every day. So I make time for my Peloton, no matter how many Zoom meetings I have to attend or deliverables to push. That’s for the good of everyone around me. 🙂
Q: What women in history have inspired you?
A: I love Maya Angelou — her quotes always make my heart smile. I adore Michelle Obama — she is such a beacon of strength, hope and overall goodness. I’ve been fascinated by Whitney Wolfe Herd, one of the youngest female billionaire CEOs to take her company public.
As for historical figures, I love Catherine the Great, empress of Russia. A German girl who was brought to Russia through marriage, she embraced it with all her heart — learned the language, was baptized as Russian Orthodox and made it one of the most powerful empires of its time.
Q: Why is your voice important for younger generations of women in tech? What valuable advice can you give them based on what you would want them to know?
A: Be fearless and curious and empathic. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and seek advice and mentorship from other accomplished women. We have to have each other’s backs and help each other achieve new heights.Back to blog