Women in Tech: interview with Jane Ulsøe

By Brian Woodward

Today we celebrate Women’s Day and we talked with Jane Ulsøe, co-founder of Canvas Planner and Red Lab Experience. Jane told us about the challenges women might face and what can be done to create equality. She also had something to say to all the women who are starting their own projects.

Why did you choose to create your own company? 

I wanted to build a business together with my sister, Nanna because I believed that we could bring a smarter and better tool to the productivity field. We wanted to help people get a more healthy work-life but also create a healthy work-life for ourselves. Starting Canvas Planner meant that we could do all this and it has been the most exciting and challenging experience in my life so far.  

What do you think are the biggest challenges in business for a woman? 

The gender bias in our culture. That we constantly compare female and male entrepreneurs and focus on the differences instead of the similarities. I think bias plays a much bigger role than most people want to admit. We have to start with accepting the bias in the system and ourselves to be able to change it. Only then can we create structures, politics, etc. that will create an environment where everybody can succeed on equal terms. 

What can companies and governments do to create a balance? 

In the long run, I believe equal parental leave is the key to change gender inequality in general. And added to that I think that it should be possible for entrepreneurs to be able to get full maternity benefits and still be allowed to work a couple of hours on their business. When you are running your own business you can’t disappear for months so I think a lot of potential female entrepreneurs are holding back because they can’t see how to balance baby and business.  

Tech is all about progress. Is tech business socially progressive as well?

To be honest I don’t know. I don’t think I have examples of inequality from inside the tech businesses and teams. 

You might be a role model for young girls, who were yours? 

My mother has always been my role model because she has a lot of power and she always says “I can fix it”. A motto that I live by because no matter what happens I am sure I will be able to make it right in some way or another. As a tech founder, I have made many mistakes and are constantly doing stuff I have not done before. When things go wrong I try to see it as a learning and, of course, try to fix it. When it comes to other female entrepreneurs I am very impressed by Mette Lykke from Too Good To Go and Frederikke Antonie Schmidt from Roccamore. They have both built amazing companies but most importantly to me, they use their voice to fight for the climate, women, etc. They are true role models. 

Even when you reach a position of power, do you think you still have something to prove that a man wouldn’t have to? 

I believe I am very good at what I do, but as a female tech founder, I sometimes feel I have to prove that I know what I am talking about. Not to myself but to potential clients, stakeholders, etc. I don’t think a male tech founder will be met with the same attitude. Even though I am over 40 I am relatively often called a girl and I automatically link it to a feeling of being looked at as inexperienced. And again the gender bias is clear. I have never heard anyone in a business setting call a male tech founder a boy – without even noticing it. 

What is your message to women that might be thinking about creating their own company?

Go for it! Believe in yourself and that you are skilled. Don’t hold yourself back by your low expectations of yourself. I see that all the time on SoMe that women refer to their business and themselves with insecure words and it always makes me want to shake them. If you want others to buy your product my best advice would be to believe in yourself and what you are doing. That will give you the drive and energy that you need to have to convince an investor, customers, stakeholders that you are a kick-ass entrepreneur.