HERStory | Katherine Porter and Robin Linton
Co-Founders, Undu Wearables Ltd.
Katherine Porter and Robin Linton are Co-Founders of Undu – a women led direct to consumer fem-tech company that specializes in wearable pain relief. Specifically, they manufacture a wearable heat pack to relieve menstrual pain. Their mission is to bring comfort and joy to your off days by building inclusive products that learn from nature, set new standards for sustainable design, and offer long term useful solutions. Undu’s third partner is Charlie Katrycz who created and has the patent for the Loonskin technology that Undu is making their products with. The technology, an injection molding derivative, is part of Charlie’s research at the University of Toronto.
What does International Women’s Day mean to you?
Robin: “International Women’s Day means taking the time to acknowledge a massive percentage of the world who are honestly anything but revered every other day of the year. I think one day is definitely not enough, but it feels really special as a way to bring to common discourse that it’s time to challenge the status quo and honour the women who came before us to get us to the place where we are now. We need to be active every day of the year in challenging the current systems in place in order for this progress to continue.”
Katherine: “Especially in areas where there is under representation, it’s important to carve out time in order to shed light on things that have been accomplished. For International Women’s Day, really paying attention to the social, economic, and political achievements of women is very important. In some ways, I think we can feel like we’ve come very far as a gender, but the research really shows that gender parity won’t be achieved within our lifetime. We need to make sure that we’re taking time to call out achievements in those areas, normalize them, and celebrate them for us to continue to push for gender parity across all industries.”
What are the biggest barriers you have faced and how did you overcome them or are overcoming them?
Katherine: “I have always been creative and a jack of all trades. I have been drawn to many different types of work that don’t often get captured in one career or job type. Throughout my life, I haven’t seen many examples of the kind of work I wanted to do around me. This resulted in a harder journey to identify what the work was that I wanted to do. When you see the world through the lens of being female, you’re conditioned by what you see other people around you doing, and I wasn’t seeing a lot of people doing work that I’m starting to do now. This is something that took a lot of time for me to chip away at. I’ve navigated it by taking risks and trusting my gut, and have found new opportunities to do work that I didn’t know existed as a result.”
Robin: “A big barrier would be not necessarily fitting into how people perceive me, largely because of my age and gender. I think a lot of women, especially young women, could probably relate to that and have experienced something similar. This can look like being spoken over at meetings, not being taken seriously when you’re asking for raises, and people being surprised when you stand up with a strong opinion on a topic. In my experience, intentionally gathering with other women has been very helpful. Whether in professional networking settings or personal friendship groups, creating a strong network of support is really helpful. You can commiserate and share strategies and feel supported to take on those barriers.”
What advice would you give to your younger self?
Katherine: “The main piece of advice is probably something I could still learn from. I think number one would be, don’t be so hard on yourself if you don’t see the thing you want to do or be exist in the world. Not knowing doesn’t discredit the desire to do something. Second, build confidence in your ability to take risks by trying new things in small doses. Give yourself small examples of where you can build your confidence and ways that push you and then you’ll have many different reserves to draw from when you find yourself being scared again, or doubting yourself. For example, I used to guide multi-day whitewater canoe trips as a summer job and it was definitely a summer job that people didn’t take very seriously. But I actually gained so much confidence from it, because you were often in uncomfortable situations by yourself, where you had to rely on your own decision making pretty much entirely. If I were to look back, that would continue to be a good small way that I pushed myself and I delivered confidence that will be helpful throughout my whole life.”
Robin: “I would tell Little Robin that you don’t have to be what other people expect you to be. I’ve often made myself small to fit in with others expectations, often tied to gender and that takes a lot of work to undo. It’s okay to own your achievements and be proud of the things you’ve accomplished. I do think especially as women, we’re socialized to balance everything and not take a lot of credit for it. I would want younger me and younger women in the world to own their achievements.”
Why would you encourage young women to enter careers in manufacturing?
Katherine: “The more that we encourage diverse minds to participate in rethinking how we make things, the greater chance we’ll have at creating new and creative solutions to the problems we see in the world. The world changes really quickly around us and we need more than just a handful of ideas about how to tackle all those problems. If you want anything to exist, it has to get made and finding elegant ways to make that come to life is an incredibly valuable thing. Let’s get more women into the world of manufacturing and let’s see what they can do.”
Robin: “I love that. I would just add that entering a career in manufacturing is a great way to fill in the gaps of what’s available on the market. You can create something that people need that hasn’t been created yet. It’s also really exciting to get your hands dirty, learn new skills, and create a physical product. We need more women in the room.”