I am successful not because I am a woman but because of my qualities and I want to be perceived as such. And I want everyone to be my competition, and not only other women, says Martina Sokač Saraga, Head of Independent Communications and Public Relations Office of the Croatian Chamber of Economy, for Diplomacy&Commerce. What I can certainly see is that young people of both genders are moving forward today and that the pendulum is changing a little even now, Sokač Saraga says.
I wish for the time when we will talk from the positions of the functions we perform, the skills we possess and the results we have made
- “A woman in business”, how “exotic” is this still in 2021, how much has this become an everyday thing?
Women in business stopped being an exotic notion a long time ago, but they sadly are in top managerial positions. I wish for the time when we will talk from the positions of the functions we perform, the skills we possess and the results we have made, and less about whether these functions are male or female. Of course, as a result of numbers that increased in women’s favor. I root for equality, but only because of obvious competencies and not because of the set quotas.
- You are the head of HGK Communications Office. How difficult is it to be at the head of a department like that and what are the challenges that you are faced with?
The hardest thing is to reconcile the positions of the employer and the public, being in between is a demanding balancing act. The nature of the job where you predominantly service the media is such that you follow their destiny, that is, there is no moment in which you can switch off. It’s stressful, and you’re not saving human lives, so it can be frustrating. The problem with PR is that it can be an excuse for anyone’s omissions. Like in a political campaign, when things are good that’s the success of the individual, when it is bad, it must be PR. It’s hard, I believe, in any business, when you don’t have things under control or when you can’t influence them. Still, this dynamic business offers many more advantages than disadvantages.
- What are the advantages?
Participating in the penetration of our businessmen into foreign markets and raising business stories and successes in the media and public space is great and important. You have insight from the perspective of everyone involved. Promoting the world-famous inventions of Croatians who changed the world at the Be Croative exhibition and, for example, in New York at the UN, where Angelina Jolie was present as well, taking the opportunity to bring her, telling our story is an incredible PR opportunity that we took advantage of. To be a part of the most successful national campaign “Let’s buy Croatian” that changed social consciousness is to be an important part of history. After the war, this institution opened the door to economic cooperation in Belgrade before politics. As part of economic delegations, I had the opportunity to participate in meetings of statesmen at the highest levels around the world. We have organized hundreds of conferences on various topics, from how to do business in certain markets, how to apply for EU funds to those on digital transformation and artificial intelligence, and even the Croatian entrepreneurial Oscar “Zlatna kuna”. HGK has an amazing international network, we have someone in every corner of the world. With vast experience in communications and with the media, “swimming” with different policies, the network is the largest capital I have created while working at the Croatian Chamber of Economy.
- How much the business world is a man’s world?
Predominantly still, it’s a global phenomenon. However, there are incredible examples of women in business, like in Saudi Arabia where a woman is the first director of a bank, her name is Ranie Nashar. Or Mary Barra, who is the leading face in the US car industry. It would be interesting to see a woman like that at the head of our Rimac automobile, or at the head of companies like Five, Q, Agrivi, Infinum, Infobip or Nanobit, where extraordinary men made wonders. Take a look at Emma Walmsley, the first woman of the British pharmaceutical company who saves over 500 million dollars annually for the company. Let me make a joke, us women can be strange and wondrous, often at the same time.
- There are far less women at the head of companies compared to their male colleagues, around 5%. What do you think is the reason for that and how can this number change in favor of women?
The reasons are both objective and subjective in nature, and biological after all. I have studied a number of researches, but here I will speak solely on the basis of my experiences and the impression based on them. If I simplify things to the core, it seems to me that a man will be more daring and women more hesitant because they are more often perfectionists. Starting a family is an objective factor in business growth. Women will often bring things to perfection, while during this time the man will overtake them and reach the goal faster. How to change things in favor of women is a million dollar question and I will obviously not get that. What I can certainly see is that young people of both genders are moving forward today and that the pendulum is changing a little even now.
- What would you single out as advantage of having a woman at the head of a company, and when should a man do this job?
Generalizations are ungrateful. For example, I get the impression that women in top management positions in Croatia manage similarly to men. You can often hear how she has a “male brain”. It seems to me that things are somewhat different already in the second and third echelon of managers. Men will take more risks, women will be more responsible and strengthen team spirit. Men are more likely to make decisions individually, women are more prone to participatory decision making.
When a company should be led by a man, and when a woman depends on the business policy and vision of the company itself. If they are willing to take a higher risk for short-term profit then a male leader may be better for them, on the other hand, if they are looking for long-term stability, a woman at the helm of the company may suit them better, but it depends on a lot of factors. In general, I think it’s easier for women to put on “men’s shoes” than the other way around, it gives them a small leadership advantage that statistics don’t show yet unfortunately, but I hope they will soon.
- Does female solidarity exist in the business world or should everything be observed professionally and individually?
Of course, I have wonderful experiences with many female colleagues, but the support from direct female supervisors even at the beginning of the professional path was often absent. That is why I particularly strongly give my support to young, capable and wonderful colleagues in the team I lead. You are just as strong as your weakest link. I am focused on the result, but if I see someone in my team not feeling well, I react. I don’t just wait for a specific task to be delivered. Professionalism mustn’t exclude humanity.