The key takeaway should be that there is a lot of potential with promoting both gender-balance and diversity
At VX, we believe that the sustainability paradigm, including environmental, social, and governance (ESG) factors, is the key to grow beyond those limitations, both in terms of market and mentality, says Mirna Marovic, Managing Director, VentureXchange Ltd. Unfortunately, the Croatian business environment is very narrow-minded and sometimes irrational issues prevail, says Marović.
“Woman in business”, how much is it still “exotic” in 2021, and how much is our everyday life?
I believe that women in business are definitely part of our everyday life. A large number of successful women have proven themselves in the business world, whether they are entrepreneurs who created and started their own business or managed to achieve leadership positions within the larger corporates.
You are the CEO of VentureXchange. What challenges do you face, and how would you assess the business conditions in Croatia?
Unfortunately, the Croatian business environment is very narrow-minded and sometimes irrational issues prevail. We still have a long way to create a more open and growth mindset to encourage business development on purely rational, economic, financial and business issues. The discrimination does not have to be gender-related but can be personal. As a business community and society at large, we have to work more on gender-balance, diversity and inclusion. This narrow-mindedness sometimes seems to come from our small market and limitations, but the key to attracting investors is to realise that we have to scale at least regionally, if not globally.
At VX, we believe that the sustainability paradigm, including environmental, social, and governance (ESG) factors, is the key to grow beyond those limitations, both in terms of market and mentality. We advocate the full integration of sustainability / ESG issues in the business strategy to all our clients, from startups to corporates and financial industry participants, such as private equity and venture capital funds.
Did you feel that someone looked at you differently and how as a woman in a leading position?
I did not experience that. Quite the contrary, I think being a woman is an advantage.
There are far fewer women at the helm of companies compared to their male counterparts, somewhere around 5%. What do you think is the reason for this, and how to change that figure in favour of women?
When we talk about issues of women in business, we have to discuss issues beyond the statistics. Most importantly, career/leadership advancement, engagement and retention in the workplace. Furthermore, diversity and gender balance at the deeper level may also include all the unconscious biases we have that can adversely impact talent management and building the right corporate culture. At VX, we are fond of adopting the framework for managing ESG risks – which are perfectly suited for identifying the issues that can negatively impact profitability and return. There is a strong business case for diversity because research has proven that diversity drives performance. It is clear that companies with a more diverse workforce perform better financially and have happier and more engaged employees with higher retention. Furthermore, diversity and inclusion are relevant in the talent pool, top-and bottom-line performance, increased creativity and innovation, and customer congruence.
What would you single out as an advantage for a company to be headed by a woman, and when should it be a man?
I would not divide the roles between gender, but I would like to promote diversity and inclusion as the right strategy for the winning teams and organisations. The key takeaway should be that there is a lot of potential with promoting both gender-balance and diversity.
Is there female solidarity in the business, or should everything be observed professionally and individually?
My experience is that female solidarity is sometimes positive. For example, I would like to praise all the women-for-women mentorship programmes. In Croatia, this was organised and supported by EBRD, and now also by Večernji List/Zaposlena. In the INSEAD Alumni Community, where I am the President of the INSEAD Alumni Association Croatia and Slovenia, we have Women in Business Programmes and mentorships. However, beyond mentorship programs, either informal or organised, female solidarity is not an ally towards achieving business or financial goals. It can instead be a distraction, as team diversity and identifying talent is crucial.