If we set aside some of the common prejudices that are nowadays increasingly giving way to some significantly more modern and fairer views on women in business, I think we have reason to be satisfied.
Women often had to prove themselves much more than men on their career path, but for the most part we did not see this as an aggravating circumstance, but simply as just one more business challenge that needs to be accepted and solved, says Andreja Vukojević, Director of the Croatian Chamber of Economy Communications and Marketing Department and Tourism Sector. Today’s business world is becoming more and more competitive and complex, it’s harder for men too, and I would say that success in top management today is like success in top sport, it requires big sacrifices, even bigger investments, and sometimes a little luck as well. We are all different and it’s clear that we will not reach the goal at the same moment, says Vukojević.
- “Woman in business” is it still “exotic” or has it become our everyday life?
Business women, and even women in managerial positions, are definitely not a rarity anymore, however, there are numerous prejudices surrounding the position and role of women. Asking the question whether a woman can have a successful career and lead an organization and have a private and family life at the same time is one of the most common asked questions and I would say the most discriminatory prejudices against women in business. Namely, this prejudice initially refers to inequality and a different interpretation of the role of women in society. It starts from the premise that a woman simply has to sacrifice something in order to be successful, if it is not her career, then her family must have been neglected, but it is interesting that men are not asked such questions.
However, if we set aside some of the common prejudices that are nowadays increasingly giving way to some significantly more modern and fairer views on women in business, I think we have reason to be satisfied, both for our male colleagues and for ourselves. We have come a long way from the need to prove ourselves to everyone and everything, we have proven ourselves in countless challenging situations in different industries and social spheres, so the concept of women in business, even at the top level, is increasingly ceasing to be a topic or an opportunity for discussion to such an extent. A woman’s success in business is increasingly becoming the result of personal endeavour, effort and commitment that an individual has invested in order to succeed in their career, regardless of gender, or nowadays, gender or any other affiliation. We live in an especially exciting and dynamic moment, we share all the advantages and disadvantages of today’s lifestyle with our male colleagues, partners, spouses and friends, and we see more and more how the traditional division into male and female worlds, male and female roles and jobs is slowly disappearing.
- Is the business world a man’s world? What are your experiences on the road to success?
It is a fact that in total the business world is still dominated by men, and the numbers speak in favour of this. However, today women are managing global corporations, states, women are becoming leaders, they have become more visible in the society, and I certainly welcome that trend, but it did not come undeservedly and overnight. This is clearly demonstrated by the example of the Croatian Chamber of Commerce, a 171-year-old institution whose presidents have always been men, but women are holding numerous management positions such as sector directors, heads of offices or chief secretaries. Women often had to prove themselves much more than men on their career path, but for the most part we did not see this as an aggravating circumstance, but simply as just one more business challenge that needs to be accepted and solved. It was more difficult for me personally in my career development because I often had to prove myself more than my male colleagues, but I never saw it as a problem, but rather a challenge, perhaps simply because I didn’t want to show some weaknesses that stem from the already mentioned prejudices. However, the results of the work are visible and they are the only thing that’s relevant, therefore work, effort and motivation always pay off in the end. Today, I feel completely equal in the business world and I am proud to be a woman who, despite all the challenges, maintains a successful balance between business and private life, between public and family life.
- There are still fewer women in leading positions compared to male colleagues, somewhere around 5%. What do you think is the reason for that and how can that figure be changed in favour of women?
Women are still faced with (too) big challenges, sometimes even with doubts and questioning – is it all worth it, and this makes many of us give up at the start or halfway through. But even then I don’t think it’s bad or in vain, everyone has their own life path, their goals and priorities, and there’s nothing wrong if we sometimes make a decision in a different direction, a direction that is not tailored according to corporate principles and preferences. Today’s business world is becoming more and more competitive and complex, it’s harder for men too, and I would say that success in top management today is like success in top sport, it requires big sacrifices, even bigger investments, and sometimes a little luck as well. We are all different and it’s clear that we will not reach the goal at the same moment. To increase the percentage, I think it is crucial to free women with potential from too high expectations and pressure both from the environment and from themselves. Creating a stimulating environment that does not judge or at least does not question is crucial, therefore, if you are the president of the board and you intend to add to your multi-member board a colleague who deserves it by all criteria, do not trip at the first hurdle and condition the person or ask a question about the priority between private and business, family and career. Such companies are also exposed to considerable reputational risk.
4. You are the Director of Communications and Marketing Department at Croatian Chamber of Economy. How much attention do you at Chamber pay to each type of equality, including women?
The Croatian Chamber of Commerce is in any case a stimulating environment for women, the institution where I work and hold the position of director of the Tourism Sector and head of the Marketing and Communications Service takes care of the equal representation of the sexes, the role of women in management positions, and in some segments I would even say that it is a good example of the so-called positive discrimination, women predominate in certain work processes and sectors, but this does not mean that we want to put our male colleagues in an unequal position.
- Croatian Chamber of Economy is also known that pays special attention to the attitude towards employees, mutual respect. How difficult is it to understand the needs of employees and what is essential for satisfaction and success at work?
It is a process that requires continuous work, but it is not science fiction. Just as employees are expected to undergo continuous training and should be able to do so, employers must also set these same expectations for themselves. To improve the corporate culture, to change the mindset, to promote inclusiveness. A continuous dialogue between employer and employee, monitoring of labor market trends such as working at a remote workplace, as well as a deep understanding of the specifics of the functioning of an individual organization, are required.
- The Croatian Chamber of Economy has many plans and projects this year. Can you single out some of them to announce to our audience?
In recent years, the Croatian Chamber of Commerce has been going through a challenging period of business transformation. By changing the legislative framework, we continue to gather all business entities registered in the Republic of Croatia, but we have several categories of membership, which includes the so-called voluntary membership because now more than 95% of companies in the Republic of Croatia are no longer obliged to pay membership fees. This twist also conditioned a stronger need for market positioning and the sale of various business services and products so that HGK would remain the umbrella institution of the Croatian economy in the coming period. Also, in the coming period, we plan to continue and also to strengthen our focus on the areas that we have determined as key in our work and in which our members have expressed the greatest interest. These are sustainable development and green transition, digital transformation, the future of work and the competitiveness of human resources, EU policies and international cooperation, and the quality and excellence of domestic industry and production. In 2023, the continuation of the business modernization process is planned, and the focus will also be placed on the promotion of Croatian excellence in all segments of the economy, especially through the launch of new and revitalization of existing Chamber projects such as Let’s Buy Croatian and Days of Croatian Tourism, but also new products such the ESG Academy that was very well received in the business community or the online business education platform HGK Masterclass, which we plan to launch soon.