Women are often less likely to selfpromote or self-advocate at work, usually through fear of receiving a negative response, says Suzana Hlatki Matijević , Business Unit Manager at Abbott Nutrition International in Croatia
and The Netherlands. This is wrong, we need to change this, says Hlatki Matijević.
- “Woman in business” is it still “exotic” or has it become our everyday life?
“Woman in business” is not exotic, and in my opinion, they never were. Many people are unfamiliar with the fact that the history of female entrepreneurship reaches far back into the past. The first well-documented businesswomen can be traced back as far as 1870 BC to the city of Assur in northern Iraq. Assyrian women at the time often contributed to vast trading networks that flourished in the region, showing that business was not exclusive to men. There are many more recent examples of women in business too. Margaret Hardenbroeck, for example, arrived in what would become New York in 1659 and established herself as a debt collector before becoming a business agent. She traded between The Netherlands and the colonies, eventually becoming the wealthiest woman in New York. Such stories are not as uncommon as you might think. Throughout the 18th Century, businesswomen traded in the world’s major cities, and there are many examples of successful female entrepreneurs owning and running their own businesses. Mary Katherine Goddard became the first woman publisher in America in 1766, Madam C.J. Walker owned a million-dollar haircare business in the 1890s, and Coco Chanel opened her first boutique in 1913.
- Is the business world a man’s world? What are your experiences on the road to success?
Statistically I can say yes. However, the business landscape is changing, along with attitudes towards ‘traditional’ ways of doing business. We can also find plenty of examples of businesswomen and entrepreneurs who are enacting significant changes, supercharging their careers, and helping to shape the future of business. As women gain more power and influence in the world of business, they bring with them fresh ideas and innovation. Across a wide range of industries, greater gender equality helps to create new products, services, and businesses. Not only does this benefit organizations, but it’s also good for consumers, giving them more choices that are more relevant to them. There’s also evidence to suggest that companies are more profitable when women make up more than one in three executive roles. Personally, I have never had problem with Confidence and self-belief in a traditionally male-dominated space, I have never allowed to be treated differently because I am a woman. Women are often less likely to self-promote or self-advocate at work, usually through fear of receiving a negative response. This is wrong, we need to change this. This is my experience on the road to success.
- 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 favor of women?
Yes, you are right. During the mid-19th Century, there was a shift in the labour force that saw women focusing more on domestic tasks, while men became the sole wage earners. Until recently, such ‘traditional’ gender roles have persisted. Although the representation of women in leadership roles is still an issue, it has improved in recent years. Female CEOs run more than 10% of Fortune 500 companies – that’s 53 women in total. This progress is certainly a good thing, although, that 53 out of 500 is still a small proportion. Furthermore, women in these positions bring with them a unique set of skills and competencies that can help to enact change. As well as the hard skills needed for executive roles, it’s the soft skills that can make a difference. A 2016 study also found that women score higher than men on nearly all emotional intelligence competencies. These include qualities such as conflict management, adaptability, and teamwork, which are all essential for workplace leadership. We need to work on cultural changes, Ultimately, there needs to be a shift in how we think about and treat women in business roles. From organizations and executive boards right down to individuals, we all need to be willing and accountable to enact change. This means challenging stereotypes, championing diversity, and creating a working environment that allows everyone to thrive and progress.
- You are Business Unit Manager of Nutrition divisions in a large company. How much attention do you at Abbott Nutrition International pay to each type of equality, including women?
In Abbott we established Women Leaders of Abbott, global organization that takes a proactive role in connecting women and offering dynamic programs and initiatives to enhance leadership experiences and career development of women at Abbott. WLA’s mission is to help women leaders maximize their potential and realize greater achievement throughout their career. This is how we are sharing our unique strengths and diverse backgrounds. In the early 1900s two people on Abbotts board of directors were women -And Abbott has been recognized by 2020 Women on Boards for its dedication to female leadership. That commitment to giving women an equal voice and the opportunity to innovate and lead has only accelerated.
- Abbott Laboratories is also known as a company 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? Abbott treats employees as important assets and nurture their talent increasing chances of success. We are making employees feel valued and developing their talents maximizes their potential. Conversely, employees who know Abbott value their worth are more engaged, productive, and loyal. To enhance employees’ confidence, we have implemented different programs as Mentorship program, Leading with Impact program and several others that help managers to be trained and improve people manager skills. Abbott treats employees as important assets and nurture their talent increasing chances of success. We are making employees feel valued and developing their talents maximizes their potential. Conversely, employees who know Abbott value their worth are more engaged, productive, and loyal. To enhance employees’ confidence, we have implemented different programs as Mentorship program, Leading with Impact program and several others that help managers to be trained and improve people management skills. The most important thing is to create culture of trust and open communication. It doesn’t matter how capable or talented people are, they may never reach their full potential if trust isn’t present. And Finally, lead by example from my experience is highly valued by employees. When you lead by example, you don’t just push team members towards excellence—rather, you actively demonstrate that excellence. I always keep this in my mind.