For women concerned about how to combine a successful career with family life, Romanian businesswoman Anca Vlad has this advice: get to the top. ôI have not missed a single one of my childrenĺs school meetings, I make sure that any business meeting comes before or after. Thatĺs the advantage of being a boss.ö
Anca is the president and founder of Fildas Group, a Romanian pharmaceuticals distribution company with an impressive turnover of US$ 300 million in 2007. She was one of the panelists at the Women in Business lunch in Kiev which looked at a range of issues affecting female entrepreneurs in the EBRDĺs region of operations (not to mention the rest of the world), including sexism, glass ceilings and work-life balance.
Inga Legasova, the only other mother on the panel, found that rather than being a barrier to her business career, parenthood was the main stimulus for having one in the first place.
ôI went into business during the period of market changes to support my son,ö said Inga, who has since built her distribution company RemiLing into a supplier of home goods and textiles to Russiaĺs largest supermarkets. ôI had practical reasons, not ambitions. I started from zero. I had to survive and support my family.ö
That, according to Inga, is a key difference between male and female entrepreneurs. ôThe main goal of men is to make money. Women usually have practical goals, which they need money to achieve. And when women achieve financial success, they are eager to help others. Business becomes socially oriented.ö
It is often far from easy for women to carve out a career, however. Jack Stack, a former CEO of Czech bank Ceska Sporitelna and the only man on the panel, said that ôin financial services, women need to do better than men to advance. Faced with a male and a female candidate with the same qualifications and experience, an employer is more likely to promote the man.ö
In Bosnia-Herzegovina, women are confronted with a whole other set of challenges when they want to get ahead in business, according to Nejira Nalic, director of Bosnian micro-credit organization MI-BOSPO. ôMen tend to be more violent in families where women are more successful or try to be successful. This was especially true after the war, when lots of demobilized men couldnĺt find a job.ö
Ukrainian executive Tatiana Radomyslskaya, however, had a very different take from the rest of the panel on what itĺs like to be a woman in business. ôI do not face significant problems with being a woman. It depends on your personality more than on your gender,ö said the acting CEO of brick-maker Slobozhanska Budivelna Keramika.
Nevertheless, many of the speakers indicated that they would welcome legislation similar to a law enacted in Norway which requires 40 per cent of positions on corporate boards to be held by women. Spain is considering following the Norwegian example, a move which prompted Anca to observe: ôI have completely erased the word Ĺmachoĺ from my vocabulary.ö
After the panel discussion, Chikako Kuno, Director of the EBRDĺs Group for Small Business, presented the Women in Business Awards to four female entrepreneurs for their outstanding achievement in the following sectors:
Gulnara Artambayeva from Kazakhstan, CEO of TsATEK Holding, a major strategic private investor in the power sector in Kazakhstan.
Tatiana Vysokova, from Russia Member of the Board of Directors and Chairman of the Auditing and Compliance Committee of Bank ôCenter-Investö Bank.
Filya Zhebrovska from Ukraine, Chairman of the Board and General Director of Farmak, Ukraineĺs leading pharmaceutical producer.
Alenka ÄnidarÜi? Kranjc, from Slovenia, is CEO and founder of Prva pokojninska dru×ba d.d. (PPD), the second largest voluntary pension fund in Slovenia.
Author: Mike McDonough