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Marina Kostadinović, Head Of Marketing And PR, Association Of Serbian Banks

Equality Is Not A Dead Letter

The fact that it brings together all of the banks in Serbia is a great compliment to the Association of Serbian Banks. This means that it is really needed and that it does important things for both banks and the entire financial system. In fact, it is true that without the Association of Serbian Banks there would be no improvement of the banking system, which is more than obvious

When it comes to gender equality, the situation in banks is far above average. Judging by the statistical data, as many as 70 per cent of bank employees are women, and from 2022, for the first time, more than half of women were in management positions, including those who occupy top positions in leading banks in Serbia. Gender equality has also been helped by trade union organisations formed in individual commercial banks, the National Bank of Serbia and in the banking services sector as a whole. Every four years they adopt an action plan that contains special measures for a balanced representation of the sexes in their bodies and to ensure the active participation of the less represented half in the composition and work of those bodies.

The Association of Banks has existed for 100 years and brings together virtually all the banks in Serbia. How important is it for the banking sector today, how important was it in previous decades?

Serbia was among the first countries in Europe to organise their banking through the work of the Association, and this is a source of pride not only for us bankers, but for the entire country. It was in 1921 and, although the world has changed to an incredible extent since then, the need for an organised performance of the banking system is still the same, and perhaps even greater. When you look at the important topics in which the Association of Banks is involved or how many people and the media turn to us with their questions, then this need is obvious.

The aim of the Association is to build the position and strengthen the reputation of the banking sector in the country and abroad. Since its establishment, and even today, it represents, protects and improves the activities of its members, and harmonises banking practice by applying general rules and principles of professional work and good business practices. It is a great honour for me to be a part of such an institution, but at the same time a responsibility towards those who founded the Association in 1921 to work on the improvement of the banking sector, and towards those who later, over many years, contributed to the creation of what the Association today represents.

Recently, a seminar was held at ASB with the title Gender Equality – Review of Law and Practice. We know what the regulations provide for, but practice is not always in line with them. What does practice show? Can we talk about the specifics of gender equality in the banking sector?

The issue of equality between the sexes has been dealt with very seriously in the legal framework. Many acts, from the Law on Gender Equality to regulations, regulate the position of women in the working environment. However, we are all aware that the practice is not so idyllic. That is why it is the duty of all of us to work, first of all, on raising awareness, on changing the mentality, and of course on positive practice in our environment.

In banks, we can say that the situation is far above average. If we look at the statistics, we see that 70 per cent of employees in banks are women, and this year for the first time, more than half of women are in management positions, some even at the head of the leading banks in Serbia. Also, trade union organisations, formed in individual commercial banks, the National Bank of Serbia or in the banking services sector as a whole, are required to adopt an action plan every four years that contains special measures to encourage and improve gender equality and a balanced representation of the sexes in their bodies, and to ensure the active participation of the less represented gender in the composition and work of those bodies.

In the core team of the Association of Serbian Banks, which has 18 members, there are 10 women, which is quite atypical for our environment. How did women become the majority?

At the Association of Serbian Banks we are really proud of equality, which is not just a matter of words, but has been fully put into practice. I will list only some of my colleagues: Sanja Tomić, Compliance and Foreign Operations Specialist; Slavica Drinić, Risk Management and Banking Supervision and Corporate Banking Specialist; Slađana Sredojević, PhD, International Cooperation and Education Specialist and Head of the Bank Training Centre; Sanja Jevtović, Tax System and Financial Reporting Specialist; Svatlana Negovan, Specialist for the Payment System; Kjara Cvetinović, IT and Standardisation Specialist and Head of IT Department and Slađana Komnenović, Head of Financial Reporting. Svetlana Negovan is a specialist in payment transactions, Kjara Cvetinović is a specialist in information technology and standardisation and head of the IT department, Slađana Komnenović is the head of the Financial Reporting Department.

Many acts, from the Law on Gender Equality to regulations regulate the position of women in the working environment, but the practice is not so idyllic

Most of the responsible positions in the Association of Banks are held by women! And we don’t have the impression that it took additional effort to make it so. These women simply have high qualities for the work they do, and the leaders of the Association were wise enough to recognise that quality and to get great colleagues in these ladies.

According to data from September 2022, women own only 25 percent of companies in Serbia. Do you think that percentage could increase with favourable loans for starting or improving a business and greater support from the state?

The share of women in business ownership is absolutely unacceptable, but we have to be fair and say that things have started from zero. Part of the credit for this goes to the banks that follow women’s entrepreneurship and dedicate themselves to this topic in a special way through the workshops they organise for financial management, writing business plans, market research and online advertising.

As an association of banks, we contribute to equality by speaking very often on this topic, supporting women’s entrepreneurship and creating special benefits for their financing. And what is most important, we show by our example how gender equality can work in practice.

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