SŽ Cargo is the freight transport division of the Slovenian Railways Group and one of Slovenia’s leading logistics companies. SŽ Cargo [SŽ-Tovorni promet] is certainly one of key companies in the field of transport and logistics in Central and Southeast Europe
Despite constant market changes and many challenges, SŽ Cargo enters the new year with optimism. Thanks to its professional and loyal employees, the company is able to plan its further growth for the coming years.
Could it be said that you are among the most important logistics companies simply because you connect the countries of Central Europe with those of Southeast Europe?
We offer our customers comprehensive logistic and transport services tailored to their expectations. Over recent years, we’ve been accelerating the development of markets across the region, where we’ve established ourselves as one of the important hauliers and initiators of cooperation on the development of new products.
We offer services with our own traction in Slovenia, Austria and Croatia, and we intend to expand to new markets very soon. Our key goal is to internationalise our operations in the key markets of Central and Southeast Europe.
We will continue offering customers new modern logistics solutions, focusing on their needs. We will connect flows of goods even more efficiently along the longest possible transport routes and redirect as much cargo as possible from roads to railways, thus taking care of the environment even in places where we aren’t yet present. We will support our development with new investments in modern vehicles.
The past two years have brought us a pandemic and major business challenges. How are you dealing with them?
European railway undertakings were already facing negative trends in the last quarter of 2019, especially in the automotive and steel industries, where we perform a lot of transport. However, many major customers significantly reduced their production levels due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which had a further negative impact on our business.
We, at SŽ Cargo, immediately implemented measures to protect the health of our employees and adjusted our work processes accordingly. Additionally, we maintained constant contacts with customers and adapted to their expectations. Together with customers, we streamlined domestic transport significantly. Despite many optimisation measures and the poor situation, we managed to retain transports, which didn’t stop for a single day, even during the most critical period. We weren’t able to achieve our goals in 2020, like other railway carriers.
In 2021, however, despite the continuing pandemic and the significant intensification of competition from other carriers, we have managed to transport more cargo than we were able in the preceding year.
I’ve been managing SŽ Cargo as its director for nine years and I know that we wouldn’t have been successful without the creating of synergies with our colleagues and business partners
We can’t help but ask you how you found yourself in this job, which is traditionally considered a man’s job?
We must admit that, in the field of transport and logistics, men still dominate and there are few of us women in management positions in the logistics segment, especially in rail freight transport. You are asking about how I found myself in a world that’s traditionally not typical for women? You have to get a chance first. If I’m honest, I must admit that, in order for men to accept you in their “club”, as a woman you have to prove yourself even more, mainly through professionalism. But when they do accept you, you are respected. I have no major problems, or I’ve never had to deal with such problems, because I’ve always had the support of my closest colleagues.
I’ve been growing in this company for 28 years, holding leading positions for two-thirds of that period. I have worked in several positions – from clerk to director – and thus forged a business network, both at home and particularly abroad, so we are able to successfully connect and build loyal and trustworthy cooperation. I’ve been managing SŽ Cargo as its director for nine years and I know that we wouldn’t have been successful without the creating of synergies with our colleagues and business partners. A director isn’t someone who can attribute successes or failures to themselves, rather a director is someone who directs or leads their team towards reaching a goal that they all believe in. At SŽ Cargo, we currently have a lot of challenges when it comes to managing less experienced employees to whom we’ve given an opportunity, while we also face an increasingly competitive environment.
My mission is to involve young people and connect them with the goal of sustainable leadership. We women are able to more quickly recognise areas in which we are a slightly less successful and thus respond quicker to change. Men are more focused on achieving short-term goals. I also think that women take a slightly broader look at every matter, and view such matters over the longer term. However, we cannot be successful without each other.
Do you think that Slovenia has enough women in management positions? Are there enough female managers in the wider area?
Slovenia is one of the leading countries when it comes to gender equality. According to the report of the World Economic Forum, Slovenia ranks 7th in terms of progress in gender equality among 144 countries in the field of education, politics, economy and health. According to EU data, 42 per cent of managerial position in Slovenia were held by women in the third quarter of 2020. The European average was 34 per cent, despite women accounting for 46 per cent of all employees in the EU. Thus, at first glance, Slovenia is very successful in ensuring gender equality. However, the picture in Slovenia is different when it comes to the highest leading and supervisory positions. In 2017, women represented just over 29 per cent of the members of supervisory boards in the country, while only 21 per cent of the members of boards of directors were women. And that situation hasn’t changed significantly over the subsequent years. Unfortunately, we still face gender stereotypes in recruitment and promotion, as men continue to dominate our business culture.
Our strategy is to be a reliable and sustainable provider of modern and competitive services
You are an active member of the management board of the Female Managers’ Section. What are your mission and key areas of focus?
The Female Managers’ Section within the Managers’ Association of Slovenia connects many female managers who hold the most responsible and leading positions in Slovenian companies. In designing and implementing our activities, we have a clear goal: to increase the representation of women in leading positions in Slovenian companies to 40 per cent. Our section advocates for female management and represents the main initiator and supporter of women managers in Slovenia. It is clear that the ambition to act at the strategic level of a company and the ability to lead at the highest level do not belong exclusively to one gender, but rather depend on the abilities of individuals, regardless of gender.
Therefore, the main mission of our Female Managers’ Section is, on the one hand, to build support for the business environment to increase the balance of management and, on the other hand, to advance professional development on the ground. That’s why we are constantly updating our database of professional articles, interviews and research papers that are available on our website. We are thus creating the largest knowledge base in the field of women’s management in Slovenia. With our mentoring programme, we take care of the transferring of knowledge from more experienced managers to new leaders.
At the end of June 2021, the 6th generation of the Mentoring Network, which included 50 female managers or 25 couples, completed their mentoring stories. The association also presents the annual Artemis Award to leading female managers in Slovenia for taking on the highest management positions. We also promote the development of female managers through various projects and the organising of events. Among them, I can mention the Conference of Excellence of Managers, which is the largest professional conference on women’s management in Slovenia.