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M. Sc. Melita Rozman Dacar, Managing Director Of Slovenian Railways Freight Transport

Today’s Business World Needs Diversity

Despite the Corona crisis, the war in Ukraine and other challenges, SŽ-Tovorni promet will be satisfied with this year’s business. They have optimised their processes and adapted to customer expectations to be ready for big new challenges in the coming months

In the position of general director of Slovenian Rail Freight for fully 10 years there is one super-woman, one of the few in leading positions in transport and logistics. She reveals how she manages to be so successful and appreciated in a male world, and admits that she and the company could not be so successful without the full support of her colleagues and partners.

Slovenian Rail Freight offers comprehensive and intermodal railway transport and logistics services on the Slovenian market and abroad. 2022 was full of challenges – what were the results?

This year really was full of new challenges for us. The Corona crisis and the war in Ukraine have thoroughly shaken the foundations of the international business world. The war in Ukraine has caused a change in some commodity flows. Ships with cargo have been delayed for several months arriving in port, port warehouses are overflowing, and this has negative consequences for rail carriers.

Many companies have reduced production, which also affects the amount of cargo transported. We also noticed a lack of materials and supply problems in individual industries already last year, and the situation in Ukraine has only made this worse. Some freight has been diverted to the railway due to the problems in shipping. Some customers have also redirected their supply chains via Slovenia.

Inflation is increasing, we are facing problems in the maintenance and rental of vehicles due to the lack of materials and rising prices. Nor should we forget the drastic increase in the price of energy. All this has been having a massive impact on our business. Nevertheless, we can be satisfied with this year’s results. We will carry more cargo than we planned. According to first estimates, revenues will also exceed those planned. We achieved this by constantly optimizing our processes and adapting to customer expectations. We run heavier and longer trains and we have been acquiring new cargo abroad, but the coming months will be a huge challenge for us as it will for other carriers.

Do you think that in the years to come, rail transport will continue growing, as the interest in environmental protection grows? Would this be an additional incentive to develop your company?

Rail freight is undoubtedly the backbone of sustainable development, as road transport pollutes our natural environment much more than rail. This has been recognised by many of the most developed European countries, and they support the development of rail transport through various measures. We have also taken the first steps towards this in Slovenia. For many years we have held the ISO 14001 certificate, which demonstrates our responsibility towards the environment in our daily business. I believe that awareness of the importance of the environment towards the economy will continue to grow, and with it the role of rail transport. Our focus in future will definitely be on sustainable development.

The transport and logistics sector is still dominated by men. How did it come about that men accept you in “their club”?

It’s true that the field of transport and logistics is still dominated by men, and women in leadership positions are more the exception than the rule. That is why we have to prove ourselves ever more, day by day. I have been working in freight transport at Slovenian Railways for almost 30 years, and during this time I walked the career path from clerk to director. I can say that I was lucky that my male colleagues always supported and respected me. I also had many excellent mentors, who helped me learn all the tricks of the trade, so to speak. Of course, I had to prove my expertise again and again.

At the beginning of November, we started the eighth generation of the Mentoring Network in the Women Managers Section of the Managers Association

You have been with the company for almost three decades, but you have been in the position of general director for 10 years. Would you and the company be so successful without the full support of your colleagues and partners?

During the three decades of working at Slovenian Railways, I have met many colleagues and business partners and made many acquaintances and friendships among them. Without good cooperation between colleagues and business partners, without trust and the effort to achieve common goals and common growth, we would not be able to achieve much success. The company director is not the only one responsible for the company’s successes or failures, she or he can only lead and direct her colleagues and motivate them to achieve the goals everyone believes in.

It has been shown that in large systems like yours, women react more quickly to change, they see things more broadly and think long-term, while men are better at realising short-term goals. Do you agree that we cannot be successful without each other?

The differences in thinking between women and men are not a disadvantage in my opinion, quite the opposite. Diversity is what contributes to the broadness of mind that we need in today’s demanding business world. Maybe it’s true that we women are more cohesive and capable of having a broader view of the problem, while men are more narrowly goal-oriented. But it is the combination of both approaches that can bring us development and success.

Although we have stepped deep into the 21st century, we still face gender stereotypes in employment and promotion, because men dominate our business culture. How is that changing?

Slovenia is among the leading countries in terms of gender equality, but we still encounter gender stereotypes, and our business culture is strongly dominated by men. In my opinion, the situation is changing too slowly. I miss greater transparency in the procedures for appointing managers and supervisory boards of companies which, I am sure, would lead to greater representation of women in the most responsible positions. In our company, as member of the Board of Directors of the Section of Women Managers of the Managers’ Association of Slovenia, and as chairwoman of the Board of Directors of the Transport Association, I am campaigning for greater inclusion of women in management positions.

You are also member of the Board of Directors of the Section of Women Managers of the Managers’ Association of Slovenia. What have been the results of the mentoring programmes that you have run over the last seven years?

At the beginning of November, we started the eighth generation of the Mentoring Network in the Women Managers Section of the Managers Association. The programme is intended for young women managers who want to gain additional knowledge and advice from more experienced Slovenian female managers. The goal of the programme is to encourage and support female managers in taking on leadership positions and making career leaps. The programme also advocates for greater representation of women in management positions. In the last seven years, we have connected 160 mentoring pairs. I am proud to act as a mentor myself and I enjoy passing on my knowledge and experience to younger colleagues. Both inside and outside Slovenian Rail Freight, I strive to involve promising young people in the management and transfer the knowledge of more experienced colleagues. Only in this way will we be able to take a step forward in an increasingly competitive environment, to develop and grow together with our business partners.

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