Achieving gender equality in the workplace may be a slow process, but some outstanding companies are paving the way and leading by example in this area. One such company is Mobi Banka, where women account for 71% of all employees and exceptional women head the company at the operational and strategic level of business
There are three women standing behind the success of the first online and digital bank in the region: Executive Board Members Marija Popović and Milka Rajčević and President of the Board of Directors Vanja Stanković, who is also Telenor’s chief financial officer.
In this joint interview for the Empowered Women special edition, we asked the three of them about the challenges women face in the business world, the changes ahead of us and the lessons they’ve learned in their careers.
What challenges do women face in the business world and how does your company deal with them?
Vanja: There is a critical need for women to be more involved in the digitalisation of the workplace. Machine learning, artificial intelligence and programming are growing sectors where women account for only 22% of professionals and where the gender gap is three times greater than in other industries. At Telenor, we take pride in being a welcoming environment for women in tech. A total of 59% of our employees are women, while 51% are included in our management. Still, this is an ongoing process and we continue to work on many aspects of our business, to make it even more attractive to young women.
Telenor this year  organised a hackathon for girls with the aim of empowering future generations to step into the field of computer engineering so that they can be equally represented in the technological fields of the future.
Marija: One of the key challenges that women face today is shared by many men, and that is combining a successful career with family life – especially for parents of young children.
Most companies have returned to the office at a full or reduced capacity, but women continue to take on much more family management responsibility. I believe it is necessary to provide as much flexibility as possible for employees with children, which we very much do at Mobi Banka.
Milka: The pandemic has had a very negative impact on the issue of gender equality around the world. According to the latest estimates, women lost more than 64 million jobs in 2020 – a staggering five per cent of all jobs done by women. This crisis has cost women around the world at least 800 billion dollars in earnings, which is a figure that exceeds the total GDP of 98 countries.
At Mobi Banka, we are proud to say that we haven’t fired people because of the pandemic. On the contrary, we hired over 130 people last year – mostly women, who now represent 71 per cent of all employees. Have working conditions for women improved in some respects?
Marija: Definitely! But only because the business arguments for it are getting stronger. Companies that are actively involved in gender equality make better decisions and have greater long-term value. A commitment to inclusion and improving the work-life balance also significantly helps organisations to attract and retain the highest quality staff.
Vanja: I agree with Marija. Policies such as flexible working hours, teleworking, maternity and parental leave benefit all workers, and lead to sustainable productivity growth over the long run. As we say at Telenor – Live your life. We’ve got you covered.
Milka: It is essential for the conversation about equality to be reshaped and moved from an issue of gender to the field of economics. Women make up 51 per cent of the population of Serbia, yet only 44 per cent of the workforce.
The reason for this is the lack of role models for girls. If we don’t see successful women around us, it is less likely that we will strive for success ourselves. The presence of women in leading roles in society, and the possibility of connecting with them, is vital for motivating young women. What positive changes would you like to see in the world of work in the near future?
Vanja: I would like to see more companies contribute positively to the communities in which they operate. In addition to better public relations and greater customer satisfaction, the data suggest that strong CSR programmes can also lead to improved financial performances.
People want to be part of an organisation with which they share common values. So, successful companies of the future will combine the values of the organisation with the values of their employees, in order to be more visible on the job market.
Milka: One of the positive changes we are already seeing is the popularisation of the hybrid work model.
Finding a balance is easier when employees have more control over their schedule and can take care of responsibilities in their personal lives – whether it’s running errands, picking up children from nursery school or going to the dentist.
Marija: I would like to see better support for young families – especially in the preschool years. My husband and I have two children that are now in school. Those early years of raising babies and young children while building our careers were very exhausting.
These are the circumstances under which we often see promising young talents, mostly women, withdraw and fall short of realising their full potential. What advice would you give to young businesswomen who are at the beginning of their careers?
Marija: Get to know your strengths, skills and limitations. Just being good at your job is not enough. It is also important to be resourceful. Take the initiative. Be proactive.
If you see something isn’t working, take the initiative to fix it. Take risks, make mistakes and learn from them.
Milka: Don’t just sit quietly in meetings, talk! Make an effort to contribute to every meeting you attend.
Don’t be afraid to ask important questions: what’s the downside if we don’t do anything; how much will this initiative benefit us; have we assessed alternative solutions?
Vanja: Have the confidence to take more risks, even if it means you could stumble along the way. In my experience, that is when you learn and grow the most.
Seek big tasks, even if they take you out of your comfort zone. Each risk leads to more opportunities for personal growth and professional development.