Dr Sanja Popović Pantić, Economist, President of the Association of Business Women in Serbia

Business Women Invest in Knowledge

I belong to generation “X”. I always had a lot of belief in books, but I also, luckily, had an even greater need to check out everything in practise. Thus, this generation had a unique and, hopefully, never to be repeated “chance” to find – in the midst of the greatest inflation in world history and an environment at war – a decent job and to work “in their vocation”. During times when real values were devalued, I realised it was best to invest in knowledge

Dr Sanja Popović Pantić

Activism in the non-governmental sector was my response to the disquiet with everything we were living through; and in short that was a world turned upside down. The first encounter with women entrepreneurs, who came from all over Serbia to Belgrade to a training course that I designed and organised within the scope of the Association of Business Women in Serbia, of which I am the founder, was a turning point in the path of my further career. During the 20 years of the existence of the Association of Business Women in Serbia, over 4,500 women have passed through various programmes aimed at stimulating entrepreneurship and the development of enterprises. I have a doctorate in female entrepreneurship, transferring scientific work into practise.

And the challenge for me was to wok in a conservative society, which is still enslaved by gender stereotypes, to position female entrepreneurship as a factor of economic development and to try to contribute to the change the perceptions of it, which boiled down to “crocheting and knitting”, and exhibiting works from local cottage industry at handicraft fairs in the provinces.

After so much work in the field, research, conversations and socialising, I was total certain that our female entrepreneurs are “women dragons”; that they are Serbia’s greatest economic resource! That led to the emergence of the ‘Success Flower for Women Dragons’, which is the project that promotes successful examples of female entrepreneurship with the most enduring status in the region, the national candidate of the Ministry of Economy for the prestigious European Entrepreneurship Promotion Award in 2013, and a project that is being held for the 13th time this year.

For me, the orientation towards promoting social values came at the right time and had a decisive influence over the further course of my life, and after 20 years I can state freely that this has enabled me to feel completely self-realised and fulfilled, even in a country that doesn’t provide a lot of choices

For me, the orientation towards promoting social values came at the right time and had a decisive influence over the further course of my life, and after 20 years I can state freely that this has enabled me to feel completely self-realised and fulfilled, even in a country that doesn’t provide a lot of choices. I have received many awards for my work, but I would like to single out the “Planet Business” award, which I was awarded by economic magazine “Biznis” for my great contribution to the development of entrepreneurship in Serbia. And I’m especially proud to be ranked among 100 selected individuals (both women and men) from all over the world who receive awards annually for their outstanding contribution to the economic empowerment of women, and the fact that this prestigious award was given to me by the International Women’s Alliance, based in Washington DC.

In response to the regular question of what drives me, I respond with a sentence that I constantly direct towards others – “I think it is high time to ask ourselves what we can do to place our skills, knowledge and experience, even if only briefly, in the function of promoting something that certainly won’t bring us money, but will undoubtedly improve our quality of life and bring smiles back to our faces”.