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EBRD shares inspirational stories from women in Croatia

 July 01, 2022

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) is committed to providing women-led small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) with access to the finance and know-how they need to grow their businesses. Yet women entrepreneurs face many challenges on their path to success, so the EBRD is spotlighting inspirational stories from young women, entrepreneurs and the women-owned small to medium enterprises (SMEs) supported by the EBRD’s Women in Business programme in Croatia. The programme is funded by the Small Business Impact Fund (Italy, Japan, Korea, Luxembourg, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, TaiwanBusiness – EBRD Technical Cooperation Fund and the USA).

Below we hear about some of the challenges women in leadership face on their way to success, and hear advice shared for younger generations.

What were some of the biggest challenges you faced at the beginning of your career?

"My biggest insecurity was not knowing if the decision I was making in the short term was going to pay off in the long term. And getting very stuck in that mindset, 'if I make a decision now, I was going to be paying it for the rest of my life.' But I think confronting myself with a lot of people who had been in the industry for longer, made me realize that's absolutely not the case, it's not the question of sliding doors that if you pass it you're never going to have it again," says Valentina Scaglia, EBRD Intern.

"I tested the entrepreneurial waters during the recession, so it was definitely not the right time for the marketing industry. But I started that journey with a suitcase packed full of dreams and high expectations. I was afraid of starting in a new direction and hoped it would all turn out ok," comments Iva Kaligaric, Señor Director.

How do you cope with times of crisis?

"Day one of the war was a day of fear. It was the day of uncertainty. It was the day when everybody's hopes in the country where I was born, where I have my family, where I have my friends, their hopes were collapsing. The end of day two, I made a decision. I need to do something. I need to make sure that whatever negative feelings that I have, whatever negative feelings that everybody who surrounds me has now, we should not give ourselves into these fears. We need to act, we need to do something. And this is what I have been doing up until now. And I must admit that the fear, the insecurity has disappeared. At this point in time, it is determination and support that I can give," says Victoria Zinchuk, Head of EBRD in Croatia.

"When I was starting out with my first serious job, it was during the war in Croatia. So, I stared working for the International Committee for the Red Cross. So I stayed there for 10 years and yes I did have fears, but I think the topic was about the fear, and it simply drags you into a humanity that every person has," explains Maja Pokrovac, OIE Hrvatska Director.

"Crisis situations in general require a separate approach. I think that people who have a certain professional expertise have a role to play in relief efforts.They shouldn't panic, but should focus exclusively on productivity and on helping those in need with their skills and expertise," comments Ivana Boras, Projektil Owner.

Who supports you the most with your career goals?

"As a student, the biggest support comes from my family, my friends and my colleagues at university. I think getting work experience as a student and exposing yourself to that positive environment is very important," says Magdalena Soldo, Student.

"I was very lucky that I started the business with my husband, as challenging as that was. But that security, knowing that he was by my side and that we complemented one another, combining both of our energies, each with our own perspective and interest in the firm, turned out to be a success," comments Ivana Žorž, Moje Malo Zlato Owner.

What is the value of mentorship?

"Mentorship should give you absolutely the feeling that you are not alone in a way and that others' experiences help you to overcome your fears," explains Ivana Miličić, EBRD Associate Director.

What opportunities might benefit career development?

"I think that an association of young women who face the same challenges that I do would help me and empower me. It helps when you share your problems with others and when you realize that, you're not the only one facing them," says Maša Petranović, Public Relations Consultant.

"Well, I definitely think it helps to see examples of other young women working in the areas that interest you and see that anything that seems intimidating can be done," comments Lucija Marenjak, Student.

"Experience is important, especially through student jobs. Since we are in Croatia and have a summer season, I have been working during the summer for the past five years. So, I already know what it's like to work, and I think it will be easier for me later on," says Mila Skoko, Student.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

"I would say not to be so strict with myself and that mistakes are an important part of learning," comments Ana Skeva Boiko, Oganj General Manager.

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Disclosure: Where Women Work researches and publishes insightful evidence about how its paid member organizations support women's equality.

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