As Sustainability Manager in an international oil & gas company, she was responsible for sustainability projects in more than 20 countries worldwide including diversity programs and projects of career advancement for women, mentoring for women and young females, gamification approaches to attract more girls to the energy sector and general inclusion of women in the labour market. Before that, as independent Diversity Manager, she supported companies like Shell and Microsoft to develop their own Diversity strategies and women’s empowerment measures.
She holds an MBA Global Executive Management from the University of Minnesota and from the Vienna University of Economics and Business as well as a masters degree in Social Anthropology from the University of Vienna.
You have an impressive career in promoting women presence in the energy sector. Over 15 years of work experience in Diversity Management and active at a managerial position responsible for over 20 countries worldwide, did you find it difficult to attract more girls to the energy sector?
“Difficult” is not the word I would choose. But it still needs some effort to attract girls for technical professions and especially for the energy sector. In many cases their interest does not come by itself.
Why is that? Because the image of the energy sector is a noisy, dirty, needs men’s power and is dominated by men. Education, parents and peer pressure often press girls in a girly role, which does not fit to these images. Therefore it is necessary to make these jobs attractive and “cool” for them.
It is true, that the energy sector is still more traditional and that the majority of people working in the technical jobs are still men. Nevertheless the job profiles have changed dramatically and in many cases the energy sector is more aware of safety and health for their employees than many other industries.
With programs to attract girls for these professions, you try to expose them to these job profiles - show “the real picture” of very interesting and challenging job profiles earning good money. It is interesting that if you ask girls before they start such a programme only 10-15% would say, they can imagine themselves choosing a technical profession. This reflects more or less the averages we see in technical studies and professions in Europe. After going through such a programme more than 70% say, they can see themselves in a technical career path. This shows that awareness raising, information and practical experience are essential for developing alternative job perspectives.
You’ve supported several companies in Diversity Management and Women’s Empowerment, can you point out what is needed to create conditions for women to have career advancement, and as well as, what is your impression about Macedonian labor market?
About 80% of companies in the technical sector are looking for skilled work force and they know they are competing for a limited number of employees. Therefore many of them have realized, that it is a big advantage to target the so far relatively untapped pool of women in the labour market. As this sector is less attractive for many women it is necessary to develop a good strategic approach. Companies need to show their inclusiveness. Job advertisements, marketing material and the website are very important messages a company sends. If I as a female job applicant are not attracted by them, than I will not apply. Programmes such as “bring your daughter to work”, scholarships and mentoring for females are very important tools for employer branding.
But honestly speaking, the best branding does not help, if the company does not act inclusive and women’s careers are not supported. Almost each of us knows somebody working for the most prominent companies in their labour market. If interested in joining a company usually you will ask the person, how they like working there. If the person tells me that females have no chance for job advancement or that the company employs females only in non-technical, non-managerial positions, I will not trust the positive images. Companies need to get out of their comfort zone and become really active internally.
I think the Macedonian labour market has a very good potential to realize systemic change in very short time. Especially the unemployment rate amongst young females provides ample opportunities for vocational trainings and industry fit qualification. Favoring factors are the size of Macedonia and the fact that national strategies can be easily implemented. In the past more women had technical professions than in the European average, therefore I see a good potential to attract females for such professions. Additional potential for accelerating the progress can be created through joint programmes and multi-stakeholder collaboration – look at the existing good practice, learn from each other and collaborate for mutual benefits!
Can you point out three characteristics that woman need to advance in the energy sector, which in Macedonia is traditionally recognizable as men world?
Let me please start with a general remark on differences between men’s and women’s behavior in the labour market. Women are often hindering themselves in addition to other barriers. They are too shy to stand out, if applying for a job, they think they need to fulfill 100-120% of requirements in comparison to men, who often think they can handle a job even if they only fulfill half of the job profile. And – and this is very essential – women do not build powerful networks. Instead of supporting each other and collaborating for mutual benefit, they often think they need to do it all on their own. Therefore I propose the following to women:
First of all: “Be bold and curious!” Have the courage to think broader, explore different sectors and learn from failure. Say “Here I am!” if you want a job and do not wait until someone asks you.
Second: “If you found something, go for it! Do not allow anybody to limit your motivation.” It might be harder for you than for male candidates. Still try to convince through engagement, passion for the job and subject matter expertise. What does a boss need most? Good and motivated employees, who help her/him to achieve goals.
Third: “Be a team player and build a powerful network.” I know many people cannot hear it anymore, but it is so important! Success in jobs more often comes through collaboration and team efforts, than through running alone for your goal. Again this is something good leaders are looking for. Helping and trusting each other builds strong ties, which can last for many years and provide a safety net for whatever solution you need to find.
Fourth advice is for parents: Jobs in the energy sector have changed a lot. A technical education provides very good job prospects. If you have a daughter motivate her to find out about different job profiles. Maybe she can talk to someone, who works in these industries and even visit the person in the work place. If not, look for videos about these professions. The internet is full of it.
You have experience in both supporting the energy and IT sector. Can you compare woman acceptance in both sectors?
Women’s representation in a sector or profession is very much dependent on traditional images of what is “the normal”. The IT sector is much younger than the energy sector. So it comes more naturally, that women’s acceptance there is higher. Many IT companies had female CEOs in the past, for the Energy sector I can hardly come up with one example.
Nevertheless acceptance and career advancement are two very different things. Acceptance in my point of view is a minimum standard for all employees. Caring about equal chances and career opportunities for all is, what makes a company attractive.