Drugi jezik na kojem je dostupan ovaj članak: Bosnian
Aleksandra (Saška) Ćuk, director of the media agency Direct Media Sarajevo, believes that women in recent years, if not decades, have become an important and indispensable element of the advertising industry, but also that their current positions are largely in disparity with their real potential. “The fact is, that women have a significant role in the advertising industry, but it’s also clear that they still have not taken the reigns,” says Saška, one of the most prominent figures in the Sarajevo advertising industry.
She immediately continues to elaborate: “Over the last twenty or thirty years more and more capable and highly educated women have emerged who possess the know-how, and can succeed in all areas, including in advertising. If we consider that this is a dynamic, interesting and innovative profession which requires on the one hand the determination that is inherent in both sexes, and on the other, sensitivity and adaptability to new challenges, which are virtues more inherent in women, it is clear why there is a growing number of women in this sector. So the very fact that we are women has enabled us to succeed.”
Saška is aware of the sensitivity and controversy that always accompany the debate on gender differences, advantages and disadvantages, but is not afraid to step onto that slippery slope. “Let’s face it, it’s a very complex subject and we can talk for days about all the fields in which women are still suppressed by men throughout the world and in the Balkans, but higher education has brought women to positions which were previously out of their reach. Even if uneducated or less educated, a man can compensate for this disadvantage in other ways and gain influence, power and business opportunities, while for women this is far more difficult. The exceptions are highly educated women. Of course, there are always further exceptions and we will not generalize when it comes to this topic,” Saška says.
And how does Saška explain the fact that the representation of women in the advertising industry in the Balkans is still more widespread than in the rest of the continent? “The advertising industry in the region is a relatively new branch of business and not at such a high level as in developed countries. To be more specific, it doesn’t bring the big profits and power, which men from our region like, that some other branches of business bring. I don’t think that men are tired, or that they’ve retreated, but that the perceptions of women themselves have changed. They are no longer satisfied with a subordinate role in society. They no longer agree to have only the role of a housewife and a mother. Men are still present, but they are no longer the only players.”
WHEN WOMEN MANAGE: “If we start with the fact that women are by nature more responsible, that they have a different approach to problem solving, that they show a greater degree of empathy than men, then the logical conclusion is that the companies they lead will be more successful. Such an atmosphere is conducive to good interpersonal and collegial relationships.”
This clearheaded woman, however, is very skeptical when she talks about potential trends: “Unfortunately, I don’t think it’s possible for the Balkans to become a paradise for female entrepreneurship. Regardless of the fact that in our efforts to get closer to the European Union we have adopted all the important laws and other regulations concerning gender equality, I think that essentially we’re far from it, especially in Bosnia and Herzegovina. We shouldn’t, however, be hasty in our condemnations and restrictive conclusions. As we are well aware, Europe itself is still not ready for major changes in terms of gender equality, so how can we then speak of a different situation in the Balkans?”
Among her colleagues Saška is known as an efficient person, for whom there are no unsolvable problems, which is why we found her answer to our question on what characterizes the companies managed by women interesting. Is the atmosphere there more democratic, is there more innovative work, and is there less bullying? “If we start from the fact that women are by nature more responsible, that they have a different approach to problem solving, that they show a greater degree of empathy than men, then the logical conclusion is that the companies they lead will be more successful. Such an atmosphere can only be conducive to good interpersonal and collegial relationships. Of course, I would again repeat that we shouldn’t generalize, as there are companies with a truly pleasant atmosphere that are managed by men, and vice versa – bad atmospheres where women are at the helm.”
Such precise explanations suggest that the answer to the question of what was crucial to her personal success will accurately define all aspects of her position in the industry: “Ambition, work, will and desire, willingness to compromise, and above all my nature, which has never allowed me to be satisfied with something that wasn’t the best that I could achieve or offer in the given circumstances.” When it comes to success in the sector specific sense, there are still some things that shouldn’t be left unsaid: “Business conditions are changing, but I would not agree with the notion that today something else is needed to succeed. If we talk about the success in the long run, you still need determination, hard work and continuous improvement.”
Sometimes success also depends on quality stimulation. We asked our interviewee from Sarajevo how she motivates her people. “It depends on the circumstances. First of all, I try to create a safe and happy environment in order to enable the qualities of the people with whom I work to come to the fore. And when it comes to stimulation, of course there are tangible and intangible methods. For example, we have had the practice of going on team building breaks twice a year for many years now: one in the winter, when we go to the mountains, mainly at the end of the year, and one in the summer, when we go to the sea, where we hang out, relax, play, talk and of course have fun.”
We were interested in Saška’s opinion about why there are so few women in information and communication technologies? “Because of upbringing, because of the traditional division of labor between male and female, because of the education system that enables such divisions… According to research at EU level, the results of which I’ve had a chance to read, in 2014 only 29 percent of those trained to work in the IT sector were women, and only four percent will find employment in this sector, although it is the fastest-growing sector of the economy.” When we remind her that the first software programmer was actually a woman, Saška readily replies: “Yes, Ada Lovelace, on whose behalf the programming language ADA got its name.”
Saška Ćuk believes that the example of Aida Hadžialić, who was recently declared Sweden’s most powerful person of the future, is very inspiring, and that this award is deeply grounded in the values which Aida assiduously built within herself. “It’s great when someone who originates from our region achieves a brilliant career and such recognition, which sounds fascinating, and I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate Ms. Hadžialić. It’s also a fact that our male dominated past has been marked by wars, but if we want a better future we must entrust it to competent people regardless of their gender. Anything else will only lead us to the other extreme.”
However, we also have strong retrogressive trends in the world. Recently, the Prime Minister of Turkey said that men and women cannot be equal because they are in fact conditioned by biology. “I believe that behind such attitudes there is always the uncertainty and fear of those who advocate them. They are uncertain of their own abilities, and they fear that someone will discover their lack of abilities.”
After this, we come back to matters within the sector. The advertising industry requires imagination, creativity, relaxation and democratic opinions. We suggest to Saška that these are all more female than male qualities. “I agree, and I would add communicativeness, but let’s not forget that we have creative, imaginative and relaxed members of both sexes in the world, and even here we should not generalize.”
Saška also likes to talk about women that inspire her. “These are all women who break new ground in some way, starting with the little girl Malala Yousafzai, who received the Nobel Peace Prize, to Angela Merkel, the most powerful woman in the world. Many women in our own environment also inspire me, women who are ready to tackle the numerous problems in this very male-oriented environment. I believe that in BiH there are many women who deserve our admiration. They are valuable and important people who never allowed anything to stop them on their journey. For many it was very difficult in an environment such as this.”
And for many, it is a reality even today. How to deal with men who hate women? “To tell you the truth, I don’t. I ignore them. I think that in such people the problem has deeper roots, beginning with their relationship with their mother, but those are cases for a more serious institution, and we will leave this issue to other people to discuss.”
So to sum up then: what is the true power of a woman, what is it that no male chauvinism can stop or even threaten?
Her answer is short and sweet: “A woman must believe in herself and work on herself her entire life.”