Drugi jezik na kojem je dostupan ovaj članak: Bosnian
“I believe that in our profession both men and women are equally visible. In recent years, women have taken over more of the leading functions, but I see this mostly as a result of increased openness, professionalism and the fact that we are dealing with the communications industry, or more precisely, sharing (communicare – lat. share). It’s natural that women assume dominance somewhere.” This is how Marija Vićić from Belgrade explains the current gender structure of the regional advertising industry. Marija is the Director of Corporate Communications at I&F McCann Group. She is a woman of charm, full of positive energy, with an excellent network of contacts in the region and perfectly versed in everything happening in the advertising industry.
WOMEN CAN SHINE TODAY
Marija is diligently researching, connecting and pushing the entire advertising industry forward with unparalleled energy. She is very supportive and tries to spread her irrepressible benevolence to others. Here’s how she explains the fact that women in the region are much better positioned compared to the world average: “Compared to other industries, ours is a relatively young one, especially in this region. I don’t think that positions in this industry were a priori traditionally reserved for men or women, as in some other professions, which has resulted in a level playing field and equal terms for all. Because of this, everything is different, and women can shine.”
We ask Marija what has happened to the men. Have they become tired, scared and have thus retreated, or have we got a new generation of educated, unstoppable women who don’t care about patriarchal constraints? “Men are there,” she replies, “They haven’t gone anywhere, nor have they retreated. I don’t think the advertising profession can be gender defined, it embodies quality, knowledge and skills above everything else.” But one can’t deny that women in the former Yugoslavia are in a kind of professional and creative offensive. We ask Marija if a kind of business phenomenon in Europe might be possible, where the Balkans become a paradise for female entrepreneurship. “I don’t believe in miracles. For every success you need perseverance, hard work, good strategy and vision. I would prefer us to create those standards in this area, so that it becomes, as you say, a paradise for any enterprise, including female enterprises.”
Even the most developed parts of the planet and the most perfect political systems of today are not immune to prejudices about women. Last year the European Parliament rejected the recommendations of the gender equality report. The report called for guarantees for the same pay for the same job for women. There followed a kind of civilizational shock: 298 MPs voted against the report, mostly conservatives, 289 were for it, mostly leftists and liberals, and 87 abstained, including a significant number of the greens. We ask Marija what she thinks about such phenomena and trends, and add a half-ironic suggestion: Maybe the Balkans are really not so dark. “Unfortunately, we always tend to think that we are the worst in everything. This is sometimes true, but it’s usually far from the truth. In general I’m not in favor of quotas, because I think that each attained position has to be a reflection of skill, knowledge and perseverance. I’m more concerned with the fact that women are not proportionately visible in the public representative bodies in accordance with their percentage of the population, than with a possible lack of women in management positions in private companies. Equal working terms and conditions – from opportunities for advancement to salaries – should be something that is taken for granted.”
IF YOU WISH TO SUCCEED YOU HAVE TO WORK ON IT
We were interested in what characterizes companies managed by women. Is the atmosphere more democratic, is there more innovative work, and is the amount of bullying reduced? “Professionalism, respect for all employees, clearly established decision-making procedures and collegiality are the qualities that create a good atmosphere. If the decision-makers demonstrate all that by example, then such behavior will prevail, regardless of whether the company is managed by a man or a woman.”
That is, it seems, the basic idea of gender equality: abilities and qualities in the foreground. Such ideas always find their way into real life with difficulty. From this general level, we temporarily switch to her individual strategy, and ask Marija what was crucial to her success. “Hard work, dedication, willingness to learn from others, often being on the move, and respect for the people I work with.” And back to the general scheme. What is needed for success today? We assume it’s something completely different compared to a decade, or even five years ago, as business conditions have changed dramatically. “Business conditions have changed, but our basic attitude towards work hasn’t. If you wish to succeed you have to work on it. You have to approach every job with the same dedication and commitment, you need to have a good strategy and a vision of what you want.” So how does it work in practice, and how does Marija stimulate quality people? “Material incentives are unavoidable, but praise, a kind word and understanding are often crucial. That is what creates a good atmosphere.”
FEAR OF CHANGE: “People often defend the misconceptions they believe in, but behind this is essentially a fear of change. We are all different. Of course, we differ as men and women, but even more as individuals. We strive for different goals. The question is how we use the talent that we have and whether we are using it for the realization of the right goals.”
Since the occupations of the future are already hidden somewhere deep in information and communication technologies, it is logical that we ask why very few women are engaged in this field today, not only in our region, but throughout the world: “Women are at the forefront of some of the most powerful international companies. I’m sure that every business has successful women and I believe that as time goes on and professions evolve there will be even more of them.” To our remark that such a situation is somewhat paradoxical, because the first software programmer was actually a woman, Marija responds with an idea: “This is due to the fact that there is not enough talk about it. But that’s a good idea for a story in Media Marketing: the story of the first woman programmer, who shattered the prejudice that men are the main drivers of change in this world.”
THE MOST INSPIRING WOMEN OF TODAY: ANGELA AHRENDTS, MIUCCIA PRADA, HELLE THORNING-SCHMIDT
The example of Aida Hadžialić, who was recently declared Sweden’s most powerful person of the future, is inspiring not only for women, but for all the people in this region, and especially the young. Aida deserved such recognition first and foremost through her work, and her example is encouraging because it confirms the importance of the will factor. Gender and origin need not be limiting factors, if you decide not to allow it. “Only in the past, perhaps, could a conservative patriarchy have been replaced by a rigid matriarchy, and perhaps then, instead of suffragettes and feminists, we would have had fighters for the rights of men. The future will depend on how much we take care of the present, building the future by learning from the past, regardless of whether we are men or women.”
Unfortunately, not all examples in the world are inspiring. Recently, the Prime Minister of Turkey said that men and women can’t be equal, because they are in fact conditioned by biology. Women usually get angry when they hear this argument. “People often defend the misconceptions they believe in, but behind this is essentially a fear of change. We are all different. Of course, we differ as men and women, but even more as individuals. We strive for different goals. The question is how we use the talent that we have and whether we are using it for the realization of the right goals.”
Who does Marija consider to be the most inspiring women of today? “Angela Ahrendts, former CEO of Burberry, and now director of retail at Apple, Miuccia Prada, Helle Thorning-Schmidt, the Prime Minister of Denmark.” And in her immediate surroundings: “All women who have managed to achieve a balance between work and private life.” Unfortunately, sometimes the balance is not easy to establish, often because of a type of extreme men who hate women. How does Marija Vićić cope with them? “Simple, I give them a book with that exact title, by Stieg Larsson.” A typical answer for a woman who knows how to set things and people straight, and who is aware of her qualities. “A woman’s power is in herself. In what makes her a woman.”
WE GREW TOGETHER, MCCANN AND I
Ending our discourse with Marija on the topic of the position of women in the advertising industry here, we switched to the subject of I&F McCann Group and Marija’s job.
How long have you been with McCann?
13 years now. It doesn’t seem like I have been so long in one company, but I have to admit that during this time I was able to work in several different positions, to grow and develop along with the company and to meet very interesting people.
Director of Corporate Communications. What exactly does that mean in the case of I&F McCann Group?
In my case it means that I deal with designing the communications of our agencies and employees in eight countries in which I&F McCann Group operates. It also includes the communications of our founder Srđan Šaper. The job is very interesting because it includes external and internal communications and I try – together with my team – to present the agency, people and projects we’re working on in a relevant and interesting way. For example, we are now in the process of developing our own mobile app for internal communications, which is challenging because companies in our region don’t have such a thing, or only the largest ones, the global ones, have it. It’s not an easy task but I am hopeful that it’ll produce great results. We will certainly talk more about that soon.
A crisis in the economy impacts first on your line of business, but so do positive changes in the situation. Are we out of the crisis?
I don’t think we are yet, and I think we will need more time for that. Economic indicators in some of the countries in which we operate are positive or better than in previous years, but more time is needed to get out of the crisis.
As part of your job you communicate with McCann’s agencies in all countries in the region. What are the differences between them?
There is no difference where knowledge, dedication and the selection of agency people is concerned. To us it is important that all agencies and business partners recognize us as good and credible contributors. For example, we cooperate with several clients in several countries, both in the creative and media business, and we provide them with the same service everywhere. I think it’s important that you develop a great team in each country, a team composed of experts who are very familiar with local, regional and global conditions.
You have excellent networks within the industry. You are liked by everyone, even people from the competition. How do you achieve that?
Thanks for the compliment. I think it’s important to have fair and open relationships with everyone, not just in business but also in one’s private life. I have the enormous privilege of meeting very interesting people from our industry. This is part of what makes my job interesting.
And how do you succeed in being well informed about the events in the advertising industry in the region? Is it a secret, or…?
There is no secret. I talk with people a lot. I think it’s important to have a dialogue and exchange knowledge.
You have insight into McCann’s global network. Where do we stand compared to the world? Where does our creativity stand?
I believe that in relation to the world, to the developed markets, where creativity is concerned we are very similar. What sets us apart is that we have much smaller budgets for the realization of campaigns. But don’t think that I’m complaining, I believe that a number of agencies in the South Eastern European countries have managed to prove themselves and win prizes for creativity at the world’s great festivals.
How quickly do trends at the global level come to the regional and local level? Are we lagging behind a lot even regarding areas where there is no justification for it?
I don’t think we lag behind too much. Our markets generally keep up with international trends. I think that with the increasing use of the internet, and especially mobile phones, the availability of information has increased, and hence the “localization” of trends. To put it simply, we all have to be flexible and fast.
What do you like the most in the regional advertising industry, apart from McCann’s work of course?
The people! Indeed, I’ve met a lot of interesting, smart and nice people. I think that’s what I like the most, especially since I’ve had the opportunity to learn something from each of them. That means a lot!