Slovenščina English (United Kingdom)

Spletna revija IBS Poročevalec je namenjena domačim in tujim znanstvenikom, raziskovalcem, strokovnjakom, študentom in praktikom na področjih mednarodnega poslovanja, trajnostnega razvoja, tujih jezikov in javne uprave. Najpomembnejši del IBS Poročevalca je objava recenziranih znanstvenih, raziskovalnih, strokovnih in poljudnih člankov, ki obravnavajo teme kot mednarodno poslovanje, trajnostni razvoj, organizacija, pravo, okoljska ekonomika in politika, trženje, raziskovalne metode, menedžment, korporativna družbena odgovornost in druga področja.


IBS Mednarodna poslovna šola Ljubljana

Vabimo vse, ki bi želeli prispevati v IBS poročevalec, da se nam oglasijo s prispevki na

2017 > Letnik 7, št. 3


natisni E-pošta


Ženske lahko veliko prispevajo k ekonomski rasti, vendar niti evropska niti svetovna ekonomija ne kaže enakosti žensk v poslovnem menedžmentu. Ženske se srečujejo s številnimi ovirami, ki jim preprečujejo vstop na vodstvene položaje, zato je potrebno raziskati ovire in možnosti posebno med tistimi, ki so že dosegle menedžerska mesta. Avtorica predstavlja intervjuje s tremi slovenskimi ženskami, ki so dosegle najvišje nivoje v menedžmentu v organizacijah kot univerza, banka in inženiring. Med njimi so razlike, vendar vse menijo, da bi morale ženske, ki želijo postati vodje, verjeti vase, trdo delati, biti poštene in zanesljive, sodelovati in spoštovati ljudi in okolje ter biti pozitivne.


Women can considerably contribute to economic growth but neither European nor global economy shows gender equality in business management. Women are faced with numerous obstacles that prevent their entering upon leading positions therefore it is necessary to investigate the obstacles and possibilities especially among those who already achieved management positions. The author presents interviews with three Slovenian women who achieved the highest levels of management in organizations like university, bank and engineering. There are differences among them but they all claim that women who want to become managers should believe in themselves, work hard, be honest and reliable, cooperate and respect people and environment and be positive.

Ključne besede: ženske, enakost, menedžment, ovire, možnosti

Key words: women, equality, management, obstacles, possibilities

1. Introduction

Women can considerably contribute to the economic and societal growth but neither European nor global economy shows gender equality in business management. Women are faced with numerous obstacles that prevent their entering upon leading positions in business and/or economies (International Labour Organization Report on women in business and management, 2015) therefore it is necessary to present and discuss information on the obstacles and possibilities faced by women who achieved top management positions in business.

Although the service sector, public and non - profit sectors have been opening new jobs for women, and although the proportion of women in business higher education, especially law, accounting, management etc. grows in almost all countries (Davidson, Burke, 2011), the number of women in business management is increasing slowly (European Commission, 2013, Cadman, 2016, McDermott, 2014). Many women are reported to come into various sectors although they have problems with balancing work and family. Women more often manage to achieve lower-management positions but rarely senior levels of management; some women also open their own small business and thus achieve management position (Davidson, Burke, 2014). Tarr-Whelan (2009) thinks that there should be much more women in management because women contribute to higher profits, more risk awareness, because they are not hypercompetitive as men, women introduce policies that contribute to corporate sustainability by emphasizing education, work-family balance and entrepreneurship (which causes higher productivity and quality of life) and because women managers bring in companies commitment to more responsibility, to more long-term planning, teamwork and participative decision making.

Several authors have written why there were so few women in top management and mentioned a number of reasons such as bias, discrimination, not objective selection procedures, family responsibilities etc. (International Labour Organization Report on women in business and management, 2015).

Gender equality is one of the most important basic principles of regulations and policies on the level of the EU. This is obvious from the Strategy Europe 2020: Strategy for rational, sustainable and comprehensive growth, Strategy for equality of women and men 2010-2015, as well as European pact for gender equality (2011–2020). However, there are not so many studies of individual, personal beliefs and experiences of women about gender equality in business management. This area lacks research although women could contribute important information about how they achieved management positions and which obstacles they had to overcome.

This article intends to make a short insight into the obstacles, possibilities and advantages with which three women were faced when trying to achieve the top positions in business management and present what women can do to achieve leading positions. Good practices of business women on top positions are presented by qualitative interviews (semi-structured, problem-centred interviews with female business managers).  

2. Presentation of three Slovenian women in management
The questions addressed in semi-structured problem-centred interviews with women in management asked the interviewees about their education, work places, belief, obstacles which they faced when trying to become managers, their ways to achieve leading positions, and recommendations for other women who want to become managers.

The interviews presented in the below table offer just a small insight into the opinions of women in management but they can serve as the starting point for a larger research and for strategic plans how women could achieve gender equality in management. Descriptions of women’s viewpoints can give ideas for possible individual actions and solutions that can be undertaken by women to achieve leading positions in business management.


1st interviewee

2nd interviewee

3rd interviewee

Please describe your education.

PhD, Organisation and Education

MA, Management and Organization, certified Project Manager at Stanford

MA, International Business and Sustainable Development

Have you got any children (a family)?

I have a family - a husband and 3 children.

I have no children.

I don’t have my own children, but I am married and my husband has three adult children. We get along very well.

Do you believe that women contribute to higher profits in the company? Why?

Yes, women are more sensitive towards company's customer needs and know how to give initiative for improvement of products and services. Women are also more kind and patient with customers, so they are better in sales.

Of course. Besides knowledge women also have strong intuition and the right relationship between the two can lead to profit and continuous company growth and development.

I believe that profit isn’t gender related but depends on work quality and endeavour. The fact that a woman can work differently in management position because she is a woman does not automatically cause better results.

Do you believe that women in management contribute to better awareness of the risks in business?

Yes, women are more aware of the risks than men. I noticed that men usually see the final goal and high profit while women are aware of different possible risks.

Of course, intuition should not be overlooked.

Women have better feeling for details which are very important. They make exact analysis of each project and are more thoughtful than men. I believe that men are more impatient. Women focus on extra work activities, consultation with experts and don’t lose time with questions ‘what will be?’ and ‘how will it be?’

Do you believe that women in management contribute to introduction of policies for corporate sustainability?

Absolutely, women are aware that sustainable development is essential in product and service development. Women are also more aware that sustainable development needs to be integrated in employees' relationships.

Yes, with great focus on employees as human beings.

I estimate women are better equipped for departments which demand accuracy, data processing, keeping records and organization of routine processes such as accounting, import and export procedures, ordering products or services, keeping payment transactions.

Do you believe that women in management are more aware of the importance of education?

Yes, women know that this is one of the most important factors that help one reach management position.

I see no differences.

In our company I cannot imagine a man executing recoveries. This is a delicate topic and needs psychological knowledge. Female sensitivity and the right approach are essential. Maybe it comes from the family environment where women have more patience and discipline, because we are aware it has to be done.

Do you believe that women in management contribute to work - family balance?

Yes, women are those who usually take care of children and so essentially contribute to work-family balance.

Yes, if nothing else for biological reasons.

Women have better feeling how to introduce a situation, which isn't the best for the company. They prepare arguments and inform the people in the company. They don't wait but deal with the situation.

Do you believe that women in management contribute to entrepreneurship?

Yes, women have more ideas how to make products or offer services, and more practical ideas how to successfully run the business finances.

Not really or at least not very obviously.

Women are better at observing the surroundings. They are more responsible toward society.

Do you believe that women in management contribute to increased responsibility of employees?

Yes, women know how to increase employees' loyalty by introducing sustainable development.

Yes, women are the protectors of home and our companies are often our second home. It is important that it is the second and not the first home.

Yes, higher level of responsibility is the consequence of the right presentation of different situations. Women are better at this because they are ready to see the real picture and act immediately toward changes and different processes.

Do you believe that women in management contribute to long-term planning?

Yes, women see more obstacles and reality, so they try to make sure that the company also has a long-term plan for changes.

Women are pragmatic and wise, so yes.

Women have a better feeling how to present the situation which is perhaps not the best for the company.

Do you believe that women in management contribute to teamwork?

Yes, women are more kind, more accessible, they do not try to assert the hierarchy as men do, and that develops teamwork.

Of course, from as early as prehistoric times women have always been good at cooperation as pickers men were hunters, individuals.

Yes, women are better at organizing team meetings where opinion of the larger group is important. They are also more patient, know that there are different opinions, write them down and only after considerate thinking they decide for the best solution.

Do you believe that women in management contribute to participative decision making?

Yes, women invite colleagues to cooperation while men in management position (as far as I knew them) tried to assert their authority and did not even think of asking their colleagues to contribute to decision making.

I would put it decision making with wider search for consensus.

Women don't care about who the director is, they care about how the director works, decides, what kind of leader she or he is. Hierarchy is not enough, what matters is trust, wisdom and confidence. A woman will speak out if she doesn't trust the person in charge and thinks isn't appropriate for the job. A woman is quickly aware of responsibility and consequences the wrong person might cause.

In what sector did you reach the management position?

In the field of pedagogy and personnel recruitment. My companies did not receive money from the state budget.

Marketing, sales management, PR, personnel management and organization.

Director of my own company. Now my husband and I have joined the two companies, my husband is director and I'm procurator. In practice we make decisions together, often also with colleagues.

Why and when did you decide for a position in management?

37 years ago I worked in a development department of an organization financed by the state and I did not like how my superiors ran the organization, and how they behaved towards employees. I wanted more freedom at work, more independent decision making, more opportunities for progress, better relationships between people. I also had a strong wish to open my own company which would where I could earn my own money, decide about my own working hours and develop good relationships with people.

I didn't decide for it, I got an offer and accepted it. Ever since then I have turned the field of work into passion and the definition does not represent a burden.

From my early ages on I have been raised in the spirit of hard work and discipline. I have been a real sports person with good knowledge of competition. The numerous trainings were motivation for my independent path, and gave me the knowledge that only the right and continuous effort put into training can bring success and victory. I wanted more freedom, make my own decisions, more opportunities for progress, better relationships between people. After Slovenia became independent I founded a limited liability company dealing with medical engineering where I made my own money, my own decisions, employed capable people and developed good relationships with my colleagues.

Which main obstacles (gender, education, experiences, family obligations etc.) did you have to overcome?

I had to overcome all the listed obstacles. If I were a man, my customers (men on top positions) would have taken me more seriously. I also lacked proper education (I had only MA but needed PhD). I had no experiences in the new field of work and gained them while working.

Of course I also had family obligations with 3 children. But with a lot of effort, energy and good will everything was made up for.

I did not feel these obstacles probably because I do not admit that they exist. All things listed are only facts and not obstacles or advantages. Diversity brings a lot more of success and growth.

After deciding to be independent there were no obstacles. I believe obstacles and fear are in our heads, strongly connected with our psyche. Sport taught me to always think of success and victories and to put effort into good preparations. I have never met obstacles regarding gender or education. Maybe rather the other way around – it was pleasant and worthwhile to be a woman. But there was no time for a classical family. My children were business partners, projects, global companies and other challenges.

Did you achieve the management position immediately/ shortly after you decided for it or did you have to try several times?

I did not reach the management position immediately but only after about 2 years. First I thought a lot about whether I was capable of being a director (men always claimed I wasn't), then I ran for available management positions and that took quite some time.

I did not have to try. My superiors recognized my talent and offered me a position. Since then I have been promoted several times and changed different fields of work etc.

Because of founding my own company, I immediately became a director. Only after joining the companies with my husband, I have given the highest positon to him. But we still make decisions together.

Did you have a strategy how to reach the management position? Please describe it.

Yes, I had a strategy. I decided that I would first run for a management position in a company that already existed, learn how to run business and then develop my own company.

Honestly, I did not.

No. I had a wish and I realized it.

How and why did you succeed to reach management position?

I first found a management position in a school of foreign languages. After two years I founded my own company in the field of personnel recruitment and then a private college.

I was thrown into the river and had to swim. Mostly it was common sense, focusing on people and my exceptional organization skills. Of course I have improved my education later on. At the moment I'm studying at Harvard.

I had no problems. I had a goal and awareness that only hard work brings success. I focused on thinking about challenges and not problems. That's how I started my business path and after 27 years of independent work this is still my way.

What helped you most in reaching the management position: education, experiences, family support, connections etc. (rang)?

My own will, energy and ambitions. Education helped especially when I got a PhD. Also experiences gained on management position helped a lot, and the support of my family. My husband bravely supported me but soon he realized that I worked too much and did not earn enough so he wanted to talk me into going back to a more 'normal' working place. Children were good at school so I had no problems with them.

My values, integrity, reliability and courage.

The most important is will and goals. I was motivated by ambition, success and financial independence. My role model was my granny who became a dressmaker right after the II. W. W. She was an example of how to take care of oneself by one's own work. When Slovenia became an independent country and started to encourage the first private companies, I stopped studying economics and devoted my time to business. Later I finished also faculty and did MA. My husband was a great support. This was personal proof to myself that I still have a wish to achieve more.

Did you always believe that you will succeed in business management?

Yes, always, although everyone told me I would not succeed and such opinion hurt me.

No, because I never thought about it. Set of circumstances and my superiors who recognized my talent brought me to all management positions.

Yes, always, because I was raised in the spirit of business, independent path, freedom and success.

What stereotypes did you meet and had to overcome?

I met the usual stereotypes – directors should be authoritative, independent, decisive. I had to put all force into convincing myself that also someone with a different approach to managing could succeed.

I haven't noticed them. I worked in the field of banking where about 75 % of employees are women and many of them have management positions. I disregard stereotypes.

I met the stereotypes that one should be decisive, authoritative, independent. After long years of hard work in sports, the stereotypes ceased to exist. There was only my own experience that hard work and effort make success. Of course I faced also defeat but I learned from it and see it as a part of the victory.

What would you recommend to women who would like to achieve similar positions?

To believe that women also are capable to run a business, maybe even more than men. Make sure you have the highest level of education, possibly from different areas because knowledge is the first condition to run an organization. Gain experiences in different fields, do not refuse any work. If you open up your own company think carefully if you have enough money for the first year. Make sure you have enough energy and good will for work.

Hard work, honesty, integrity, and reliability contribute to all sorts of opportunities not only to management positions. It is important to enjoy in work and achievements not taking into consideration the field of work or the position.

I recommend that women do not think about differences between women and men, but respect everyone. It is important to cooperate with individuals, surroundings and the world and be positive when looking at the results, respect sustainable development and social responsibility. It is essential to be positive, be able to select quality, knowledge, honesty, path to success, the right idea or strategy, and pay attention to natural resources.

Was work-family balance a problem when you tried to achieve the management position?

It was a problem and support all in one. Being with my family helped me to see also other things not just my job.

Never, I’m known to be extremely organized, I always find the right balance and relationship. My superiors were also sensitive toward me.

Since I don't have a classical family, it's hard for me to answer the question. I can only say that as a woman I was always able to pay attention to family obligations of the colleagues or acted responsibly toward the society. I motivated the children of my employees to educate and visit language camps or other smart skills.

If you were at the beginning of the career would you decide for a management position again?


Yes, I would decide to found my own company right after university. Because you have freedom to decide, you work as you will, and what you like and think is good, and you also make more money. If something goes wrong it's your responsibility.

Probably. I'm a person of opportunities.

Yes, right after the university I would decide to found a company. Because in your company you have the freedom to make your own decisions, you follow your ethics and you are financially independent. Of course you are also responsible for everything you do. The greatest pleasure is when colleagues say they feel like at home, they like to work, are loyal and you are not only their director but also a friend or leader in many life paths.

3. Conclusions

Three women who reached management positions were interviewed and their answers compared. The first has a PhD in Organization and Education, a family with three children, reached the position in management when she was 35 and is a director of an educational institution. The second one has an MA in Management and Organization, has no children and has been manager in different fields such as marketing, sales management, PR, personnel management and organization. The third one has an MA in International Business and Sustainable Development and accepted three children of her husband. She was a director of her own business from as early as 25 and continues to keep the leading position together with her husband.

The questions whether women contribute to higher profits, more risk awareness, introduce policies that contribute to corporate sustainability by emphasizing education, work-family balance and entrepreneurship were answered positively. However the second interviewee believes that gender is not relevant when it comes to emphasizing education or entrepreneurship.

The questions whether women managers bring in companies commitment to more responsibility, to more long-term planning, teamwork and participative decision making were answered positively by all three women. They all think that women are more responsible, patient, cooperative and understanding when it comes to business.

Two women have always known they wanted to be managers or have their own company. One said it was her bosses who saw her potential and offered her a higher position while she never had a vision to reach the position in management.

When speaking about obstacles they had to overcome to reach the position in management the first one speaks of many obstacles such as gender equality. Many men told her she was never going to succeed, she did not have proper education or experiences and she also had family obligations. The other two interviewees speak more of challenges than obstacles.

The first interviewee had a strategy and had to try several times before she succeeded and the other two succeeded immediately without having a strategy. All three women succeeded to reach the management position very quickly after deciding to do so.

As to what helped them most in reaching the position in management they speak of their will, energy and ambitions, or values, integrity, reliability and courage. Success was only obvious to two of the interviewees. The second one never really thought about it.

Two of the interviewees have met stereotypes such as one should be authoritative, independent and decisive but the second one had no such experiences because she worked in the field of banking where more than two thirds of the employees were women.

They advise other women who are thinking about taking a position in management to believe in themselves, to work hard and be honest and reliable, to respect everyone, to cooperate with people, surroundings and the world, to be positive, be able to select quality, knowledge, honesty, path to success, the right idea or strategy.

Finding the right balance between family and work has not been a problem for anyone and all three would decide to reach the management position again, but they would not wait for so long. As soon as they had finished the university they would start their own business.

The comparison of the answers is very interesting. One would expect similar answers from all of them but they are often very different or even contrary. This shows how complex this topic is and that it would be good to make a larger sample of interviews to see why there are so many differences.


International Labour Organization (2015) Report on women in business and management Geneva, ILO.

Davidson, M.J., Burke, R.J. (2011) Women in management worldwide, London and New York, Routledge.

European Commission (2013) She Figures, Luxembourg, Publications Office of the European Union.

Cadman, E. (2016) Women still struggle to join boards where targets are absent, London,

McDermott, L. (2014) Women, seize your leadership role, T+D.

Tarr-Whelan, L. (2009) Women lead the way, San Francisco, Berrett-Koehler.