Professional leadership brings higher profits for the company, – Iryna Prudnikova, CEO ANCOR Ukraine
The European Business Association in partnership with the Council of Women’s Initiatives and HGNO “Modern Woman” continues a series of interviews with women leaders on gender equality in business and women in the top management. And for this piece, we invited Iryna Prudnikova, CEO ANCOR Ukraine to share her experience.
Iryna, why did you choose HR as a field of your professional activity?
I have been working for ANCOR Ukraine for 16 years, and, in fact, my career and professional growth took place here. I am currently the CEO of ANCOR Ukraine and combine my obligations with the position of Integration Manager of our new assets: in 2019 we entered the Baltic market by acquiring an existing company, and now I am managing a project to integrate these countries into our large structure. If we talk about my role in Ukraine – these are the four main blocks of responsibility: working with clients, working with a team, caring about the financial performance of the company in Ukraine, and other business processes. We are specialized in external consulting.
Honestly, the choice of this profession was not conscious as it is difficult to imagine that at the age of 20, I dreamt of leading a consulting firm. My career path has happened gradually. And the fact, that the company provides for professional development and growth opportunities, is for me a constant driver and source of motivation. Therefore, I have ended up working in this field for so many years. Besides, a huge advantage of our industry is that we interact with completely different market participants: territorial, sectoral, companies of national or international capital. This gives you the opportunity to have a broad outlook on what is happening in the country and in the world, a global approach to market vision and, of course, the very rapid development of skills, both soft and hard ones.
What soft and hard skills are most important in your professional career, especially when it comes to leadership positions?
If we talk about the position in general, then there is a classic set of hard skills such as mathematics and finance, foreign languages, computer literacy, generation theory, theoretical knowledge of management – planning, organization, coordination, control, motivation. As for soft skills – it is the ability to listen, dialogue, take initiative and motivate the team. And yet, an openness that allows you to find optimal solutions that can lead not only to effectiveness but also to efficiency. Surely, it is very important in terms of leadership to be oriented on the future, predict the situation, and consider several scenarios despite the VUCA and the increased degree of uncertainty and the speed of change.
It is also important to take responsibility for your actions. For example, mistakes or failed hypotheses are the responsibility of the leader and it is important that the whole team understands this. Then the team members will not be afraid to experiment. However, one should not go for the fact that the team is not responsible for anything, and therefore is negligent in its responsibilities. The balance should be found. Successful cases and projects are resulting from teamwork, or the efforts of a particular employee, if he/she led the project.
And also, the leader needs empathy, there is no way without it. Emotional intelligence is important to understand each member of the team, to convey information correctly, to be able to explain and motivate at the right time.
According to your observations, is there a difference in the male and female management styles?
I would say that it is not the gender criterion that is the main distinguishing factor. In my professional career, there have been examples of female managers with a very tough approach, and there are examples when a man takes a softer position. So, I would say that the management style depends on the personality of the leader, his professional experience, lifestyle, and work, and so on. I am definitely sure this does not have relations to gender identity, I am sure of that.
What does gender equality in business mean to you?
These are equal opportunities and the opportunity to choose. First of all, it is necessary to estimate professional qualities and a personal profile and how they correlate with a position profile. It is worth noting that our company has a certain gender inequality: about 95% of our staff are women. But, at the same time, we do not have a purposeful strategy to attract only women. It turns out that they are more inclined to work in our business because it is multitasking, it requires constant learning of something new and implies flexibility, tolerance, and so on.
Are there any industries or professions that limit male or female candidates?
I don’t think so. For example, we in ANCOR Ukraine, do not specify the requirements for gender, age, etc in the description of vacancies according to all European trends and Ukrainian legislation. All candidates, regardless of gender, age, etc. – have equal opportunities.
Are there situations when a client wants to invite a woman or a man to a specific position?
Some clients say that a woman or a man is a better suit for a certain role. This depends on the client’s previous experience, but they do not insist on anything.
I would not call it a barrier, it is the choice of every woman – what she wants to do, what is her priority. Leadership positions require a lot of time, focus, readiness for business trips. And it is the choice of every woman and every man – to build a career and develop into a managerial role or work as a specialist and deepen their skills in a particular activity, move horizontally from one position to another, and have more free time to dedicate to family and children. In my opinion, everything depends on desires and needs. After all, if a woman wants to develop professionally and have a family – it is possible to realize. It is important to allocate time, share responsibilities, and so on.
There are no barriers as such – everyone has a personal choice. And this applies not only to women but also to men. After all, there are many examples when a man takes paternal leave. Before that action would have raised eyebrows but now it is perceived as perfectly normal.
What activities did your company implement during the Covid-19 pandemic to support employees who have children?
Lockdowns have become a test for our company. In the first place was the concern for the health of employees, and then we talked about the balance of work and personal life. For some time, we worked 100% remotely. As soon as the situation improved and the restrictions were lifted, we switched to a partially remote format. Now the whole company works in a 3-on-2 format, although the ratio can change and 2 on 3 (the number of days for offline and online office).
Surely, for those who have minor children or parents of older age, we introduced a system solution and provided a longer period of time to work in the remote format, when kindergartens and schools were closed.
Does the participation of women in business management affect financial performance?
I believe that professional leadership leads to higher performance of the company, regardless of gender. We are talking about the quality of management decisions, personal background, hard and soft skills, constant self-improvement. The latter is also a very important component to get the results that are necessary for business.
What can companies do to support employees?
Sometimes, life is very difficult and requires extra emotional effort and support. And if there is a format of not only formal communication but also human, open dialogue between the leader and his/her team, within the team, when employees become friends with each other – it’s superb! After all, this means that people share the same values within the company. And yet, it is important to make it clear to employees that if any support is needed, either emotional, material, informational, or time-related (additional leaves) – it will be provided.
As the conclusion to the interview, what would you recommend to the female professionals?
I would recommend them to be as honest with themselves as possible, be sure to talk in a dialogue with their partners, to determine what period of life they want to dedicate to professional activities, what period of life they are willing to give to the family and have it as a priority. I would also recommend choosing the direction of activity that they really like, motivates, and brings them satisfaction – then they will not need to make an effort to devote time to work. This is the key to success and the opportunity to achieve the goals that a woman sets for herself – with joy.