Professionalism is that what matters, and it does not depend on gender – Anna Derevyanko, EBA Executive Director
What traits distinguish successful executives, and do women CEOs influence the financial performance of companies? The study “The Impact of the Policy of Concern for the Welfare of Women in a Team on Business Efficiency” conducted by the European Business Association in partnership with the Council of Women’s Initiatives and NGO “Modern Woman” is devoted to the search for answers to these questions. The study interviewed women who run Ukraine’s most successful EBA’s companies. The first interview in this series is with Anna Derevyanko, the EBA Executive Director.
In your opinion, is there a violation of women′s rights in business?
I do not think there is such a problem in Ukraine. The environment for development here is quite progressive. It seems to me that Ukrainian women are quite active and if they want, they can reach great heights. Moreover, as a woman, I have not yet faced the problem of a glass ceiling. If you want to be successful, you achieve it. This is a big plus, I think, and an opportunity for women, not only for women but also for men, to move forward. The main thing is to be a professional. So, I would say that in business more and more often we see women in leadership positions. However, when you communicate with people who encounter the contrary experience, you realize that yes, such issues exist, and you need to work them out. But, again, I am opposed to creating an artificial element of gender equality. I stand for freedom, for both men and women to have the opportunity for self-realization and the achievement of the goals they set for themselves.
Ukrainian companies develop and implement Policies for Gender Equality Policy, Diversity, and Inclusion. Is it what is required by international companies, by time, or why is this happening?
As a rule, headquarters have such requirements, multinational companies, of course, also have this kind of policy. Moreover, sometimes it is, says, a modern trend.
Besides, Ukraine has made relevant commitments, so the government is working to promote the necessary practices aimed at inclusiveness and gender equality. Surely, there are global trends that need to be picked up. Indeed, we are all human beings and must have equal conditions and opportunities. At the same time, it seems to me that often the problem is in people’s minds. After all, we are trying to administratively create a quota for one or another sex, or, for example, to get more discussion of a topic in society. It seems artificial to me. Still, there must be a competition of ideas, a fair struggle, so that the wisest, more prepared, interesting, progressive, receive promotion.
How do you understand gender equality in business?
Gender equality means that both women and men have the opportunity to hold leadership positions, that people’s salaries do not change depending on gender, and that there are no elements of violence or intolerance in the workplace.
Are there areas where only women or only men can work?
I am generally against saying “only” because there are different men, there are different women. There are skills that you can use in one case or another. I can say that women tend to be more flexible, able to adapt faster. But it seems to me, it is in a combination of factors, in a combination of different qualities that a good result is obtained. I belong here more to the cohort of people who do not recognize the limitations in this regard.
Can a woman be a member of the company′s top management?
Why should it even be a problem? If a woman wants and she has the opportunity to do so as she has the knowledge and inner confidence. Why should she be denied the opportunity to drive? There are a lot of women who do a great job as top managers and are great leaders, followed by teams. Her business is developing and flourishing. The same situations are with men. At the same time, there are cases when a man or a woman runs a business, and it fails. Therefore, the thing is how prepared a person is, his openness to new knowledge, flexibility, and adaptability, how well he knows the trends.
It is often said that women′s lack of confidence is a barrier to top positions. Do you agree?
The confidence issue can emerge for both men and women. This is inherent in all genders. But, again, there are stereotypes that a woman should pay more attention to the household, take care of children, while a man should be a breadwinner, a very serious one. But at the same time, again, there are a lot of women who manage to be both good housewives and good mothers, and at the same time be good leaders. Everything is possible. The same can be said about men, who can also combine different roles. This is an element of personality formation, the transformation of mentality.
I am more in favor of self-realization, a sense of harmony, and happiness. If a woman likes to be at home, to be a spouse who takes care of routine, children, and her partner is totally fine. But there are a lot of women who do not always have enough of this status, it is also important for her to be successful in business, at work. Why limits such people? And here everyone should just look inside themselves and answer the question: “What brings me happiness?”.
There are inner fears, they always will be. But can these fears limit us from the actions we have to take, or should they even do so? No 😊
Therefore, if we all continue the path towards self-development and enlightenment, then, in principle, and uncertainty at some point itself will gradually fade. And while going forward, we will have fun, which will help us to believe in the correctness of our path.
What do you think companies can do to support both their female and male employees who have children?
Many companies are already implementing a large number of support initiatives. Besides, the pandemic has made some adjustments to our daily work and our daily rhythm of life. And one of them is a flexible work schedule, which, by the way, has allowed many working mothers to do their job and take care of their children at the same time.
Meanwhile, in companies, no one has abolished the focus on profit, on the smooth implementation of business processes. On the other hand, all KPIs and business processes can be fulfilled only by happy people. Therefore, many companies provide employees with a flexible schedule, additional days off. Some companies even organize kindergartens, kids’ days. That is, there are shifts in this regard, and they are considerable. But the role of the leader also means a lot here. I am a mother myself and I understand the need for such a schedule. It is possible that in other companies who have managers with other experience and, accordingly, this also leaves its mark on the organization of business processes.
Are there any differences in how women and men run companies or certain business processes?
It seems to me that anyone can develop this or that aptitude, but only if he wants it. A person can be a great accountant, but she may not like the functionality itself, and because of this she does not feel completely happy. Therefore, you need to come to your senses in time and you need to find yourself in time and understand that, perhaps, you are taking someone else’s place. Maybe in another position, you will be much, much more successful, and happier.
You have probably noticed that I have repeated the terms “happiness” and the “sense of harmony” many times. It seems to me that this is very, very, very important for people. Only in this way will we be able to gradually change both consciousness and the human mentality, and, perhaps, in a different way, we will treat each other with greater tolerance.
Is it related to mindfulness and personal development practices?
It seems to me, yes, because mindfulness is a very important element for both men and women.
What traits do you think to distinguish leaders who successfully run companies from all others?
From what I see from my “bell tower”, these are people open to knowledge. They try to learn things by themselves, they are ready for new knowledge. You know, there is even a comparison, when you try to pour into a glass filled with water, everything pours out of it. That is, in order to always move forward, the leaders must be open-minded, a little “unfilled” so that new knowledge can be put there. What else? Responsibility? Discipline and self-motivation. You know, such people who are “lighters” who can keep themselves in the right shape and enable others to look up to the right example and be inspired by it.
There is an opinion that companies work hard on policies and procedures, and the development of business culture. But society also has a strong influence on people. That is, when employees come home, they are influenced by relatives, friends, and acquaintances who relay stereotypes. What do you think, should the company contribute to the development of society?
Long ago I attended a workshop “Seven skills of highly efficient people”. They talked about one concept that I remembered. There are circles of influence and lack of influence. And if you concentrate on what you can change, what you can influence, then gradually your circle of influence grows. If you constantly concentrate on what you can’t influence, you will narrow your circle of influence, because there are only 24 hours in a day. I try to apply this rule to my life.
Roosevelt once said, ” Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.” Because we are all limited in our capabilities. Thus, you may want to change everything. But you can only change what you can. Besides, the more people who are free of stereotypes who will strive for self-education, the faster society will change.
We can’t wave a magic wand and say, “Now society is different!” Because society consists of several generations: grandparents, moms, and dads, children. Here are three elements of our maturation. Society is not changing so fast. Of course, there are stereotypes ingrained in the elderly, parents, children. You need to have the courage not to use any, as it seems to you, incorrect stereotypes to go your own way. You need to learn to be the master of your life and think critically to really create at least around yourself what you think would make you happy. And will change the world for the better.
So going back to your question – yes, this is happening. But, nevertheless, the element of critical thinking and self-education always allows – so to speak – to limit the impact of these toxic stereotypes on our lives.
During a pandemic, companies seemed to come home to people, and people began to bring parts of their life to the company, and there were greater expectations of respect, attention, and humanity from the company.
Perhaps. It seems to me that companies, will change in any case, they are already changing or even changed, there will surely be more transformations. It is clear that the standard office work will not disappear completely, it will simply be transformed. But people also no longer want to return to the office, for example, in the United States, Britain, just to lure people back to the offices, companies have to arrange barbecues, jazz concerts, prizes.
The situation turned upside down a bit. Thus, it changed our current perception and made us reassess the values. And people already think differently about what the job should be, how comfortable it should be, how much they like it or interfere with their life principles. Maybe they can really find a job that is closely situated to them. As in Paris, for example. They completely redesign the design of the city and try to make every part of the city available within 15 minutes of walking distance to everything a person needs for life: health care, education, work, shops and so on and so forth, parks and everything else.
Accordingly, it seems to me that the pandemic has made people think more of themselves. About what you want to do in life, what is convenient for you. And accordingly, at work, you will think more about how to “coexist” with a potential employer, how much it is on your way or not. I don’t know, maybe it won’t be like that in all Ukrainian villages and provinces. But it seems to me that whoever catches this trend will stay on the crest of the wave in terms of success.
The example of Paris is about the cooperation of the city and business. When there are traffic jams, high air pollution, people feel less willing to get to work and want to work from home.
Being able to get to the destination is an important planning component, whether it is a plan to go to the movies or to work. If the logistics in the city are efficient, of course, it will be much easier for you to make this outing. If not, you will think a hundred times.
Paris and its peers are cities of the future, I mean they have new approaches to the efficiency issue as the element of the cities of the future. And it’s a question of leaders who are thinking about how to build a garden city, for example. On the one hand, the maturity must be in the hands of citizens who agree that part of the streets that were passable will now become pedestrian. And, accordingly, citizens-drivers must push back and give up part of their rights in favor of the fact that they will breathe fresher air and have more space for walking. On the other hand, the element of maturity in society. Because of all these changes society must accept, support, and protect.
If we take, for example, Ukrainian society and the situation with taxes. Someone there pays taxes; someone does not pay. And the one who does not pay, says: “Here, we live in a bad state.” You pay first and then demand something. This is a double-edged sword, because, yes, changes must take place, and corruption issues are, of course, unacceptable. But society must also help provide these changes. Is not it?