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Anita Kovacic: Women empowerment is a healthy challenge for male colleagues

Anita Kovacic, CEO of Raiffeisen Bank Kosovo, was recognized one of the "Top 10 Inspiring Women Leaders - 2022" by IEra Women Leaders Magazine. Anita’s selection was based on the results of Raiffeisen Bank Kosovo closing the year 2022 as the largest bank in Kosovo in all key financial indicators. But Anita is not only an inspiring leader, she is also a strong advocate for women's empowerment. A reason for us to talk to her about women's advancement in CEE, the advantages of diverse teams and her most important tips for women.

  • By Alexandra Jocham, RBI |

Ms. Kovacic, congratulations on being named one of the "Top 10 Inspiring Women Leaders"! You once said that the key factors that create a bank's advantage in the market are solutions, vision, mission, services, products, teamwork, strengths, new ideas (innovation) and long-term goals, among others. But also, the empowerment of women is an important concern for you. How does this work?

Anita Kovacic: Women empowerment is a new keyword that in my view represents important pillars of an inclusive organizational culture, diverse leadership structures and the unleashing of labor market and employee potential. On the other hand, it poses a healthy challenge and competition to male colleagues.

What is the first step in empowering women in a company?

There are many aspects that are important, like organizational readiness to consider female and male employees as equals, i.e. to give them equal opportunities when it comes to applying for open jobs, especially top jobs, invitations to meetings, discussions, and decision-making. Once this is established, it is easier for everyone, especially women, to navigate their professional development plans and career paths.

What are the benefits of having empowered women in the organization?

Many studies nowadays show that adding women to leadership teams leads to more balanced decisions and consequently the companies are more successful. There are also some unique female leadership skills that have been recognized in various studies, such as collaboration, empathy and the ability to build a team and relationships based on it, being direct and supportive, which complements and enriches the overall leadership effectiveness of an organization.

What do you think is the most significant barrier to female empowerment?

In general, it is more often a lack of self-confidence in women. Lack of self-awareness that they are capable and fit for the top jobs. This self-perception often originates in upbringing and family values. And in the markets where we operate, it is more common to observe that organizational cultures are not yet ready to consider women as fit candidates for top positions. In my view this is a consequence of the past decades where companies have invested more in the succession and professional development of male colleagues, resulting in more suitable male candidates for the top positions, and only few or no women. 

How can we calculate the positive impacts of having empowered women in an organization?

Fortunately, it is widely acknowledged that a diverse leadership structure promotes the sustainability and adaptability of organizations in the current context and that women leaders have the necessary skills and competences to succeed in leadership positions. If we give women equal access to leadership positions, their success will be directly reflected in the overall organization’s success or in the results of the teams or units they lead. Therefore, we can measure their success using the same indicators of organization, team, or unit performance that are already established, namely financial performance, employee enablement and engagement scores, innovation, etc.

What are five things you do in your daily work to strengthen your female colleagues?

The five that I would highlight are: Give them a voice at the table, treat them on the basis of their qualifications and what they bring to the company, include them in discussions and decision-making, ensure fair compensation and last but not least, support family-friendly working policies and working schedules. 

How do you empower yourself and the women around you?

This is a personal attitude, like to be aware of your worth, working on your self-confidence, mental and physical fitness to keep your energy levels balanced. Setting the right example for others is also empowering, and not only by words but also with actions.   

What tips do you have for women who are at the beginning of their career?

Think about what your strengths and dreams are and go for them. Know your goals and keep your actions focused. Learn and adopt as you grow, and the right opportunities will open up for you.

What has been your biggest learning in this regard?

Stay true to yourself and seize opportunities as they arise. In this fast-changing VUCA environment, no one can
plan a long-term future or a lifelong career. We need to learn and stay agile. A good example of this is “T-shaping”, which allows you to deepen and broaden your areas of expertise. 

What is the biggest mistake?

There are no mistakes if you learn from them.

What do you do at Raiffeisen Bank Kosovo to promote women?

In our bank, more than 50 per cent of the employees are female. At management level, the proportion of
women is 40 per cent and on Managing Board level it is 50 per cent. Empowering women is already an integral part of Raiffeisen Bank Kosovo’s leadership culture. 

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