Atila Yenisen, CEO of Metro Bulgaria.
Reducing gender inequalities is one of the UN 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to transform our world and the topic about the role of women in business is becoming increasingly relevant today.
Atila is highly engaged regarding the role of women in business and is an active member in LEAD Network as Co-Chair in the Sales & Buying chapter where he is actively involved in projects aimed at increasing the influence of women in trade.
Our industry is very dynamic and consumer behaviours are continuously changing and evolving. Real success comes from not only following the customers, but also from shaping their choices. It is therefore paramount to have the diversity of the market reflected into our decision-making processes - only then we can move where the customers move and even move the customers towards our solutions.
We have set targets at a local level within Bulgaria. We have a minimum of 50% women in our development programs and at least 50% of candidates interviewed for Level 3 and up positions are women. This helps us to manage our pipeline for all the levels in our organization including for leadership positions.
According to a global survey on the topic, having children was stated as the biggest challenge for female colleagues. We know that over half of mothers change jobs, over 30% contemplate leaving work entirely and nearly 20 % of women leave employment in the following 5 years after their child’s birth. Therefore, we decided to focus our maternity policy to help women not to disconnect during their maternity leave which then helps them to restart effectively when they choose to rejoin.
In METRO Bulgaria we also initiated the Women in trade chapter within the company. The aim was to promote awareness as well as engaging with teams giving them the opportunity to drive decisions. We have already 26 employees involved in the project. We are also in the process of adapting our Global Diversity and Inclusion training.
I believe the role of leaders, regardless of their gender, is critical. Leaders set the context, they set the tone and they set the norms of culture. However, considering the male dominance in leadership positions, it is vitally important to actively engage men with diversity and inclusion.
The first step is increasing their awareness that diversity undoubtedly improves results. However, I would suggest we avoid only focusing on women and men, but more on real diversity including sexual orientation, religious and political views, as well as all cultures.
I can count numerous qualities of a good leader. However, let me highlight the three most important in my opinion:
1. Self-belief: everything starts with confidence.
2. Assertiveness: a good leader should not easily give up.
3. Persistence: very few initiatives elicit good results at the first attempt and only the ones who try again and again make a difference.
We are delighted to observe that nearly 37% of our business customers are owned by women.
The biggest challenge for women business owners is to multitask. I have hard time believing that all women actually delegate all their historical responsibilities to men. So, managing everything can be quite a challenging task. When it comes to managing their businesses, just like their male counterparts, there are many different areas about which they need more knowledge and support such as the legal requirements, fiscal rules, quality standards and measures etc.
I have been part of LEAD for the last 5 years. My colleague Tanya was already part of it and invited me to join. I have been actively participating as a mentor for female leaders from different industries, companies and geographies. Being a mentor in this network has enabled me to appreciate different perspectives and realities which have subsequently shaped my opinions. This year I have also agreed to be the Co-Chair of a new Chapter which is called the “Sales & Buying Chapter”. Its mission is to equip emerging female leaders in Retail and FMCG with expertise, confidence and international exposure. It is a very exciting role in a very interesting chapter.
I would like to invite women from the Procurement and Category management fields to join our sector. These roles are both challenging and strategic, requiring analytical skills. In the current circumstances the growth opportunities in organizations are bigger.
My most important advice to women in trade is to believe in yourself, follow your dreams and things will work out in the best possible way!
Interview: Nevena Nikolova, Partner, Friisberg & Partners Bulgaria