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NORTH MACEDONIA: ONLY 5% OF LEADERSHIP ROLES HELD BY WOMEN

Woman 1:  You live in Skopje, North Macedonia, you are 31, you went to University. You have a job you really like and are motivated to work hard to reach the next level. You are responsible, professional.  There is a guy on your floor who does the same type of work that you do. He has less tenure than you.  He is well liked and ingratiates himself among others.

He has just received a big promotion and salary raise for a position that you wanted.

Though you are equally qualified, you were never considered for this job.

Woman 2:  You live in Skopje, North Macedonia, you are 27, very attractive, very hard-working.  You always dress and behave professionally. You have done well in your career and have the drive to succeed.  Though sexually based comments from men are familiar to you, you know to handle them.

Until you got fired for not accepting an invitation to your boss’s hotel room.


SHE. Skopje, April 2019

North Macedonia is behind western cultures in their attitudes toward women and women’s roles in society.  Western cultures have made great strides since the 1960s and ’70s, but it takes decades, and still, things have not gone far enough.

Only 5% of leadership roles in North Macedonia are held by women.  There is legislation on the books to improve this, but it has not yet been enacted. In terms of women in tech roles in North Macedonia, information is not even recorded:

*Though the state statistical office claims 32% of the IT sector in North Macedonia is women, many dispute this number.

 

What To Do About It?

The Psihesko Psychology Students’ Association in Skopje decided to conduct focus groups to illuminate attitudes and practices toward women in the workforce.  The result of that research was presented at the recent SHE. Talks event in Skopje in April to a sold-out audience.

SHE. Talks

Findings came from 6 focus groups, 1 among men and 5 among women. They conveyed experiences and observations, most of which related to outright discrimination and inappropriate behavior toward women.

  • Gender-biased questions during job interviews (“Are you planning to have a child soon?”);
  • Assumption of lesser abilities of women;
  • Credibility gaps toward women vs. men;
  • Ignoring the opinions of women on the team;
  • Sexual harassment:

Comments related to physical appearance;

Comments alluding to sex;

Direct sexual advances;

Repercussions for women who do not respond to advances.

HE. Talks

Focus groups among men centered around women as more emotional than men.  Men tend to equate this to lower performance at work:

  • Emotions can impair the course and quality of work responsibilities;
  • Women have more difficulty coping with stress;
  • Women suffer deeper consequences from stress than men;
  • Reduced control of emotional reactions during PMS;
  • The lowered expectation of achievement among woman with babies.

THEY. Respond

The audience of 70 people was highly vocal in their response to these findings.  Women say that the old societal stereotypes of women as housewives still exist.  They wonder how women with aspirations for professional achievement can 1) find a good job and 2) succeed against such bias.

Women say that their emotional nature is often helpful at work, because women are more empathic, more understanding, but men choose to focus on emotions as negative.  Additionally, women have learned to live with their emotional nature and as such, might even be better at coping than men.

The real success of the evening was from the attendees, one of whom was Valentina Disoska, business leader, entrepreneur, and mother of two.  She stressed the importance of this work and that it should be continued. Several HR professionals in the audience want to join future efforts to advance the image of and opportunities for women.

This is very heartening.  In fact, Symphony’s own Front-End Developer in North Macedonia has this to say about her own efforts and success:

SHE.

SHE. is an opportunity to see prominent women whose journeys, success and vigor open the minds and hearts of those who attend.  The objective is to bring talented and accomplished women to an audience of primarily women, who are eager to hear stories of achievement from other women in varied fields in the arts, business, fashion design, technology, and government.

The SHE. series was launched in July 2018 with conductor Oksana Lyniv. The 9th SHE., “SHE. Brands” will occur in July in Lviv, Ukraine.