By fostering the advancement of women in entrepreneurship roles, the region is becoming in line with the EU's Europe 2020 programme.
By Lindita Komani for Southeast European Times -- 11/10/13
The number of females in leading positions has increased in Albania. [AFP]
The number of female leaders in companies and NGOs in the region is growing, breaking the stereotype of an unfriendly business environment towards women in Southeast Europe.
According to the Albanian Institute of Statistics, 27.4 percent of active companies were owned or managed by women in 2012, up from 22.9 percent in 2005.
Last year's decision by the Albania Council of Ministers requires ministries to plan for at least one gender objective in their budgetary programmes. As part of its strategy for 2013-2020, the economy ministry will work with UN Women to implement measures to support women in business.
By fostering the advancement of women in entrepreneurship roles, the region is becoming in line with the EU's Europe 2020 programme, which promotes female business leaders and self-employment for women.
The female business voice has become a part of policymaking roundtables organised by the government and donor organisations, and has been represented by the Professional and Business Women's Association of Albania.
Arbana Kadriu has been teaching computer science at Southeast Europe University in Tetovo and at Marin Barleti University in Tirana for eight years. "Women in Albania have much bigger support from their parents, which allows them to study and work more to achieve their career goals," she told SETimes.
Tourism is among the most welcoming sectors for women in leading positions. One-fourth of the member companies of the Albanian Tourism Agency are managed or co-managed by women, Matilda Naço-Andoni, the agency's executive director, told SETimes. She said six out of the 13 businesses receiving the Albanian Tourism Prize in the past four years have been led by women.
Delina Fico, chairwoman of the board at the Albanian Women Empowerment Network, said that women should have "more support in terms of access to credit, and more professional training and mentoring is needed so that women can make their businesses successful."
Women's positions in the male-dominated business world would change if women "would be more insisting, emancipating first of all towards themselves and their families, in the context of enjoying rights like education, qualification and employment," Fitnete Sula, chairwoman of the Albanian Association of Insurance Companies, told SETimes.
However, despite the challenges, the number of women in leadership positions is increasing. University level education, a criteria to gain leadership positions, sees women at the forefront.
"There are classes in which the number of female students is 80 to 90 percent," Kozeta Sevrani, chief of department for Mathematics, Statistics and Applied Informatics at the Faculty of Economy of the University of Tirana, said.
At the government level, Montenegro leads in the region.
In order to encourage women entrepreneurship, the government has adopted a set of measures including the development of programmes to encourage entrepreneurship and women self-employment; enhancing the role of women business associations; and strengthening co-operation between women entrepreneurs' associations.
"Empowering women by supporting their entrepreneurial potential and creating a favourable business environment for their involvement in entrepreneurship will create more jobs and develop the small business sector," Montenegro Deputy Minister of Finance Bojana Bošković said.
Venera Mustafa is the owner of a fashion design house in Kosovo.
"Initially it was my family who supported me financially, but throughout the years I found financial support also among NGOs and state institutions supporting young people and women," she told SETimes.
As the first generation of business people after the fall of communism is being replaced by their children, the role models of female leaders are important.
"The rationale behind increasing the number of women as employees and in leading positions is based on the experience that women are more effective in sales, more responsible, more energetic and kinder in communicating with clients," Gentian Sula, who in his position as CEO of the Albanian insurance company Intersig has increased the participation of women to 90 percent from 60 percent when he took over, told SETimes.
Women have "the capability to adapt easily to the changes and not put their ego at the forefront, have negotiation skills that can be easily developed and natural instinct to protect what they have created, done or developed," Valentina Taseva, general manager of Semos Education in Macedonia, said.
What can countries in the region do to increase the number of women in leadership roles? Tell us below.