Panel discussion “Women in business – where are we, what is missing, how can we progress?”

Through continuous joint action, to a stronger women's business

Podgorica, October 26, 2023 – The number of companies managed by women in the last five years has been in constant decline, and the share of women’s companies in the total number of companies is also decreasing, it was announced at the panel discussion “Women in business – where are we, what is missing, how can we progress?”, which was organized within the Top Women Business Montenegro 2023 (TWBM) initiative. It was also assessed that women are important agents of change, and that using the potential of female entrepreneurship is key to a sustainable and inclusive recovery of the domestic economy and society from crises.

Ljiljana Burzan-Nikolić, the initiator and director of TWBM, said when opening the panel discussion that she was satisfied with the excellent response of the members of the Montenegrin business network. She sees this as confirmation that the themes and activities of the TWBM initiative have value and that they really do make a difference. Burzan-Nikolić announced the second issue of the TWBM business magazine, which will feature significant events and personalities whose results make the Montenegrin women’s business community more credible.

 

Ratko Nikolić, chief analyst of the TWBM initiative, said that the analysis of business results for 2022 shows that the number of women’s businesses is growing in absolute terms, but that this growth is significantly slower than the growth of the total number of businesses. 

“This has as a consequence the fact that the share of women’s companies in the total number of companies continues to fall, and in 2022 the decline was significant – from 21.63% at the end of 2021 to 20.28% at the end of 2022. . At the same time, this decline is greater and constant in the last five years in companies managed by women, so these results lead to think whether existing support models favor women’s ownership in companies, even in a formal sense, compared to their actual involvement and active participation. role in the business management process,” said Nikolić.

Marija Šuković, head of the Secretariat of the Council for Competitiveness (SCC), believes that the topic of the panel discussion is important, challenging and that it requires an approach like this – dialogue between the public and private sectors, with data analysis, which is what the TWBM initiative does. She assessed that high-quality statistical data are extremely important for making good decisions, but that, unfortunately, the experience of the SCC is that institutions still do not have much understanding and will, but often not even the capacity, to prepare gender analyzes and to create measures that respond to different needs of women and men. Šuković announced the introduction of the “women’s mark” for companies that meet the requirements of the international document IWA 34, which will enable the identification of real “women’s businesses” compared to businesses that are women’s only on paper. .

Ana Šebek, an independent consultant at the Ministry of Economic Development and Tourism, said that it is good that Montenegro is recording the growth of companies managed by women, stating that 20.8 million euros were spent on the implementation of the Action Plan of the Strategy for the Development of Women’s Entrepreneurship for 2022. and that this amount is significantly higher than the total amount spent the year before, when it amounted to 9.1 million euros.

“It’s a huge shift. In the observed period, the improvement of the framework for the development of female entrepreneurship was recorded. This is confirmed by the latest OECD report “SME Policy Index: Western Balkans and Turkey 2022″. According to that report, Montenegro took a high second position, right after Turkey, in the implementation of the female entrepreneurship policy. Cooperation between the private and public sectors was especially recognized, and in that part the rating was the highest,” she said.

She also believes that the research conducted within the TWBM initiative will be an excellent basis for the Ministry for a new strategy for the development of female entrepreneurship and for adopting measures that will increase the number of women in management positions

 

Boris Rebić, project manager at UNDP, pointed out that UNDP in Montenegro actively contributes to the economic empowerment of women and the strengthening of the women’s business community, recalling some of the initiatives in this direction – the creation of the portal zenskibiznis.me and the development of the program framework for the economic empowerment of women in the Western Balkans in cooperation with the Regional Council for Cooperation.

“Although research shows that increasing the participation of women in entrepreneurship could increase the GDP in the Western Balkans region by up to 20%, we see that the potential of women in business is still not adequately recognized and that women are still poorly visible in the fastest growing industries. That is why all the initiatives supported by UNDP are based on encouraging reform that will increase the participation of women in the economy and the transformation of the public and private sectors in order to achieve gender equality,” said Rebić.

 

Jasna Pejović, president of the Coordination Committee for Women’s Entrepreneurship of the Montenegrin Chamber of Commerce, said that women are important agents of change, and that using the potential of women’s entrepreneurship is key to sustainable and inclusive recovery of the Montenegrin economy and society from crises.

“Female entrepreneurship is an indicator of the advanced economy of any country, and companies owned by women are more likely to initiate green and innovative topics. Within the framework of PKCG, the Coordination Committee for Women’s Entrepreneurship has been operating for almost 20 years, which creates initiatives that network and empower female entrepreneurs,” said Pejović.

 

Irena Radović, director of the Investment and Development Fund (IDF), recalled that the Investment and Development Fund was the first financial institution in Montenegro that offered support programs for women in business.

“Today, IRF is a key agent in ensuring the financial inclusion of women, a leader and a factor of change, which contributes to the release of women’s potential and the economic empowerment of women. “Since the beginning of 2021, we have supported more than 300 projects, in the total amount of over 45 million euros, in which women are business owners, while in 2023 alone, around 100 projects were supported in the total amount of around 15 million euros,” she said. is she.

Radović announced the program on which the IRF is working with the European Investment Bank, which refers to the addition of a grant component to all loans approved for women and young people. “It is something that partly depends on the speed of transformation of the IRF into a development bank,” she explained.

 

Lana Đurasović, a member of the Board of Directors of NLB Bank, pointed out that this financial institution supports the TWBM initiative for the second year in a row, recognizing it as a way to contribute to the wider community and the region in which it operates, and this time addressing the issue of gender inclusiveness.

“We have already achieved good results in this field through a credit line as part of the European Bank’s support program for the reconstruction and development of ‘Women in Business’, providing easy access to financing sources, but also free education that supports the real needs of women’s businesses. We have provided additional funds and will continue to support the female business community, with a better understanding of their needs,” said Đurasović.

 

Ana Kentera, executive director of Alter Modus, recalled that this financial institution has supported more than 38,000 female entrepreneurs in the past 25 years for the establishment and development of businesses.

“I believe that the contribution of women to the results of the business community in Montenegro is far greater and more significant than the numbers and statistics show, and that in the background of many businesses there are women who work diligently, create and innovate. I think the circumstances are ripe for most of them to play leading roles on the big stage of the business community,” said Kentera

  

 Danijela Radeč, head of the Department for Entrepreneurship at the Secretariat for Entrepreneurship and Investments in Podgorica, said that from 2019 to today, the capital has awarded 165,000 euros in grants and thus helped 89 businesses run by women.

“It’s a very good story considering that at one point we found ourselves in the corona period when it was very difficult to maintain businesses that already existed, let alone those that were just starting. The call for women’s entrepreneurship is current, the second this year. I hope that next week we will have the exact number of applicants and distribute the 25 thousand euros we have left for this year,” she said.

 

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