Maria, tell us something about yourself and your career in cement . When did you start working and in which positions did you work?
I started to work in the cement plant in Popovac in October 2010 as a Supervisor for Analytical and Physical-Mechanical Laboratories. By the way, I am a graduated chemist by profession. I graduated the Faculty of Natural Sciences and Mathematics in Nis, and I gained my first work experience in one company in Nis, which deals with aluminum processing.
After four years of working in that company, I had the opportunity to learn new technology and change my work and living environment, so I started working in the cement plant in Popovac. After three years of working as a supervisor, I took over the position of Quality Control Manager, which I still work on today.
The cement industry is considered to be the men’s industry. How did you adapt to that business environment? Was that breakthrough in the male world difficult for you?
I think I fit in well, even though this is a predominantly male industry. I love my job and I try to make my days at work different every day that bring me something new. I don’t think much about whether my coworkers are male or female, I try to treat everyone equally.
Of course, breaking through in the male world is not easy for any woman, but it is very important how you position yourself at the very beginning. Later, some other things come to the fore, the way you communicate, how you treat your colleagues, whether there is mutual respect and appreciation of opinions.
You work in a department that consists only of colleagues. Can you compare working with women and working with men? Who do you personally work with better and does successful cooperation depend on gender at all?
In my career, I have had the privilege of working with both – male and female colleagues. I can say that working with women is more challenging, because women are more systematic, it takes more effort to decide something, define it, you should always have more arguments etc.
Up to me, the way of working with male is completely different, they are faster, more practical and there is not much analysis.
Personally, I think it’s great to have both men and women in the team, because in that way the productivity of the team and the company itself is much better. Diversity in teams allows for a better balance of different energies, opinions and attitudes.
The terms diversity and inclusion have often been heard in multinational companies lately. What do these terms mean to you? How do you define them? Which one word would you use to describe Diversity and which one to describe Inclusion?
As I have already mentioned, diversity is very important because it brings us novelties in behavior, decision-making, way of working, etc. – from which each individual can get something new, but not only the individual, but also society as a whole. If we are willing enough to accept the diversity that the environment offers us, we grow in every way, as individuals, as professionals, as colleagues, and with us grow our companies too.
For me personally, diversity and inclusion are very important because I work with different teams and it is very important for me to be aware of these differences, not to have prejudices against them and enough breadth to accept these differences with understanding.
In general, do you think that women’s opinions are heard as much as men’s?
In general, if we look at society as a whole, I think that women’s opinions are still not heard as strongly as men’s, that there is still room for some things to change. However, I must add that in recent years the situation has changed significantly in favor of women, we have more and more women in leadership positions, more and more women are participating in decision-making, and their opinions are heard more and more. I think that this is very important and that society as a whole can benefit a lot, if it is willing to hear different opinions, and it does not matter whether they came from a man or a woman.
How can women encourage each other in the fight for equal rights and opportunities at work?
Women are great team players and if there is enough will, understanding and acceptance of different opinions, there are no limits.
What would you say to young girls who have yet to enroll in college and start building their careers?
I would tell them to be persistent and to believe in themselves and their dreams. To clearly define their goals and to work hard to achieve them, because only hard work achieves success. To be ready to work in different teams and to accept different opinions without prejudices, because diversity brings us news, teaches us to be better people and better colleagues.