Interview with Dragana Nikolic

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The recordings for the online mentorship training program (German-translated and -adapted versions) in the framework of the Breaking the Glass Ceiling Project is planned to be completed in the beginning of July. 

Each training module will be presented by the co-founder and manager of N&P Business Consulting, Dragana Nikolic (M.A.), who has extensive experience in management consultancy and coaching, leadership development, intercultural communication and team development. 

We had the chance to have a short interview with Ms. Nikolic and asked about her personal and professional experiences with the glass ceiling syndrome:

You are working in business filed, which is largely dominated by men. What is your own experience as a woman? Would you say that you face glass ceiling barriers? Or do you observe many women that you consult/coach experiencing it?

That’s it. There are over 70% men in my area. All these years I had to work very hard and indeed experienced situations related with glass ceiling syndrome, such as income differences compared to my male counterparts.

Some of my clients are only interested in my expertise and the results I get from working with their employees; there are many such good examples. On the other hand, I have also met potential clients who express their wish to work with a man instead. The highlight of the bad experiences I had was the CFO of a company with over 1500 employees on two continents. He kept my portfolio of references, which is very unusual; he refused to answer questions about his staffing situation in the company; he interviewed me the next day to fulfill a concrete performance and the next day he told my male colleague that I was too multicultural. They want to work with my company, apply my concept, but they don’t want a woman with a foreign background to teach their managers!

In addition, almost 80% of the people I work with in medium-sized companies are men. In any case, I would like to see more women in management positions with whom I can work.

How, in your opinion, the five modules of the mentorship training program can help women in managerial/administrative positions in coping with glass ceiling barriers?

These five modules basically form a good training basis for women who work or want to work in a management position. Just because I want to simplify this learning process for many women, I work on this project with pleasure and passion. 

I have built my theoretical background at universities and in continuing educational programs. Practical experience is sometimes different. In certain cases, I first had to have a bad experience to understand that I should seek information or help from a specialist instead of learning by doing. Besides, you rarely get so much information and practical examples at once.

What would you say about men’s role/responsibility in reaching equality between men and women at work? Would you say that men should be trained in these topics too? And if yes, do you think, they would be interested in participating in a similar training program?

What I find very important is information and dialogue. I think that both women and men are mainly unaware of the glass-ceiling-barrier phenomenon and its consequences for women. According to my experience, many companies are not even aware of the potential they have, if they reach gender equality in their companies. Many women have not learned to fight for their positions and to express their opinions openly. On the other side, I have had many discussions with women who have very strong professional positions, but instead of focusing on their progress, they focus on the opinions of their male colleagues. So, it is the responsibility of both sides to change the mainstream mindset.

I think it is a great idea to offer a training program for men, through which they can gain a new perspective on working with women. Such a program can help raising more awareness on how proper evaluation of women’s work and involvement of women’s ideas, initiative and leadership are beneficial for all the parties and the organization as a whole.

My experience is that it is in human nature to fear the unknown and therefore reject anything new. For many people the comfort zone is very important, and they hesitate to leave it. If you succeed to offer a new program that takes away the fear of working with female leaders and shows the benefits for both sides, it will certainly make many professionals more successful and satisfied with their work.

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