Helping women entrepreneurs boost businesses in MacedoniaMarch 11, 2019
The #BalanceForBetter theme of International Women’s Day 2019 means equality will only be realized when women’s contributions are accepted in all spheres of influence – by people at home, in their communities, and in the broader workforce and society.
I recently returned from Macedonia where I delivered workshops and consultations with two women’s business associations – ELIT and the Association of Business Women. The overarching goal of both organizations is to unite, collaborate and elevate the collective voices of women in business. The goal is part of Macedonia2025, an economic development project funded by The Bitove Family Foundation in Toronto and is designed to connect Canadian expertise with Macedonian female entrepreneurs and business leaders in partnership with CESO.
The experience of working with dozens of women executives was somewhat new to me. I’ve worked with a variety of businesses, in a wide array of sectors and industries. During my time with my clients, I found myself immersed in typical business discussions, but looking at the issues through the lens of what women experience and their particular challenges.
Indeed, these women leaders are true champions of a balanced business environment. They’re strong, resourceful, wise and dedicated to not only generating a profit, but to making the workforce more equitable – today and for the next generation of women-lead businesses.
Collectively, ELIT members’ companies contribute significantly to the economy, employing more than 3,000 Macedonians. Its mission advocates for the implementation of gender equity legislation. Jennifer coached the founding members to craft a 4-point strategic plan, with supporting advocacy and communication tactics. The strategy focuses on: engaging political and business leaders; creating a knowledge platform; collaborating with business women locally and globally; and motivating Macedonian women to pursue decision-making positions.
I worked closely with Valentina Disoska, founder and president of the 300+ member-strong Association of Business Women. Together, we developed a unique growth strategy that will strengthen the brand and improve member services. Secondly, the strategy will assess the potential of creating a regional knowledge hub or centre of excellence for entrepreneurs. Valentina’s vision is to greatly enhance the opportunities and benefits for women entrepreneurs in Macedonia and throughout the greater Balkan region. I also delivered two sold-out workshops with more than 70 members attending Maximizing your Tradeshow Investment and Building your Personal Brand.
Without question, there is a growing consciousness of reducing gender imbalance. While we see plenty of equal rights policies and legislation, we need to focus on their implementation and making them happen. Fortunately, CESO is and has been at the forefront of mobilizing Canadian expertise to implement solutions, and forging partnerships that focus on economic empowerment, especially with women and other disadvantaged groups.
Jennifer Lavoie is an accomplished public relations strategist who has more than 20 years of experience building and enhancing corporate brand management, stakeholder engagement, communications and marketing strategy. As a CESO expert Volunteer Advisor, Jennifer has supported businesses, associations and government entities in Ethiopia, Vietnam and Macedonia.