There is no person in the business world today who has never heard of "dragon ladies." They have fought to win a leading position in the economy, they achieve a success after a success in the time of crisis, and they move the boundaries of business. In a bid to contribute to the improvement of the economic position of women in Serbia, Sanja Popovic-Pantic took part in the establishment of the largest national organization of female entrepreneurs in 1998, and today she runs this association. The Association of Business Women of Serbia improves the businesses managed by women through various projects, and encourages business women to acquire new knowledge and skills.
She gradually learned how to organize business women and provide top support to their respective businesses.
- I felt the need to contribute to changes in our society. It is not in my nature to do nothing but watch and complain about problems. I notice that today everybody expects a good position and a big salary in the public sector. There are no investments in knowledge and specialization. We should first give something and then ask for some benefits in return.
To motivate women in business to dedicate some of their time to the improvement of female entrepreneurship was the most important task of Sanja Popovic-Pantic.
- Today our association has 230 members - mainly owners and directors of companies, but there are also female managers and consultants. We have affected the entrepreneurship development policy by pointing to and providing a basis for treating female entrepreneurship as a factor of economic growth. My idea was to present female entrepreneurship not as the cottage industry or crafts, which is how it is usually perceived, but as a significant economic potential.
This summer Sanja Popovic-Pantic will defend her doctoral thesis "Self-Employment of Women as a Form of Female Entrepreneurship in Serbia During Transition: Empirical Research and Comparative Analysis."
Growing up in New Belgrade
She decided to enroll in the Faculty of Economy and become an economist while still a student of the 9th Belgrade Grammar School.
- I grew up in New Belgrade, which was then a much safer and more relaxed environment for children. We used to play worry-free around buildings a whole day long. Our neighborhood had its "gang" with me being its youngest member, and I always did my best to win the trust of others.
While growing up, one person she could always rely on was her grandmother, who helped her develop faith in positive things, which later always guided her through difficult situations.
She also wanted to become a professor of Serbian language and literature, but she later realized that that profession was not that promising, and decided to study marketing at the Faculty of Economics in Belgrade.
Spirit of a researcher
Being a graduate economist, she was overqualified for all the jobs she applied for in 1993.
- At that time women could only be administrative assistants. I was making coffee and doing administrative work for a month until I realized I was in a wrong place.
She got her first serious opportunity at the first national marketing agency Mark Plan in Pancevo, where she acquired a lot of "exclusive" knowledge. Our interlocutor admits that she did not find it difficult to travel every day to the town on the Tamis River.
- Those were strange years. The best thing to do at that time was to invest in yourself. I was quite curious, which led me to the new fields of marketing, so I went to a company that was a pioneer in the business of publishing interactive CD-ROMs and multimedia presentations of companies, heritage sites, etc. For example, that was the first time the book "Hazarski Recnik" had been burnt on a CD. At that time I was responsible for organizing a promo event for the movie "Andergraund" – says Sanja Popovic-Pantic.
(US Ambassador Michael Kirby hands over the 2012 World of Difference Award to Sanja Popovic-Pantic)
After this stressful experience, her husband suggested she should find a quieter job.
- I applied for a research program financed by a ministry. Luckily, Mihajlo Pupin Institute was looking for a multidisplinary person to work at the Science and Technology Research Center. There I found an atmosphere that encouraged my interests. In 2005 I earned the M.A. degree by defending my thesis titled "Application of New Media in Marketing."
Sanja Popovic-Pantic has already won several awards for improving entrepreneurship in Serbia. However, she still has no plans to start her own business.
Balance of body, mind and spirit
Our interlocutor is pleased to say that she has found a balance in life.
- Women have a greater capacity to do numerous taks. Of course, I am not saying they should "practise" this every day. I also strive to influence the society to change the opinion, since I believe that man and women should share their family obligations and household tasks.
The best anti-stress therapy for Sanja Popovic-Antic is music, which is why she sometimes goes to one of the nightclubs in Belgrade to listen to the music from the 1980s.
As she explained, she has discovered a holistic approach to health thanks to one of the members of the Association of Business Women.
- We all search for an inner balance. I did not know anything about various relaxation techniques and energy treatments. We are now making plans for a family vacation in Greece, where our interesting program will also include yoga classes. I just love learning something new on my vacation.
Our interlocutor admits that her wishes are big, but she also says that her objectives are flexible because she quickly adapts to new circumstances if she fails to achieve the goals set.