Kamelia Slaveykova (EMBA ‘07): Companies with More Women at Leadership Positions Perform Better
Kamelia Slaveykova is Country Chair of Shell Bulgaria since 2008 and Country Chair of Shell Greece since 2010. She is also Communications Manager at Shell for Central and Eastern Europe. Slaveykova graduated the Executive MBA program at the American University in Bulgaria in 2007. Forbes Bulgaria identified her as one of Bulgaria’s top 20 most influential leaders in 2016 and 2017. In 2016, the prestigious magazine “Manager” nominated her as one of Bulgaria’s top 10 managers. In an interview for "The Woman is", a special edition of the "Manager" magazine, Slaveykova spoke about her career and what it means to be a businesswoman.
Ms. Slaveykova, who is the world leader you would like to work with?
Despite the controversy that surrounds Elon Musk, his bold plans and dreams are impressive. I would work with a world-class leader like him because his vision is inspiring and he sees opportunities where others would not even dare look.
The electric car Tesla is already a reality but it is unobtainable for most people and is not bringing the much needed environmental effect. I would join Musk’s team that aims to produce an electric vehicle for $25,000. Experts say it would be impossible to do it and this is exactly why I would like to work on this project—I believe it can be done, just not in the traditional way.
What needs to be done so that more young women have the opportunity to become successful managers and entrepreneurs?
The educational system and the family should pay closer attention to the need to build values and behavior attitudes that would support young women in their growth as successful managers and entrepreneurs. Society should help young women believe they can achieve high results and establish careers based on their knowledge, skills and experience. The most important thing is that women do not set limits to themselves. Businesses must offer the same opportunities for career development for everybody, and society should get rid of prejudices towards any category of people and should not tolerate acts of discrimination.
Do you support quotas for gender equality?
Quotas are needed in business and leadership when there is an imbalance. At Shell we are not talking about quotas, we are talking about long-term goals. The candidates for the respective positions are being evaluated objectively on the basis of their competences and regardless of their gender. Our aim is to have women at 20 per cent of the leadership positions at Shell Global. We set this target in the 1990s when we had women at only four per cent of the leadership positions. Nowadays they are more than 15 per cent.
A number of studies show a strong connection between the higher number of women at leadership positions and the better financial and organizational performance of the company. Women simply better understand the preferences and expectations of other women and they are the larger group of consumers in the world. Women also are very skillful in communication with different people, in overcoming difficulties and achieving results, in understanding specific situations and finding working solutions. There is enough proof that companies with more women at leadership positions perform better than ones that are only led by men.
What do you as a manager do for the women in your team so that they can balance career and personal life?
Shell Bulgaria has HR policies that support women and especially women with little children. These policies offer flexible work time for a better work-life balance. Women can work from home or work less hours following maternity leave. The company also ensures a financial support at the beginning of the maternity leave and offers additional paid annual leave days. This year I urged employees at the company to celebrate the International Day of the Families on May 15 by shortening the work day with two hours and asking them to spend time with their families instead. They highly appreciated the gesture.
According to Eurostat, Bulgaria is at one of the leading positions in the EU when it comes to women working in science and technology and women at leadership positions. What is the reason why?
The reason why is that society sees women as an active participant in the process of supporting the family financially. Taking on leadership roles does not guarantee high scientific and technological achievements, however, because Bulgaria still has to catch up in terms of narrowing the gender pay gap in science and technology.
KAMELIA SLAVEYKOVA ANSWERS TO:
What inspires you to wake up early in the morning and stay energetic until late at night?
The birth of the day and the first rays of sunshine charge me with positive energy that I transfer to my work. The interesting cases I solve, the team that I work with, and the dynamics of my day give me a sense of fulfillment. The true satisfaction with work and the opportunity to share it with my family and to make my plans for tomorrow is what keeps me energetic late at night.
Have you ever felt underestimated at work because you are a woman?
Both in and outside of the company I do not feel underestimated or discriminated when talking to male colleagues. Being perceived as equal is not a matter or rules or regulations but rather depends on the active role and contribution of women.
Behind every successful man there is a woman. Who is behind every successful woman?
Behind every successful woman there is her family that supports her and stimulates her to achieve more.